To Mom, with Love

I’ve apologized and I’ve waxed somewhat poetic and throughout it all, I’ve tried to be completely honest about my hand in the plot to drive my mother insane.

my mother’s look from 1963 on

Oh, she did get me back for some of my shenanigans, although it may have taken a few years…but her curse worked. Worked very well, indeed.

Despite our demonic childish antics — and indeed, those that have continued into our adulthood, my mother has loved us through it all, my brother and me. And you know, I don’t think it’s because she had to. I think she just liked us. Still does, apparently. I can tell. I’m just not sure why.

Motherhood is the only job where your subordinates can do everything in the world to undermine you, yet you still excel in your career…still have a passion for your work…still have pride in your venture. If that’s the case, then my mother deserves some kind of a service award. What will she get on Mother’s Day? Us. She gets us. Maybe cake. Definitely a houseful of love.

Parenting in the New Age vs My Age

Recently, I was reading a parenting article by a fellow mom.  I refer to her generation of parents as “New Age Mothers.” She’s a bit newer to the whole parenting thing than I am; she has toddlers and young children whereas mine have somehow survived and become productive members of society despite this mother’s misgivings about my parenting style.

This writer mom (who shall forever in my mind be called New Age Mom) describes what she terms “Helicopter Parenting.”  If this is a new phrase to you, I’ll paraphrase it to “Overparenting.”  In her series of articles, she makes the case for what she considers hands-off parenting in a variety of baffling ways.  In one entry, she mocks the mom who stays with her child at the playground and makes sure her spawn doesn’t plummet to her earthly demise from the top of a set of monkey bars. Or *gasp* the mother who chooses to actually play with her children while at the playground.

New Age Mom also judges the perplexed mother who is watching the Abandoned Children of the Playground nervously, trying to make sure they are all safe as they dangle from the roof of the nearby outhouse.  Her commentary on these mothers is both depressing and confusing. Why? Because this is the same New Age Mom who will claim it takes a village to raise a child, among other things…not to mention her harsh judgement against a fellow Mom for another…all while criticizing those who dare to judge her parenting technique. The irony of all this seems to be lost on her.

You see, New Age Mom doesn’t go to the park to play. She has no interest in helping her kids with the “they’re not quite ready for that” tasks or involving herself in games. New Age Mom considers this hovering and relentlessly judges those parents who choose to do it. Personally, I think she’s missing out on a prime opportunity to simply enjoy her kids…you know, those cute little creatures that only stay little for so long.

I was a mother who put the “play” in playground.  I took my kids to the park and not only encouraged them to play with other kids, but also —*big gasp*— played with them myself.  I taught them new tricks and games.  I taught them the valuable lessons learned from climbing the monkey bars that seemed too high, waiting in line for the best slide in the park, and sharing with other kids.  We got to blow off steam in a place with no hard and fast rules.  Most importantly, though, I shared quality time with them. This was a time when we could just enjoy each other, have fun with each other laughing and being crazy, and a time when I could set aside the pressures I faced through the years as both a stay at home mom and a working mom and just be a big kid myself.

It was also a learning time for me; I learned that my kids were caring and fun little people, and more importantly, that the aluminum slides get very, VERY hot in the summer.  I also learned that getting stuck halfway down the slide is embarrassing, but being a plate of scalding metal as it was, you figured out a way to get down pretty darned quick.  These moments were not a chore to me, they are treasured memories for my family. And yes, it was a learning experience for my kids too. They learned that unless we needed to call an ambulance or rush to the hospital, it was possible to shake off skinned knees or elbows and get on with the day.

New Age Mom also wrote that she dislikes Chuck E Cheese’s because she can’t just relax.  She worries that her child will run off, get into trouble, burn the place to the ground and cause World War III.  This is a confusing juxtaposition for me; didn’t she just say she appreciates moms who let their kids run free at the playground?  Chuck E Cheese’s is one of the few places where it is nearly impossible to truly lose your child.  I admire the place’s security checks and open design that allow kids to just have fun and moms to take a breather for a few short hours. It’s a place where kids can just have fun with very few, if any, “no’s.” For a parent who dislikes “hovering” so much, you’d think New Age Mom would be on board for that.

New Age Mom laments the quality of food at Chuck’s, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to eat the bad pizza to truly let your kid be a kid.  However, and I’m just guessing here, but I bet this same blogger mom probably runs to McDonald’s for a quick snack sometimes, and honestly, there is nothing wrong with that in moderation.  I’ve been known to do it *ahem* a time or two.  But if you’re going strictly by quality and taste, I’m not sure which is worse better: McDonald’s or Chuck E Cheese.

