Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Good Mother's Creed

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If only there were a specific, tried and true motherhood creed that could be cut and pasted to every child and every situation. Think of all the millions of controversial parenting subjects that might suddenly become redundant:  To Spank or Not to Spank, To Immunize or Not to Immunize, or maybe Scheduling: What is Too Much and What is Too Little? 

Recently a group of mothers considered what they have to do each day in order to go to sleep feeling like they were successful with their kids. Obviously there are tons of considerations when it comes to good parenting, but these women were mulling over their individual top priorities when it comes to feeling like they consciously made the effort. One woman said that if she went to sleep with a clean house, feeling like everything was in order and ready for the next day, then she felt like she was doing right by her kids. Another woman said that as long as her kids were eating healthy foods that will keep their little bodies strong, then she felt like it had been a successful day.

This discussion reminds me of a book called The Queen of Clean, a "How To" reference guide for every cleaning project imaginable. In the introduction the writer, Linda Cobb, offers the disclaimer that the only thing she does every single day is feed the cat and kiss the King. I haven't thumbed through her book in years, but I've always remembered that disclaimer as being a great kindness to her readers. It was an acknowledgement that of course an entire reference guide on cleaning might feel a bit overwhelming at first. But you don't have to clean every single thing, every single day. She essentially invited readers from the beginning to determine what is most important to them, knowing that habits and preferences would vary from reader to reader.

And so it is with developing A Good Mother's Creed. What is it that you have to do each day in order to feel like you consciously made the effort with your children?  I'm certain that for each of us that answer might look a little different, but the truth is that whatever your answer is, it's true. And I'm not sure we get to pick our answer. As much as I'd like to say that I fall asleep at night wondering if Elisabeth ate her green vegetables at dinner, I don't. I put them on her plate, right next to the macaroni and cheese, and then I never think of it again until I'm on my hands and knees scraping dried peas off the kitchen floor.

But I do fall asleep feeling either satisfied or guilty about whether or not I had one-on-one time with my girls. Reading to them, or holding them on my lap and talking to them each day is really important to me. It's not that this is any less important to other moms, but it's something that I have to strive really hard to do because it doesn't come easily. Left to my own devices I would be perfectly happy to wander though my house and drive around in my car completely absorbed in my thoughts, almost always thinking about one writing project or another. But that's not fair to little people, and spacing off all day long while they run around that house like monkeys is certainly not going to win me any prizes as mother of the year. And so automatically this objective is at the tippy top of my daily list: Remember you have three daughters, notice them, be interested in them, and express love for them.

I imagine there are women all over the world who lie in bed at night fretting about all sorts of parenting issues. What a beautiful image! I remember a social worker acquaintance once telling me that if a parent worries about whether or not they're doing a good job, they are. They almost always are. So whatever it is that enables you to snuggle into your blankets in the dark and think, Well, I did the best I could and there's always tomorrow, then you're doing a good job.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this. Mine is similar to yours -- if my kids overall felt loved, then I feel pretty good. Usually there are a few dark spots in the day, but hopefully it is outweighed by lots of smiles, hugs, kisses, snuggles and kind words from their mother dearest.

    I loved what the social worker said. And it makes sense. If you care enough to worry then at least you're trying.


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