The Push and Pull of Motherhood

It all starts with a push.  It is through a woman’s labor, a forceful push, that a baby – and her mother – is birthed.

From that point on, it is all about pulling.  A woman, now a mother, pulled in eight thousand different directions a day.  Literally, she is – calls for food, cries for comfort – but that’s not even of what I speak.  I’m speaking of expectation vs. reality; perfection vs. attainability; manic striving vs. sanity.

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From that first push, and from that first pull forward, the unwitting conditioning of our ideas and carrying out of motherhood shape our every decision, every day, our very psyches.

The other day, I kicked my kids out of the kitchen while I made the cupcakes they requested for Easter.  My second oldest had requested red velvet, which we’d never made before.  Why, suddenly, did she want this new and different flavor?  Could we not keep it simple, especially surrounding a busy holiday?  But then, I could’ve kept it simple by redirecting her to a different flavor or even buying a ready-made mix.  Instead, I half-kiddingly offered the metaphor of red for Christ’s blood.  She was sold.  And I began research on homemade recipes with less artificial ingredients than the mixes.  Again, could’ve kept this simple, but looked for the simplest one I could find that was sort of in line with the husband’s and my new trying-to-be-healthy-ish regimen.

 

That morning, the second oldest and I participated in an impromptu Girl Scout cookie booth.  I came home to prep appetizers for a dinner party at a friends’ that night.  Then I set in on the cupcakes.  The cupcake-requester was nowhere to be found, most likely buried eyeball-deep in her iPad after a morning of social interaction.  Her next youngest sister saw me gathering supplies and asked to help.  At this point, I was up to my eyeballs in a messy kitchen and bad humor.

“NO,” I replied far too emphatically.

When I saw her sad little face, I almost reconsidered, but held my ground, knowing that with limited time and remaining fuse I’d do far more damage than that to her poor little soul.

By way of a conciliatory carrot, I said, “You can help decorate them when they’ve cooled.”

As I prepped the rest of the recipe, I felt guilty.  These were cupcakes for a family celebration of Easter, requested by the kids most excited about the holiday.  Yet, the kid who’d started this whole evolution was MIA and I’d sequestered the rest.  Was I not sucking the joy out of this?  Was it about having a finished batch of red velvet cupcakes or letting my daughters participate in a fun activity?

When describing the frenetic events of the weekend to my therapist today, but before I got the part about my guilt, she congratulated me for sensing my limit and taking steps to keep from flying right over it.  When I told her how I perceived it, she said that I had been well within my rights for self-preservation by prepping the cupcakes myself.  She pointed out that I welcomed them in decorating the cupcakes, which is all kids really want to do anyway.

It did occur to me that, had I removed that fail-safe for myself that day, it wouldn’t have been a June Cleaver moment even if mother and child had made cupcakes together.  It almost certainly would’ve ended badly.  Just the night before, I’d dropped the f-bomb as we all made Resurrection cookies together.  Jesus would’ve been proud.

Looking back, I can see how it would’ve ended.  I would’ve needed multiple ‘come to Jesus’ moments afterwards to recoup.  And yet, the guilt still came in the moment.

And that is the pull modern mothers have.  We have been conditioned to do all manner of June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, Mother Earth type of things for our children, our families – even to the exclusion of our sanity.

Motherhood, parenthood, by its very essence, is sacrifice.  But there is no sense giving all of ourselves if everyone involved is miserable.  Even cupcakes are bitter to the taste buds when made with resentment and frustration.

The journey of motherhood started with a push.  That doesn’t mean we have to be pulled apart from that point forward.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And no, I’m not saying we should push our kids around.  We mustn’t remain static in the face of our conditioning.   There has to be movement both towards our children and our own self care.

After all, my homemade version of red velvet cupcakes were vegan – with store bought cream cheese frosting.

How Low Can You Go?

My head keeps butting up against expectation

No amount of plying with my pronged horns can make it go away

Some holes poked, but never enough to tear the fabric,
to crumble the wall,
topple the tower

I can peep through the hole, see the happy people on the other side

Those who can see their blessings
who are pleasantly surprised by the unexpected
those overwhelmed by the ordinary, everyday miracle

Setting the bar is fine
but those who only try to go over
are always left in limbo

The Mother of All Father’s Days

Is it wrong that I enjoyed Father’s Day more than I enjoyed Mother’s Day this year?

