Saturday, May 02, 2009

Non-Awesome Mom

Chris over at Notes From the Trenches is writing this week about ways she fails as a mom. Oh, not anything big and horrible--we're not talking about abuse or neglect or anything like that. Chris, from what I can tell, is an incredible mom, not least because she has seven children and she home-schools them all and they all play Little League (read: much juggling of various practice and game schedules) and Chris still manages to regularly cook great meals, dress well, and maintain long, gorgeous hair. I digress.

I read her post tonight, about little ways she fails--the mismatched socks and the forgetting to play tooth fairy and the not washing the baseball uniforms every night--and I almost cried. Because this past week for some reason I felt an awful lot like the kind of mom who fails in not little ways but big. I don't know why this past week more than any other.

Maybe because the sleep-training has failed.

Maybe because most days my two-year-old wakes up crabby, moves on to surly, and winds up cranky. (Unless she's in public, when she usually vacillates between silent and compliant.)

Maybe because Julia's needs often get neglected in my attempts to placate Genevieve. Or because I yell at Genevieve a lot, becoming very often these days the kind of mom I don't want to be. Or because I think of her as "naughty" and "infuriating" rather than "determined" and "spirited." And because I started to wonder if Genevieve is so naughty because I don't pay enough dedicated attention to her, free from multi-tasking and social networking and online writing and checking e-mail and cleaning the house and making shopping lists and paying bills and volunteering and venting to fellow-mom friends so that I can get through the day. Last week we went to toddler class and on the way there, Genevieve said, "Mama stay with me, and NO TALKING TO ANYONE. Just PLAY." Sometimes I think Genevieve's naughty because I don't pay enough attention to her. Which is a lot worse than mismatched socks.

When Julia was a baby, I didn't write a blog. There weren't many mommy-blogs yet, so I only read one or two, maybe once a week instead of every day. I wasn't on Facebook. I didn't read Babble or Work it, Mom! or Parent Dish. I wasn't volunteering anywhere. I wasn't trying to write essays and columns for publication, I wasn't planning book proposals. I didn't have many friends; I didn't spend daytime hours talking to anyone else but her. I filled my days playing with her, talking with her one-on-one, for hours. Every day. All week. Of course, I almost lost my mind as well, without the companionship of mom-and-baby classes and blog-friends and new social media and daily phone calls that take me away from floor play and art projects. But I think Julia was happy. And she was certainly not naughty.

All week I wondered if I need to live my life differently, if I need to live my life better. And I wasn't talking about remembering to play tooth fairy.


Mnmom said...

OK . . take a deep breath . . . listen to an older veteran.

Julia is that way because she's JULIA. and Vivi is that way because she's VIVI! There are silent little angels who's Moms work full time and they spend all day in a day care with a 10:1 ratio.

I don't believe for one single second that Vivi doesn't get enough attention. And it IS infuriating, and frustrating. It's perfectly OK to say you aren't a real fan of her behavior right now and you really like when it stops or you leave the house.

And I know you love her so much it just hurts and that you'd gladly lay down your life for hers.

The mere fact that you walk through this day after stressful day and NOT turn to alcohol or child abuse is a testament to your strength and character. I know, I've been there. I'm still there just in a snotty-teenager way.

You ARE a good mom, and it can't possibly be measured in crafts or hours of sleep or cleanliness levels, but in love. And that you demonstrate in abundance.

All of us Moms "fail" in some way because we've built up this impossible standard that no human woman can live up to. So I just do my best, stick to my core values, do the laundry, and show up each and every day.

In the end, that's all that matters.

Mom and Kiddo said...

Wow, your words sound like they came from inside my head. Well, except for the names of the children. My older son spent the morning telling me how he doesn't want the baby here anymore, so of course I went into a guilt spiral on so many levels.

I think I'll take Mnmom's words of wisdom to heart myself.

Tricia said...

I dunno, Shan. Just looking at the picture you posted says it all. You simply have two very different souls parked in those little bodies. And you have to remember that Genevieve doesn't have any idea of what Julia's earlier years were like. That's just your story. Not that it makes it easier on your mother's guilt. What's probably true is that there isn't any way you could possibly spend too much time with her! Anyway, that picture cracks me up! Julia is glowing and happy and Vivi is glowering and decidedly unhappy.

Shan said...

Thank you, Mnmom, for your affirming words of wisdom, as always.

And Tricia, the really funny thing about that photo is that Genevieve wasn't unhappy in that picture at all. She just tends to always look glowering and unhappy, even when she's not! Ha! (But, to be honest, many many times of course she IS grumpy when Julia is perfectly content.)

Mom said...

Wow, I need to meet Mnmom when I come to visit. She is the soul of wisdom and speaks from experience! I had *three* daughters, all of whom were and still are completely different from one another. But I still love each of them and am basically very proud of the person each has become in her own way. I laughed at Trish's comment about the picture too because that was my first thought: one pleasant, one a bit surly. And that's just their way, their personalities! We all do the best we can with what we have and what we are given, and in the end that's all we can do. Love & hugs, Mom

donna said...

You'll never be the mom that Julia had, to Genevieve. It's just the way it is. (And even as I say this to you, I feel the same way you do - that I don't have nearly as much alone time with either of my children as I did when I only had one.) Being the mother of a two year old isn't helping things, either. (We're going through it here, too!) And when you have children as willful as our younger daughters... Well, losing your cool happens. And the fact that you feel bad about it after reinforces how much you truly love them. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

latisha said...

oh shan! nothing but love, hearts, besos (kisses), hugs, and more amor sent your way in a heart shaped box of gratitude for you, your blog, and the amazing girls you are contributing to this world.

to you.

Shan said...

Thanks, Latisha. What a sweet comment. What would we do without the support of one another, dear mamas?! Thanks, EVERYONE.