Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In Which I Declare I'm Not a Very Good Mom

Lately I've been thinking about marriage and being a wife and being a mother and being a homemaker/housewife and all that good stuff. I've read a few blogs that have mentioned the matter lately and then Brian and I had a [really long, really good] conversation about the status of "us."

When I read this confession from Stephanie at Adventures in Babywearing about being a good mom but a bad wife I knew I wanted to write about me. It was so brave of her to make that confession. To admit she wasn't good at it all. Is anyone really? So here's my declaration:

I'm a kickass homemaker, a pretty good wife, and not a very good mom.

Before you're all, "Jenny, you're a great mom...blah blah blah," let me explain. I don't think my children are deprived or will be damaged or, by any means, are neglected. Their needs are met and exceeded and they are loved immensely. But when it comes to everyday ins and outs, I'd much rather them keep to themselves and entertain each other rather than me planning activities and engaging with them in play.* It makes me sad to see myself write that. To admit that out loud for everyone to see.

What I would much rather be doing during the day is dusting, changing sheets, Windexing windows, vacuuming, looking up new recipes on the Internet, folding laundry, writing, drinking my coffee while it's still hot, chopping vegetables for dinner, attending church by myself, reading ALL the blogs on my reader, baking a batch of homemade cookies, putting throws and pillows back in order, wiping down counter tops and getting rid of clutter.

What I would much rather be doing during the evening is having in-depth conversations with Brian about our marriage, our finances, our future, politics, his career, my writing dreams, the economy. I'd also rather be getting gussied up for a date night to a local wine bar or grabbing the latest movie at the theater. I'd also rather be reading my book, snuggled against my personal heater also known as Brian. I'd also rather be watching our favorite television shows while pausing every ten minutes to bring up a point of discussion.

On a recent Date Night.
These are the things I'm good at. The things that come very easily to me. These are the strengths God has given me. But this isn't all He's called me to do or to be.

None of us is ever full-filled in a lopsided way of life. And the weaknesses I listed above, my true inclinations, are only sins if that's really the way I live my life. Which it isn't.

Spontaneity and child's play don't come natural to me. I have to work to overcome it. I have to really think about it with intention. And when I do I fill up plastic swimming pools in the backyard. I make a U-turn to visit a sculpture garden. I turn ottomans and blankets into forts. I decide lunch at Ikea might do us some good.

A recent self-timer photo shoot.
In college I worked as a nanny.  I was the kind of nanny who brought the kids to the pool every day but never got in the pool with them.  They were always dressed, cleaned, fed nutritious foods, their rooms were organized, the dishwasher was unloaded and their homework was always complete.

On one of my last days with that family we went to the pool per normal.  It was the end of summer and the pool was quite empty.  The children didn't have as many playmates as usual so they were pleading with me extra hard to join them in the water.  At last I relented.  They screamed and cheered.  I got in the pool with them and here's what happened next:  I had fun.

I fully realize these choices, these decisions, to jump in with both feet don't come easily for me.  But I also know I don't want to be the mom that sits on the edge of the pool deck while life carries on without me.

How do I continue to be good at my God-given strengths while still being cognizant of the areas I'm lacking?

I don't have it all figured it out.  But I think a confession is a good start.

*Some of you may point out the paradox of my weaknesses directly conflicting with my desire to have a large family.  My only explanation is that I'm a true caretaker.  But not a very good playmate.

I'd love to hear your parenting and spousal strengths and weaknesses and what you do to live a more balanced life.

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