My parents and father-in-law came over for a casual brunch, which gave me the impetus to clean the house, but not so much pressure that I obsessed over the tasks for which I did not have time.  Said brunch gave me an excuse to make one of my favorite casserole recipes.  We enjoyed a nice, relaxed visit together.  My husband devoted the rest of the day to smoking some ribs on the deck.  Slow cooking gave us the chance to sit on the deck together while the kids played and we relaxed.  As an accompaniment to the ribs, I tried a new recipe of zucchini fried in beer batter, which allowed me to sink myself into savory, lemony fried goodness.  I read al fresco, tickled my babies, and even had a last-ditch burst of energy to dust, mop, and change the linens of my bedroom.

Holy schnikes – we had a good day.

As the cool breeze riffled the pages of my novel, a slight wave of guilt sloshed at my conscience.  I was not supposed to having a nice, relaxing day.  I was not supposed to be enjoying myself.  I was supposed to be making the day of the father of my children.

Being as I can rationalize anything, I petulantly argued to myself that, since Mother’s Day usually sucks, why shouldn’t I have fun now?  Why should I martyr myself more than I do any other day since no one does it for me?

Now, before you get your dander up, my love, (yes, I’m addressing you dear husband) – I am not begrudging you your special day.  You are a fabulous husband and father and always deserve a day to put your feet up after all the hard work you do.

I just thought it was pretty ironic that I had more fun this Sunday than that sacred Sunday in May.  Besides my selfish rationalizations, I think it also had a lot to do with expectations.  I had none yesterday – except helping the kids make his day special.  There was no high bar for me so I surpassed it easily.  Having a beer and reading my novel in the middle of the day was a pleasant and most welcome surprise.

Damn Hallmark and the jewelers and florists make anything less than a champagne brunch with a string quartet fall flat.  I don’t need diamonds, but the social expectations make me feel like I need something different, something to make me feel appreciated, valued.  And I deserve that – all mothers do.  But whatever nebulous idea I have in my head of what a special Mother’s Day looks like never materializes.

So Sunday we (I hope my husband did, too) had a good day.  I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of an anti-Mother’s Day.  (I’ll get around to writing the manifesto at some point)  But maybe I just had the inaugural one.  And it could really be any one of the 365 days in the year.  Any day that a mother takes time for herself, eats good food, enjoys her children, and has a good time with the joint caregiver of those children.

Happy Day, people.  Now go eat some fried zucchini – and enjoy it for gosh sakes!

nom nom nom

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Iron Age

Last weekend, my husband and I watched The Iron Lady.  We’d seen previews for it and were intrigued.  We wanted to see Meryl Streep taking names and kicking butts, which ironically I’d never thought Margaret Thatcher had done.  While she was in office, I was too young to know more about her role in history than her name and position.  It never occurred to me the struggles she’d encounter not only as prime minister, but also as a woman fulfilling that role.  Now, as a grown woman watching this cinematic portrayal of her rise to power and its aftermath, I was angry and heartbroken.

It starts off optimistically enough.  I thrilled in her preemptive speech to her future husband before she accepted his proposal.  She would not bow to society’s ideas of what a woman, wife, and mother should be.  And he agreed!  She would be free to do as she desired with his freely and happily given support.

Then we see Ms. Thatcher as a hard-faced deserter as her children cry at the window as she heads to Parliament, shoving toy cars in the glove compartment on the way.  We see her daughter jealous of her own spotlight being stolen.  We see her husband questioning her devotion to her family in favor of ambition.

 

Why must a woman be vilified if she desires success outside the realm of motherhood?  Even more so if she harbors such desires in the midst of motherhood.  Yes, there are only twenty-four hours in a day.  Yes, there is always the threat of feeling as if she’s failed on both fronts.  Yes, children demand an inordinate amount of growing, coaxing, and coddling.  She needs to prepare a person ready to face the challenges of the next generation.  But what about the challenges of her own?  Why does motherhood take her out of the equation in facing and solving those? 

 

Why is there a prevailing thought that a woman must subvert her own self in order to grow the ones that came out of her?

 

Even with all her success, Margaret Thatcher couldn’t completely change the direction of that stiff wind – at least in this film.

In the speech to her future husband, the young Margaret Thatcher said she did not want to be trapped in the kitchen, hands in the dishwater.  The film ends with her doing just that.  I couldn’t help but think that plunging her hands into that water washed away all merit attached to her ambitious acts.  It called them all into question.  Had she made the wrong decisions?  Set the wrong priorities as a woman, wife, mother?  All joy that she’d excelled in at least the public half of her life was stolen by my doubt that she felt she should have chosen the private half instead.

