Today was a snow day for our whole family. Over coffee I started to ask my husband about the laundry list of projects (in my head) that need to get done in our house. I’d like to continue to organize the boys’ bedrooms, donate old books and clothes, tear down wallpaper (who wallpapers a heating vent?), take out the old rounded baseboards and put in the more current, squared off taller stuff, crown molding in the living room. When I start these conversations, I can feel my wheels spinning and see my husband’s eyes glaze over as he tunes me out. It’s not that he doesn’t care. He works hard to maintain our home. He just has other priorities. I asked him if he ever got overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done. His answer was simple. “No. I know we are going to live here a long time and there is nothing that needs to get done tomorrow to make this house liveable.” Here I am beating myself up because I want my living room to look like a Pottery Barn catalog and my boys to be able to find toys when they want them and my husband is enjoying his coffee and his snow day.
I often think to myself, “What kind of mother am I?” This morning, it was 5 degrees. At their request, I bundled the boys up and helped them trek outside, but I didn’t go myself. Too cold. But I sat inside bathing in mom guilt because I had the day off and I didn’t take advantage of the time with them and play in the snow. Maybe I am not the kind of mom who does those things.
Maybe I am, I just wasn’t that kind of mom today.
For me, the biggest battle of motherhood has been with myself. Some of it is internal wiring. Some of it is my upbringing and the pressure put on me by myself and others to always be striving for more, to achieve, achieve, achieve. I don’t judge my husband, my sons, my parents, or my friends by one choice that they make on any given day, so why am I holding myself to that standard?
Motherhood isn’t about one decision on one day. One decision does not define me. But, a lifetime of decisions, does. And, as long as the cumulative effect of my decisions is positive, then I will have done right by them. That’s always the goal, right? To leave the world better than I found it. I hope to leave the world two men who will go on to do their own good in the world.
I was still in my pajamas when a friend texted to arrange a play date between her two sons and mine. At my house. Granted, I had offered the night before, so it wasn’t a total surprise. But, I was still in my pajamas! What kind of mother does that? At 2pm on a Monday? I never showered so fast in my life.
When all four boys were playing, I got inspired to organize the drawers in my nightstand. I’m still in purging mode. In with the pens (how many pens do I need in there?), chapstick, and Aveda hand lotion (the best, and completely necessary in Michigan winters), I found my prayer journals, some books, and piles and piles of little notes. I knew the notes were in there, I had just forgotten how many. There were hundreds of them, written on old sticky notes, receipts, vouchers for the parking garage at the hospital where our son was treated, on the wrappers of tea bags (?).
My sons’ childhoods on little pieces of paper.
When they slept through the night, rolled over, sat up. How many words they knew at a certain age. Funny things they said. Stories about what happened at school on a particular day. Recountings of dreams and nightmares. Fear of the dark and thunder because “it makes me sad.” Hugging me and my husband “because you are two people and I have two arms for hugging.”
Most of the notes were dated and labeled with who said it. (Go me!) I spent the afternoon sorting them into piles and then putting each pile into a folder. Some day I will give each son his own file folder full of little scraps of paper. They are memories. My memories of them and how they are growing before my eyes.
Looking at the piles that covered my bed, I thought about what kind of mother I am and what that means for my sons. Today, I was not the kind of mother who bundled up and went outside. Today, I was the kind of mom who raced to the shower so I wasn’t embarrassed when a friend showed up to play. Hopefully my sons won’t remember those things. Those are just the things I did today.
Hopefully they will remember me as a woman of courage who worked to quiet her inner critics. Hopefully they will remember me as the kind of mother who remembers to write down the quirky stories and the funny things they said. Hopefully they will remember me as a writer and a keeper of memories. That is the kind of mother I am.