On having it all and a belated Mother’s Day

On having it all and Mother's Day - www.alliepottswrites.com
Image courtesy of http://www.unsplash.com

The hubby and I have been flirting with minimalism for some time. I say flirting because while we both find the idea attractive, and would absolutely love to get to know it better sometime, it’s just not something we feel we can commit to at this moment, especially as, with two kids under 10, it is next to impossible to keep the ‘things’ from piling up.

There’s the ‘thing’ the youngest made in school – a small clay pot with uneven sides or the hand-drawn book he made describing how a bed is made. There are the ‘things’ the eldest collects – rocks that catch his eye or the projects he completes in cub scouts.

Clicking on the image will take you to an affiliate link

Those things, at least, have sentimental value even if they take up space, but then there are the other ‘things’: the plastic characters that come with fast food kids meals, the Legos they use to build a model once which later magically transform into multicolored landmines to an unsuspecting parent’s foot, or the toys which cycle through their favor – one minute they are taking up space in the corner, the next minute (which usually coincides with you eyeballing them for a garage sale) they are the be-all-toy of all-consuming obsession.

Their ‘things’ can be a tad overwhelming at times.

Then I came home from lunch on Sunday and found the floors were cleared and all the toys had been put away. It was all I could want for Mother’s Day.

Better yet – I hadn’t needed to ask.

A friend of mine recently brought my attention to an article featured on the Huffington Post entitled: “Why Women Are Tired: The Price of Unpaid Emotional Labor” by a person known as Psyched in San Francisco. The article, which describes one woman’s request for a professional house cleaning as a Mother’s Day gift, goes on to detail how her well-meaning other half missed the point of her request. She wasn’t looking for a clean house, though that was definitely a plus. What she wanted – was a break.

It reminded me of the old analogy of a person looking for a drill in a hardware store. The person isn’t there to buy a tool, even if that’s what it appears to an outsider. The person is really in the store because they need a hole.

The author of the article made a point to say her husband was a kind and supportive partner. He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to make her Mother’s Day. His mistake was simply not understanding the requested gift’s true value.

Has my other half been sneaking a peek at my browsing history and whispering suggestions into my kids’ ears? Perhaps, but in this instance, I’m not complaining. I simply enjoyed a couple hours off duty. It may not come again for some time.

Yep – this looks about right (Clicking on the image will redirect you to an affiliate link)

Another friend sent me a piece from the New Yorker: “I am the one woman who has it all.” by Kimberly Harrington. By its title, you might think the piece was a judgmental essay about a woman who has chosen to continue to work after having children, when in fact it is an all too relatable (and funny) summary of all the many reasons a mom might actually want a break from it all, if only for a single day.

After reading the piece I now understand I’m a woman who has it all too, but that’s okay. I know it is worth it in the end.

I like to think it’s made me a better person as well as a better mom. I certainly appreciate my own moms more now knowing what shenanigans my siblings and I put them through.

I’m okay with the bad – the mess, the stress, the never-ending head colds – provided it continues to be outweighed by the good.

I tell myself that one day I will come home and there will be no mess to clean – my boys will be out in the world on their own – and so I accept the things around my home for what they are, proof that, for this moment, that time is still far from now.

I’m okay with having it all.

Just as long as ‘having it all’ comes with the occasional unexpected house cleaning and maybe…, just maybe… a couple hours off and a bottle of wine (or two).

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to the moms out there.




From one mother to another

The US presidential race has as a special place in my heart (others might call it indigestion). Two election cycles ago, I remember sitting on the edge of my couch waiting, counting the minutes, as ballot totals rolled across the bottom of the television screen. One way or another, I knew my life would never be the same. It was the evening before my eldest son was born.

I won’t go into the details too much, but suffice it to say, Kiddo wasn’t particularly interested in leaving the mothership.

After an incredibly long day over which I convinced myself more than once, I must be dying, a rather loud pink thing lay in the room with me. The whole process had given my immediate family ample time to fill the waiting room, (did I mention how very long of a day it was?) and though my mom was never far, soon my hospital room became a revolving door of other well-wishers.

During one visit, my sister smiled at me as she commented with a hint of disbelief, “you’re a mom now.”

I suppose, I technically was by the definition of the word, but I sure didn’t feel all that different, well any more different than being exhausted and more than a wee bit bloated (understatement of the year). My dad likes to tell us about how when my brother was born, time simply stopped until my brother’s eyes (and lungs) opened. I didn’t have that moment, I didn’t experience that new parent glow. I will admit, I felt a little cheated. And tired. And disgusting. And maybe even a bit of a fraud. I felt a lot of I’s. Weren’t moms supposed to be self-sacrificing? My mom sure is. She’d taken the last week off work at the hint that Kiddo might finally decide to arrive with nothing to show for it. Shouldn’t my first and foremost thoughts now be centered on that wailing, hungry, pink thing and not about how none of this day had gone to my plan?