It shouldn’t be a choice.  Or at least not a mutually exclusive one.

Iron is malleable – especially when it’s heated inordinately – which is a good thing because it looks like society will continue to rake women over the coals for the unforeseeable future.

Eat the Frog

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Suffering through those things I don’t want to do in order to get to the ones I want.

Problem is, by the time I eat said frogs, I’m usually too damn tired to do the things I want, which never really were obligatory anyway.  Or, I take so long staring down the frog or pretending I don’t hear him croaking that I have just enough time to gulp him down hurriedly before the sun goes down; it’s time for dinner; time to pick up the girls from the bus stop.

Procrastination and perfectionism are not mutually exclusive.

When, pre-move, I described how I was failing to meet my goal of packing five boxes per day, an acquaintance pointed out how I couldn’t possibly be an overachiever and a procrastinator.  Luckily, another such duality came to my defense.  She concurred, that, oh yes, it is possible to be so worried about doing something perfectly that it stops you from attempting it at all.

In college, I grabbed a pamphlet from the career center on procrastination.  I’ve since thrown it out – though it took me quite some time ; ) – but it laid out similar terms.  I didn’t necessarily agree with it.  I am not one obsessed with the pursuit of perfection.  At least not overtly.  I understand the human condition and all its frailty.  I like to think I empathize and can forgive our various faults.

But do I refuse to start projects until I have sufficient time to complete the entire task?  Yes.  Will I stay at that task far into the night or despite my husband’s repeated attempts to beckon me to the dinner table until it is finished?  Yes.  Will I avoid beginning a task until I know exactly how to execute it?  Yes.  Do I fail to commit to a task until I know I can fulfill all the obligations that go along with it?  Yes.  And regardless of all reasons not to start, do I place an unrelenting sense of guilt heavy upon my breastbone until I do start?  Yes.

Hmmm . . . maybe I threw out that pamphlet because I was not ready to see myself in its words.

What is it with these freakin’ frogs?  And why do they all float on lily pads obscuring what murky depths really cause all this angst: ANXIETY.

Because that’s what it really is, isn’t it?  I worry about getting things right because I’m anxious.  I put things off because they make me nervous.  Or I’m worried about getting it all done.  Or I’m worried I’ll run out of time.  Or it’s an unpleasant task.  Or it’s out of my comfort zone.  Whatever hue or size these amphibian friends and foes come in, they’re all from the same frog mother.  And what a mother-f*&%$#@ she is.

The more I learn about myself, my reactions, feelings, and disposition, the more I realize how much of my life has been colored by anxiety.  I don’t know if I’ve ever known what it is to live without it.  There was a time when I didn’t know I was living with it, but looking back, now I can name it unequivocally.

A very talented writer friend of mine just shared a story wherein a character and her mother try to pinpoint the exact origin of the mother’s obsessive-compulsive disorder.  They realize that not only is it impossible, but it is a form of obsession in and of itself.  What does it matter where it began?  One must learn coping mechanisms to take forward with her.  I find myself doing this repeatedly with my anxiety.  But why?  When did it start?  How?  What purpose does that serve beyond making me more anxious?  Why roll back the reels over those years over and done – and with a pretty good measure of success?  Why create suffering where there may have been none?  Or where there was some, but where I had the wherewithal to function despite it?

Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I feel that the fact that I’ve reached a point in my life where I can’t hack it when I previously could makes me a failure on some level.  I know this is my masochistic overachiever unrealistic hair shirt-wearing self, but it is still part of me and I can’t turn it off no matter how hard I try to push with my rational self.  And all that croaking just reminds me of it.  Why do I get a mental block when I assess my to-do list?  Why can I not complete tasks that I know will reap rewards?

Guess the only way around it is to choke the frogs down before they choke me.

The Alpha and the Omega

There are moments when I catch glimpses of the mother I used to be.  The one I was when I had one baby.  The one I was when I was more frequently in a good mood or less stressed out.  The goofy one who sang silly made-up songs.  The one who danced with a baby on her hip till her legs gave out.  The one who wasn’t so beat down she just tried to get through her day.  The one who could spend time with her children rather than refereeing them.

I see her in the smiles of my children.  The looks of surprise.  The glances at each other and back at me before cracking up.  The silly giggles that roll from their bellies and out through their lips.

I see myself in the mirror and I see a girl child who somehow ended up in charge of three of her own.  A girl who still sees herself as growing and learning.  A girl who still wonders at the dynamics of her own mother/daughter relationship as she builds ones up with her three.

