Holidays could easily make me feel like a mom fail. As I scroll through Facebook and Instagram, it is obvious my little ones are getting the raw end of the deal. My kids are the ones dressed in old sports uniforms for Halloween, and one year I sent them to school with a plastic grocery bag for their Valentine’s box. Leprechauns have never visited our home. We tried the elf on the shelf and he only moved once…from the tree to the banister.
When notes come home about large, artistic school projects, I groan inside. I am completely incapable of cutting a straight line which doesn’t translate well for science fair boards and large scale book reports. It’s tough to tell the difference between my artistic efforts and my kids’. I just hate that kind of stuff.
Pinterest has created an even wider chasm between the “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to creativity and patience. It used to be that only the really talented parents could pull off a show stopper, now it’s shocking when someone can’t.
But, here’s the thing. I LOVE that you can.
I love going through the Valentine boxes (or bags) and seeing darling, homemade cards. I love hearing about the coolest Halloween costumes and seeing really amazing science fair projects. I love that you celebrate the heck out of St. Patrick’s Day. I love that my friend makes ridiculously amazing cakes for her kids’ birthdays and that my cousin threw a carnival when her twins turned one complete with cotton candy, clowns, games, and a myriad of other awesome things.
I also really love it when you invite us to be a part of all your momentous events.
And, it’s not just the mom stuff that I think is incredible. I am in awe of our pediatrician who diagnosed allergies by a line on my son’s nose and women who create their own businesses out of small ideas in cluttered garages. And first grade teachers completely knock my socks off. Can you imagine throwing a seven hour birthday party every day for 28 six-year-olds and hoping they learn something in the process? I could never do or be any of these things, but I am so glad there are women who can.
We teach our kids that different is good, that life would be boring if everyone were the same. But when people are different than we are, or, more pointedly, better than we are at something, it makes us feel insecure…like them being great all of a sudden makes us less good. That feeling makes us scramble or insult or dismiss or excuse just to put ourselves back on higher ground.
But instead we sink, and we bring other women down with us.
I don’t want people to dial things down so I can feel secure. My friends don’t need to hide their talents so I can feel better about myself. I want to live in a community where women can showcase their strengths and pursue their talents at home and in the workforce without the fear of being or looking “too good.”
When women excel, at anything, it is good for all of us. I love that my kids get to be part of crazy creative class parties and caring playgroups. I’m grateful for intuitive physicians and gentle dentists that keep my boys healthy. And I like bringing what I have to the table too. I like helping with essay writing and reading. I like sharing book lists, favorite museums, and a few good recipes. I like pulling a little extra weight in the school or classroom or driving to soccer practice while another mom is out on the police force or nursing a newborn.
I spent most of my college years studying literature from a feminist perspective, and in hindsight, I may have had it all wrong. Feminism is different for me now. To me, a real feminist allows all women to discover what their best self is, and then lets them be that best in a world, nation, and community that refuses to cut down what is painstakingly being built inside the home or outside of it. We should celebrate the opportunity that women can be anything, from a corporate leader to a killer room mom. There is a seat for everyone at the table and we all benefit when everyone gives their best to make things work.
I had a neighbor who had a talent for making every moment sensational for her family with visits from the magic school bus and themed family evenings; I had another neighbor who was a concert pianist and so cultured and well spoken you wanted to brush up on grammar and philosophy after chatting with her; I had a friend who donated serious amounts of cash to many organizations children were involved in. Being close to these women didn’t make me a less successful woman or mother. I was still me, but I was able to learn from their creativity, culture and generosity and hope that a little of their goodness might rub off on me.
Many years ago, in a rough moment of inadequacy, I wondered how I could ever measure up to everyone around me. Then, I had a distinct Godly impression, almost a voice that said, “I gave you these boys because they needed YOU to be their mother.” It was a beautiful, spiritual experience as I realized who I WAS instead of who I wasn’t. My boys didn’t need a college professor, a sports star, a party thrower, a decorator, or a perfectly organized mother, they just needed me, and I was enough.
So, I guess what I am saying is that you are the perfect mother for your children and your kids just need YOU. They need your best self, and when you are being that, whoever YOU are, is enough. After that realization, who other people are, what they do and what they have fades into the background and what emerges is who you are now and who you can become.
An unintended consequence of realizing who you are, is that your children see confidence and assurance in your mothering. You don’t have to make excuses or tell half truths; you are who you are, and not only are you okay with it, but you embrace it and hold to it. They stop begging to do things like other families and manipulating your emotions to mold you into their ideal parent, and they start enjoying what your family has to offer them (well, most of the time).
And next February 14th, you can send your kids to school with a plastic bag for their Valentine’s box and do it with a smile, because you show love differently, and it is just the kind of love they need.