Please do not think I didn’t want my son. I very much did! I just sort of thought that being maternal would be, oh I don’t know,.. more instinctive. So I read parenting books. I did all the things that moms were supposed to do, and my son slept, pooped, and cried without so much as a thank you. I told myself I didn’t need much. A simple coo would do! I read more books, watched how-to videos and solicited recommendations. Kiddo slept and cried some more. People used to tell me I’d make a great mom some day. I was beginning to suspect they were wrong. I wanted to cry too. My mom had made motherhood look so easy. All I wanted now was to be was to be just a little like her (and sleep, lots and lots of sleep).

“After I lost, I slept like a baby: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours, wake up and cry.” – John McCain to Stephen Colbert on losing the presidential election.

Then late one night, some days if not weeks later, as I sat with Kiddo in a rocking chair, humming the melodies of songs my mom used to sing to us before bed, I suddenly realized I was no longer hesitant to return him to his crib because I feared he might wake. I simply did not want to let him and this moment go. Perhaps I was still being selfish, but there are worse things to be selfish about. But it did make me wonder, when had the transition happened?

I decided it was best not to question it. The exact hour of the change didn’t matter, only that I finally felt like a proper parent (even if I still don’t always feel like I know what I am doing). At the same time, I became even more in awe of my mom. Going through the whole process with one child had been exhausting, but somehow she’d managed to survive it more than once.

One day, quite some time later, my mom confessed that she was never much of an infant person either. It turns our early days weren’t all that different after all. But she also told me that as much as I adore my children now, it just gets better. What she may not realize is the same can be said about her.

Mom, I still wish I might one day learn to be half as good a parent as you. Love you.

Happy mother’s day.

me and my mom
me and my mom

Bugs and other blends

My house has been bugged.

No solicitation sign
I need to make this sign (Image from Pinterest)

It all started last weekend. The weather was lovely. Not too hot, not too cold. The hubby was working diligently in the garage with our eldest as first assist while LT and I drew chalk pictures on the driveway. It was perfect.

Obviously this scene of domestic bliss had to be interrupted. A man with a clipboard walked up to inform us that his company was in the area actively treating homes such as ours for any number of pests. I sent the door to door salesman on his way, saying “I don’t mind the occasional bug.”

And that’s where I went wrong. I should have learned by now to never, ever offer up an invitation to Mother Nature (she has quite the sense of humor). Either that or the salesman possessed mind powers and a suit in his van similar to the one Marvel will show in Ant-Man. In any case, as we were readying the boys for bed I noticed a large brown spot in the corner of a wall where hallway meets ceiling. The spot then moved.

Bleah! The hubby was promptly summoned to get rid of the creature while I continued with the bedtime routine (I am all for making sacrifices). My eldest saw the action and called out, “don’t kill it!” He wanted to add the little vermin to his collection. A collection of bugs I might add he has because of lovely person he refers to as his Nai Nai, his other maternal grandmother, and my stepmom.

image from wikipedia
What she lacks in maternal instinct she makes up for in style (image from Wikipedia)

Popular culture will often portray stepmothers as wicked creatures determined to insert a wedge between children of a prior union and the children’s father. They have a beauty that is only skin deep. Self-serving, often jealous, and never ever to be trusted, they are the perfect villains in children’s stories (i.e. Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel – depending on what version you read, etc.) Some of my dad’s girlfriends (from my perspective as a child) could have easily fallen into that category had the relationship grown more serious. But luckily, my dad eventually met a woman who understood that there was still a “mom” in the word stepmom.

It couldn’t have been easy for her, marrying into our family. We were three young girls with one awesome mom already. Our things were stored in dad’s house long before any of hers were (even if we only played with them on the weekends), but somehow she managed to find a place. Not by trying to replace our mom, or by trying to be our friend (we were too young for that), but by choosing to act like a parent who just happened to miss the early years (no 3am feedings or dirty diapers – darn! why didn’t I think of that?)

She has loved my boys (and my nieces and nephews) since the day they were born. As far as they are concerned, there is no ‘step’ in their family. She is just another limb on their family tree. She has also spoiled them as much as any other grandparent might. One of these gifts is a clear plastic box designed to collect and store bugs. It’s the kind of gift that makes me, as a parent, question what I did as a child to deserve such ‘generosity.’ My son, on the other hand, thinks it is fantastic and has since set out to fill it with whatever he can find in the yard (or, in this case, hallway). Thus far, we have been blessed with pet stink bugs, snails, and centipedes (the horror!) I might see a box of creepy crawlies, but he sees them as new friends, all thanks to his Nai Nai.

The hallway bug in this story ‘got away’ (to a beautiful porcelain home complete with indoor plumbing) and won’t be joining the ‘family’ anytime soon (so sad), but my stepmom has shown my sons that when you let it, love can find a way no matter its origin.

Happy Mother’s Day