Will they see me for who I am?  A person, who in motherhood and life, often makes it up as she goes along.  Someone who loves them fiercely, but wonders how she loses herself from time to time.  And who opens her eyes from time to time to see the true incarnation of who she’s supposed to be – to them and herself.

Yes, the image will change.  The lines will deepen, the colors fade.  But it should only be a deepening, not a swallowing, a sinking.  The original image is in there somewhere.  A fire in the eye, a shape, a sparkle of laughter.

How do I flow gracefully into the deep while allowing the light bubbles of my past to filter through?  How do I get from the beginning to the end and honor both all the way through?  How do I reconcile the woman and mother I’ve always wanted to be with the being I’ve become?

This House is My Baby

Three years ago, I was in the midst of the maelstrom known as kitchen renovation while designing my own dream space in utero.  In a house too small for three children and no money to move, we decided to do what we could about the logistics of our life.

We messed them up even more.

We ripped out the kitchen, thinking a more streamlined area would ease prepping and feeding three little mouths.  Streamlined is not a word to describe a kitchen reno or raising three children.

Demo started one month and one week before my due date.  Anal retentive to begin with and unknowingly suffering from a fledging case of postpartum depression, my list-making, obsessive planning, and futile attempts at control began.  I created calendars scheduling every detail.  I pushed my father-in-law to speed things up.  I perpetually pissed off our floor installer for constant e-mail updates.

I wanted that kitchen done before the baby came.  I needed running water to clean bottles and babies.  I needed the nasty mastic under the formerly linoleum floor covered up so any residual dust wouldn’t assault my newborn’s fragile airways.  I needed life in some kind of stasis before all hell broke loose.

How a finished kitchen would have prepared me for what happened in the delivery room and beyond is beyond me.  But I felt that some measure of control over my physical world would provide me some sense of control over everything else.  Well, I may not have known that then, but I can certainly see it now – especially since I’m trying to do it again.

Nearly three years to the day after the first pull of a crowbar in our kitchen, we’ve contracted a purchase and sales agreement on a new house.  Gorgeous kitchen aside, we’ve reached the limits of this house.  With one daughter just starting kindergarten and another young enough to make the switch to a new school hopefully not too traumatic, it seems like the perfect time.  Well, sort of.

With interest rates historically low, causing a backlog in bank closings, and a seller who has a cat with special needs (don’t ask), getting into this new house in time for the first day of school is becoming increasingly difficult.  And I can feel the anxiety ratcheting up as a result.  I can feel that nag mechanism gearing up for e-mail assaults on my realtor, unrealistic expectations from our loan officer, and an overall sense of unrest at the universe’s apparent disregard for my wishes.

Every fiber of my being is screaming – make it happen!  It must happen!  You have to get these kids in that house so they can find a home for their lunch boxes and a place to lay our their clothes for the first day of school, make a dry run to the bus stop, and get a feel for that new place as home before they have to figure out a new school, too.  It’s mommy guilt and good planning and type-A personality all rolled into one.  It’s also unrealistic.  Well, sort of.

If I felt any different, I wouldn’t be myself.  I just don’t roll that way.  And it’s coming from a desire to have the best for my children.

It also feels incredibly familiar.

Since 2004, I’ve been pregnant in two and a half year cycles.  When my youngest passed two years and seven months, I realized that was the oldest I’d ever had a child without expecting the next.  And I held my breath for the next three months.  No child number four, but we still embarked on a tumultuous endeavor: this whole house-buying thing.

This house has become my baby.

Apparently I cannot live through a two and half-year cycle without giving myself something to obsess about until it comes to fruition.  But while I see the parallels between my behavior now and then, at least there’s no such thing as post-house-buying depression – not until the first mortgage payment is due anyway.

Story Time

It’s a good thing I believe in the power of reading – because if I didn’t, there’s no way I’d take my kids to the library.  Time after time, it proves to be a taxing experience – one I’m not sure is balanced by the benefits of the books we obtain.

The kids, however, love it.  So much, in fact, that they burst through the doors like an invading army, one running this way, one the other.  Unfortunately, the front doors deposit us right into the “quiet” section of the library.  While I try to corral them towards the book drop, they dodge and weave, this last time with Julia lighting upon the stack of rolling bins “just like the ones at the grocery store, Mama” to tote books around in – even though I can’t get her to carry our tote bag.

After numerous shushes on the way to the reserves where Mommy’s book is waiting, it’s time to commandeer the children’s section.  They rush to the stairs with renewed vigor, Angela’s voice reverberating through all the levels as we ascend.

