Thursday, September 24, 2015

Permission to Be My Mommy-Self

When I became a mom, I had an unspoken list of things I thought "good" moms did for their children. The more children I had, the longer the list became, and the more guilt poured onto my head when I didn't accomplish each item.

The funny thing is, I wasn't aware of this list until I failed at it.

Here are just a few things I've felt guilty about over the years (if you do these things and enjoy them, I applaud you, because you've given yourself permission to be your mommy-self):

1. I don't bake birthday cakes. I made two or three before I realized how much stress this brought into my life while I was trying to host a party for my children. The first time I *gasp* bought a store-bought cake I almost cried.

2. I don't scrapbook or keep track of childhood milestones. I tried, desperately, and my oldest has a beautiful book with all this information from her first year of second child has about half of the information (and that was added by memory months later) twins have no books to speak of.

3. I hate playing board games, and Barbie Dolls, and Legos--and almost anything that has to do with toys. I've tried, numerous times, but I think I've lost my imagination and patience for these things.

4. I like cooking by myself, usually because I'm in a hurry, so I was horrible at letting my kids help me in the kitchen when they were young.

5. I don't often bundle up and play outside with my kids in the winter. I think this one is self-explanatory.

6. I don't do art projects with my children at home.

These are just a few things I don't (or didn't) do, and for many years I felt horrible about myself as a mother because of them. When I talk to moms who love having their kids in the kitchen, or who have "art tables" and "art corners" in their house full of lots of fun art supplies, I would chastise myself. When I saw a mom romping through the snow, or playing a board game, or sharing pictures of their children's scrapbooks, I would ask myself why I was such a failure...and don't get me started on the mom who makes a masterpiece out of flour, sugar, and eggs...

When I was feeling especially guilty, I would try my hardest to do these things. I would buy the supplies to make a fun snack (cooking AND art in one!). But I didn't have fun, and would end up crabby or irritated before the event was over.

Finally, I realized something very important. It wasn't my job to be the "perfect" mom, or even a "good" mom.

It was my job to be the mom God created me to be, for the children He created them to be.

Other moms enjoy all the things I just listed above--but I don't--and that's okay.

1. My children still get birthday cakes (and they're much prettier than I could ever make them!).

The boys' third birthday. I paid a friend to make their cakes,
and they loved them!
2. My children don't have scrapbooks, but I have a journal for each one, which I started during my pregnancies. Every few months, I pour out my heart on the page for each child. I talk to them about what they're doing, what I'm feeling, what my hopes and prayers are for their futures, and unique things about each of their personalities. This, for me, is part of my love language, and a far better gift I can offer than estimated milestones on a calendar.

3. I don't play with the kids' toys, but I take my children to historic sites, and to museums, and to the park, and on walks, and swimming in the lakes and rivers. I read to them, and talk to them, and listen to them. We have campfires with s'mores, and we watch classic movies, and go to the library, and we invite friends, neighbors, and family over. We go to amusement parks, and waterparks, and we play mini-golf. I have found ways I can spend quality time with my children that we both enjoy, and in the process, I'm teaching them and loving on them. Just last night, as I was reading one of my favorite books to my daughters, one of them did a little squeal and said: "I LOVE this book!"

4. My kids didn't spend much time in the kitchen as young children, but we spend time at the table together during meals (even meals in restaurants), and now that they're older, I've taught them how to cook age-appropriate meals (so I don't have to do so much cooking!).

5. Even if I don't go outside in the winter, my children do. Sometimes, as a parent, we have to do things we don't like, but then there are other times we can find alternatives! I bundle up the kids, send them out to play, and then make hot chocolate for them when they come inside. :) We're all happy.

6. My children don't do art projects with me at home, but I spent nine years in early childhood classes with my children, making art projects at school! (That way, I didn't have the mess at home, or have to be creative.) Again, this one goes back to #3. My sister loves to do art projects with her children, because she's an artist. I found what I love, and do that with my children. We've never colored Easter Eggs at our house! Never. We do this at Grandma or Nana's house. I felt guilty the first couple years, but now I embrace this tradition and the grandmother's love having the kids around their kitchen counters.

I had to give myself permission to be my mommy-self. Other moms may look at some of the stuff I do, and run away in horror--but that's the point. We should never look at what other moms do and create expectations for ourselves. We should embrace the uniqueness in each of our personalities, and learn how to share that with our children.

I still work hard to be a good mom, to find things that interest my children, and get our family involved. Through my kids, I've learned so much more about the world and I've come to enjoy things I didn't know about before. It's not all about me, or all about my children, it's about our family and finding ways we enjoy spending time together.

Your Turn: What are things you enjoy doing with your children? What things did you think a "good" mom did that you don't enjoy? If you don't have children, what are some things you enjoyed doing with your mom growing up?

Gabrielle Meyer:
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  1. Replies
    1. I knew you'd relate, Erica! Kindred spirits. :)

  2. Oh Gabrielle, I can so relate to this post! Except for the birthday cake I'm with you on every other point! I love going for walks, having dinner, reading, and movie nights! My worst thing is all things crafty! I hate crafts! I even hate having crafts in my home! But I got over it and I let them have their own craft area where they can express their craftiness...without me! Lol

    1. I love that you know what you enjoy and what you can pass up. I also love your attitude toward the crafts. :)

  3. Gabe, I love this post. This is such a truth--that moms and women in general, give themselves lists to measure themselves by. But truthfully--it's not the "doing" of the "things" that counts--it's the giving of our hearts that matters most. Keep finding that secret in your life, in all your relationships, whether you a mom or not, and you'll find a rich source of peace and joy. ;)

    1. Well said, Anne! You're absolutely right. Offering our hearts to our children, and to all people we're in relationship with, is really all that matters.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by! I've been parenting now for eleven years, and I wish someone would have given me this nugget of wisdom much sooner than I learned it. But, alas, some things need to be learned from doing, rather than hearing. :)

  5. YAY! What a great post. Cause really, you and I pretty much don't do the same things. Altho I do love Barbies. (Shhhhh....don't tell anyone) ;)

    1. I LOVED Barbies until I was about fourteen (when most of my friends had grown out of them), but I have lost the Barbie magic somewhere along the way. :( Now it's almost impossible to use my imagination in that way. But, yay for moms who love them!! :)

  6. Loved your post Gabrielle!! I didn't do a lot of the things on your list with my children - some because I didn't enjoy, or find myself skilled at them. Others due to a lack of time from working more than one job for many years.

    However, there is no rule book for raising children - of upmost importance is their knowing they are loved, & being raised in a Christian home. The quality of time spent with them is more important than the amount, or activity.


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