I grew up in the most classic of ways depicted by Leave it to Beaver and Daddy Knows Best. Daddy worked and Mom stayed home with us girls. She cooked, she cleaned, she even mowed the lawn a few times. I have wonderful memories of growing up in this family and, because we often watched old Leave it to Beaver reruns, I thought this was considered "normal".
Fast forward twenty-one years and I found myself vowing to love, cherish, and devote myself to a young, handsome man by the name of Josh Parr. I couldn't wait to pick up his socks and underwear, which I assumed smelled of roses, cook his meals, and clean the house. Well, that lasted all of five minutes after the honeymoon. Roses my ...never mind. I had no idea that marriage was going to be a lot harder than it looked from the outside. No wonder so many fairytales ended at the first kiss or with the prince and fair maiden galloping off into the sunset; it was a far more hopeful ending when you didn't show Cinderella browbeating Prince Charming for not picking up his dirty socks or wiping off the horse manure before he walked into the house.
Being the young, naive bride that I was, I didn't figure that picking up dirty laundry off the floor, chipping old food out of the pan, or making beds would ever get old. I had seen my mother do it for years and she had made it look effortless. What I had forgotten to take into account was that she also never sat down. When dinner was over she did the dishes until Kelly and I were old enough to chip in around the house. She and my dad both held to the theory that there was nothing worse than dirty dishes in the morning. We also made our beds every morning before even leaving the room, clothes were put away, breakfast dishes were put away, then Kelly and I were off to school. Every Saturday, like clockwork, was cleaning the house day or grocery shopping day. It was just the way things were done at our house. "A place for everything and everything in it's place."
My sister inherited my mom's gift for keeping house...I did not. At this very moment I am sitting at the kitchen table that has all kinds of stuff left over from the day. The living room is a mess, DVDs need to be put away, shoes are scattered everywhere, threatening the very lives of any would-be thieves who figured they could sneak in unobserved, and there's a stack of paperwork on the kitchen counter with two pizza boxes acting as paperweights. And yes, these things will all be picked up tomorrow morning. And yes, it will be this messy again by tomorrow night! And why, do you ask, am I up at 11:30-ish writing? Well, I'm killing time while Josh's lunch finishes cooking because I got too involved in a book and forgot to cook the dang chicken earlier.
You may also be wondering how in the world two type A personalities ended up with a complete type B child. I've been wondering the same exact thing myself. Was it to test their faith, test their resolve, keep them humble?...We may never know the answer to these all-important questions (this said snidely), but I believe that God is the great multi-tasker and has many reasons for placing me in this family and thus wrecking any sort of pride they may have had in how their daughters turned out. At least one of them is good at housekeeping...and I think they might be still praying for me in this aspect.
You may now be wondering about any unresolved issues I might have, but before you pull out the card with your therapist's name on it and offering to call them on my behalf, let me tell you what the Lord has been showing me over the past couple of years:
A) I am never going to be my mother. I am not being sarcastic now or even trying to be mean. She was truly gifted in keeping the house clean, being the helpmate my dad needed, having the house organized so he could find what he needed when he needed it. She also had a LOT of energy to do it all. Blame it on health issues or whatever, but I've never had the amount of energy she has had and still has today. She is a hard worker, and she has wonderful work ethics. I really respect her for those things. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit the energy that makes her capable to work so hard.
B) That is okay that I am never going to be my mother. This lesson has been a hard one to come to grips with. Because of what I grew up with, the ideals of the man going to work, the woman staying home with the children, I thought that anything less than that was considered failure, that I wasn't doing my job as a wife or mother if I was not cleaning, cooking, and caring for the children 24/7. But now I'm thinking my disorderly way of living doesn't automatically mean I'm a bad mother.
I forget sometimes that I'm the only mother my children have. They don't know what it's like to live in a home that is clean ALL the time, unless they stay the weekend at Grammie and Papa's house. They do chores here at our house, but it's more hit and miss then every hour on the hour. I'm getting much better at making them brush their teeth, but I forget the well-child check-ups until one of them needs to enroll in school.We rock out to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" instead of singing along to "The wheels on the bus go round and round..." I worry that my yelling at other drivers in the Costco parking lot is teaching them bad driving manners and I've already had to talk with Elli about not using the 'D' word because it is in fact a bad word regardless of how many times mommy uses it throughout the week. I worry that my lack of attention to the mundane duties of housekeeping will scar them for life and I worry at least twice a month when I can't find that darn bill that I swore I put somewhere for safekeeping, or I'm late on paying a bill because I didn't pay attention to the due date for payments. I kick myself when I go to bed at night for the things I did and the mistakes I made, but where they as bad as I thought?
Are there bad mothers out there? Uh, yeah. The ones who do drugs, the ones who kill their children. So compared to them I'm not doing so bad.
And who are the good mothers? They are the ones who take care of their children as well as they can despite difficult circumstances. They are the mothers that cheer for their kids at athletic games, or school plays, or concerts, or ______ (fill in the blank). They are the mothers that teach their children to reach for the stars but also teach them how to lose because in life you're not going to win everything you go for and losing graciously is just as important as winning, if not more so. They are the women who work because their husbands need help or because they are the only ones left to do so. They are the women love their children and do what they can to show them how much they love them. They sit on benches at games and sometimes they talk to their children through glass partitions and by telephone because no matter how she parented the child still made his/her own decisions. They pray every night and every day for they wayward child, never giving up hope for them. These are the good mothers.
Often times I miss the mark when it comes to being a mother. I yell the kids, I forget to do laundry, I neglect the housework, and I've been known to forget a meal or two if I'm in the middle of writing something. But I also give them hugs when they least suspect it, and I laugh at their jokes or antics when I know their doing it for me. We sing loudly, and off pitch, in the car together. We cry together. And I sing to my daughter and pray with my sons at bedtime most of the time.
My daughter still tells me that I'm the best mother she's ever had and one of my sons told me that he'll love me the most even if he has another mom someday...um, thanks son. Do I make mistakes? All the time. Do I agonize over them? All the time. Do I wake up the next morning and try again? All the time.
I don't know about you, but I'll keep trying to be a good mom with every day I'm given. I may not be Mrs. Cleaver, the beds won't be made, and the clean laundry might get mixed in with the dirty laundry on occasion, but, by golly, I'll try my best to be a good mother for these four children the Lord has blessed me with, and pray, pray, pray for the wisdom in raising them everyday. And when I run into ruts I'll call my parents, my in-laws, my aunts or my uncles, and ask them how in the world I'm supposed to do this.
And someday, I hope, they will rise and call me blessed. I feel blessed by them already, in any case.