They do comment on a few books on display en route to the play area, Julia picking one on various modes of transportation throughout the ages.  Story time must have just ended because there are many little people and their parents hovering about.  Julia and Angela dive into the crowd, playing with the puppet theatre and puzzles; making friends more easily than I.  Julia sits on a low-slung kid couch near another mother and starts a conversation with the Tyrannosaurus she’s operating.  Angela giggles at the parrot another mother has squawking.  I smile and mill about.  These two must already know each other because a few minutes later, I can’t help but overhear one relay the story of her husband’s possible adultery to other.  One father with a preschooler and an infant looks up in surprise when he sees his baby smiling through a gap in a bookshelf, playing peek-a-boo with me – maybe he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself either.  A grandmother plops in a chair after depositing her toddler into the play area, looking worn out.  I want to tell her I feel her pain.

Today, as with nearly every visit here, I’m having flashbacks to when Julia was an infant.  So exhausted as a new mother, yet determined to keep my active two and a half year-old busy, I would strap Julia to the front of me and take Bella to story-time.  I think I was trying a passive-aggressive attempt at keeping some semblance of pre-baby # 2.  I figured if I couldn’t sleep when she slept and lie around all day in my pajamas, I may as well be out and about to distract myself from my misery.  I’m still not sure which was worse: a mom who could hustle around two of them, her harried mania bubbling just below the surface, or a mom drooling in delirium with a stir-crazy kid.  I was so desperate to latch on to something, I rushed the kids to story time without realizing there is an etiquette to such events.  I was lucky enough to attend the first meeting of a new session, at which there would be arts and crafts and for which advanced registration was required.  The most dour-looking librarian of the staff came over to me with her clipboard, pointing to my daughter, and asked, “And who might this be?”  After introductions, she said, “Ok, I’ll add her to the list for next time as she’s not signed up.”  I stammered some statement/question about pre-registration and she assured me it was fine; she had extra materials for the craft.  She had moved on to the next child, who was on her list, before I could thank her.  We went home with our contraband craft and never returned.

I guess I’m not much of a joiner.  One of the things I love about reading is getting lost in one’s own little world, a world that changes from chapter to chapter, book to book.  The solitary, quiet joy of it.  Although, I do love sharing and discussing the juicy details of a book I’ve just finished with someone else.  It has to be someone I know will enjoy it equally though.  Someone who loves a good story for the pure, unadulterated joy of it; the thrill of figuring out a mystery; the ache of a loss as if it were your own.  Not someone who will rebuff me because I wasn’t playing by a set of rules I didn’t even know existed.

I still take my kids to the library.  Though I’d much rather get my books and run, I let them say hello to the fish in the aquarium; put together puzzles that are missing a few pieces; pluck books from the shelf not by their merit, but because they’re at eye-level.  I let them scan the books at the self-check station even though their squeals as they push each other off the stool they’re sharing make me cringe – never mind the other patrons.  I take them to the library because they need to create their own experiences in the world of reading.  I can’t force them to operate under a set of rules made by someone else; they need to be afforded the same opportunities as those kids whose names are on the list.

Plus, it always makes for a really good story.

Same $*@#, Different Day

There are times when I wake up in the morning and don’t know what day it is.  It takes my mind a minute to focus and remember.  I can blame a lot of this on lack of sleep.  My body feeling like its packed inside a bag of cotton balls, it’s no wonder my head is foggy.  But I think most of it has to do with the repetitive nature of my days.

Don’t get me wrong – I love routines.  I actually get a bit batty without them.  Anxious people like me do not like the unexpected (except surprise gifts on Mother’s Day – much to my husband’s chagrin).  I’m much better at fitting everything in if I have a set list of objectives and time frames within which to do them.

I’m thinking you can wear routines out though.  Without variety, you ain’t got no spice, right?  And life right now is looking pretty bland.  It’s the first week off winter vacation.  The weather’s cold, actually wet and snowy for once this year, the kids (and I) struggling to get back into the groove of wake-ups, waffle-making, lunch-packing, teeth-brushing, coat-wrestling, out-the-door running.

This morning, Thursday, I woke up saying, Thank God I don’t have to go anywhere besides drop-off and pick-up.  Four days into the week, I’m already so beat-down, I could barely crawl into my sweats.

I suppose I could approach this the way Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day, righting all the wrongs the second, third, fourth time around.  I could go to bed earlier tonight so I wake up somewhat refreshed.  I could make Bella’s lunch after dinner so I don’t have to scramble in the morning.  I could plan something new and different for tomorrow to break the monotony.  But in real life, unlike the movies, we don’t always get the moral of the story.

Sometimes we get so worn down in our ruts that we can’t see up over the rim.  And we wake up in the morning to the same day, essentially, because we’re dealing with the same shit.

But I’m thinking maybe this is nature’s way of getting us to embrace change.  We get so sick of ourselves and the monotony that we’re thrown off the track and forced to forge a new one.

It’s times like this that I find the pages in my cookbooks that aren’t yet dog-eared.  I purge all that clothing I’ve been meaning to give to good will.  I seek out friends that I’ve been meaning to make plans with.  I try some long-forgotten yoga pose.  I stretch muscles I’d forgotten I had.

All of life is cyclical.  Like the tides and the lunar cycle, today and its attendant shit are bound to come around again.  But in between, there will be moments of shock and awe and the sublime.  I’ll just have to remember not to get caught out too far when the tide comes back in.

So I’m sure I’ll find something exciting to get me through this low point.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and remember what day it is.  Until then, you’ll have to excuse me, I have another load of laundry to do.

Shut the Front Door

I now know why my grandmother used to shoo her children outside – and lock the door. Her kids, of course, would object.  According to family lore, my two aunts would hover on the landing of their third-floor apartment waiting for her to let them back in.  My father, the only boy, would wander outside to find his friends.  In any event, it didn’t seem that any amount of begging or pleading would alter my grandmother’s decision or when she deemed it acceptable to return home.

I always appreciated this story and found it quite humorous (my grandmother had that certain amount of pluck that allowed her to get away with it), but now I can fully relate.

Last Tuesday was gorgeous; the last day in January, yet feeling more like a fine day in spring.  When I was able to bring my scraps to the compost bin in my shirtsleeves and not freeze, I went back in for the recyclables and lingered outside for a moment.  Angela abandoned the last of her lunch and joined me.  Encouraged by the weather, we began a joint effort to rid the yard of broken-off branches from winter windstorms.  A few minutes later, Julia, who had heretofore been deeply involved in a serious reenactment of Cars 2 in miniature, wandered out as well.

I tidied twigs.  Julia decided to play school.  Angela followed along.  If I had planned an afternoon outside, it couldn’t have gone any better.  The thing was, I hadn’t planned an afternoon outside.  Angela’s naptime was in ten minutes.  That meant Julia’s quiet time in ten minutes.  And Mommy’s chance for ‘me’ time.

“Ok, a few more minutes and then we’re going in,” I warned.  To which both girls objected, of course.

After wrestling Angela inside and into a new diaper while Julia bopped alongside the changing table telling me her plans for playtime, I realized resistance was futile.  If they were so invested in playing outside, maybe that was my best chance at uninterrupted work time.  This is why assumptions are so dangerous.

With the girls safely ensconced in the fenced backyard, I stationed myself by the window that looked directly onto their play area with my papers.  Maybe five minutes passed before I heard the first plaintive call by the door.  Once that issue was resolved, another five minutes passed before I heard the squeak of the screen door.  Then the stomp of feet.  The desperate plea for some indoor toy that was absolutely essential for their play outside.  Then a cry.  Another squeak.  A snack.

I could feel my blood pressure going up with each interruption.

“In or out,” I bellowed.

For kids who not so long ago were completely invested in playing outside, their actions were certainly not showing it.  Then Big Sister got home from school and a third set of feet beat a path back and forth.

“My God,” I thought.  “Now I know where Grandma got her motivation.”

Any mother knows it’s easier to get things done when there are no children under foot.  Unfortunately, society and culture have changed just enough that it’s no longer acceptable to boot our kids out the door for the day and welcome them home for dinner.  It’s no longer safe for our kids to play unsupervised in the open areas around our homes.  It’s no longer acceptable or expected for them to fill their own time with their own imaginings; we’re supposed to do it for them.

Not only does this culture shift take accountability and creativity away from our children, it makes the job of a mother a hell of a lot harder.

Now, please understand me, I’m not advocating for mothers across the world to lock their children out of the house.  It just seems to me that while the tension and tenderness between mothers and children is the same as in previous generations, the expected goals and duties of mothers have swelled with no subtractions from our job descriptions.

Kind of makes one want to lock the door and hide.  But, like my grandmother, I will always open my door to my children and welcome them in with open arms – even if I let them sit on the landing for a little while first.

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