The New Age Mom is also worried that Chuck’s has germs.  Seriously.  I wonder how she copes with the copious number of germs in the doctor’s office, breeding all over those toys her kids are currently playing with?  Does she know how many times her kids share straws with sick kids at the daycare center or grab toys from other kids’ snot filled little fingers? Or even the bacteria filled dirt they’re eating at the park where they’re running free? The fact is, you can’t keep them in a bubble.  Germs exist.  It is a proven fact that the more kids are exposed to germs, the more resistance they build against them.  We were never meant to live in a sterile environment.  I’m glad, really, because what fun is bubble life, anyway?

The New Age Mother in question also dislikes taking her kids to non-parent homes for get-togethers. Yeah, I know. She has a list. Anyway, apparently, she feels that her kids would destroy the house, starve to death as picky eaters, poison the water well for the community, stain every cloth surface in reach, and execute the homeowner’s fish.  Her own home is a safe-ground because it is appropriately child proofed and suitably stained and messy, I suppose. Actually, I don’t have to suppose or guess…she went into great detail about just how stained and messy her house was because well, she has kids.  I won’t even get into that today.

I can’t imagine parents not taking their children somewhere because it is simply too much trouble to keep track of them. In fact, some parents even teach their children to behave in social situations.  Honest fact! I swear.

Back in the day, we packed appropriately for the visit, with a bag full of our kids’ favorite toys to occupy them.  We packed snacks just in case they didn’t like the food served, and encouraged them to try the food anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who was NOT a “picky eater.”

It’s not like our childless friends had no idea what to expect from a visit with children involved.  I mean, they knew what kids were – they’d read about them in books at least. They were well aware of how kids acted, pretty much at any rate, and wanted us to visit anyway. Friends. God love ‘em. They didn’t break out the rare 18th century bone china from a remote village in Taiwan or fill every bathtub with water and “play here” signs before we came over, but neither did they expect our kids to daintily lay their napkins across their laps and eat the offerings served up by Chef Gervais, who was standing in the kitchen nervously awaiting my toddler’s approval.

I considered every social event a learning experience.  If we were at a restaurant, grocery store or friend’s house, my kids learned how to act.  We taught our kids from an early age that you behave a certain way in certain places and they “got it.” I’m not sure where we lost that. I took my kids to childless friends’ houses, to nice restaurants, and anywhere else and they behaved. They were taught that, they didn’t learn it by osmosis. They weren’t screaming, running around breaking things, and being soulless demons (at least not outwardly soulless demons). They knew better and they behaved. Even as toddlers.  If there was the start of a tantrum, I cut it off early and walked out from wherever I was to take care of it and then returned — if it couldn’t be calmed down, then we left and bedtime likely came early that evening in retaliation.

Kids are not stupid. They learn quickly. As parents, it’s our job to teach them. Keeping them from social situations or out of other people’s houses because we’re too lazy to teach them to behave better? To the New Age Mom, I have one question. When did we stop being parents? When did parenting become a hands-off occupation (and no, I don’t mean spare the rod and spoil the child – I mean simply, doing our job)?

Parenting is not easy. It’s not always fun. It’s a tough thing to do, probably the toughest thing you will ever do – IF you’re doing it right. Could it be that some of the New Age Mothering techniques are less of a style and more convenience factors?

I’ve raised two kids. Not as many as some and perhaps one more than others. But suffice it to say, I’m not a newbie and I’ve been through it all…with my sanity mostly intact, I’m glad to say. Parenting is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, but it’s not supposed to be easy. If it is, you’re doing it wrong.

Cookie Cutter Roles

You may have heard of a Facebook poster, Always Learning, a Christian woman, who advocates traditional marriage and gender roles. Her husband works outside the home, and presumably she is a homemaker – meaning she works in the home. In other words, apparently, she does the housework, she does the chores. Not an easy feat, especially if they have kids. Now I’m not here to advocate or argue for stay at home moms or working moms (I’ve been both actually at one time or another)…because both scenarios are exhausting, difficult, and often thankless jobs.  I was just fascinated with the backlash this woman received and I wanted to address it in my own little opinionated way.  Lucky you guys.  Hang on though, because my views on this topic are likely not what you’d expect.

Always Learning recently made a post that went viral. You may not have seen the original post but you’ve probably seen the articles vilifying her for making it, such as this one by Jessie Dean Altman, which started out by mocking the way Always Learning makes her posts (they are actually beautifully hand-printed entries on a notebook page, photographed and posted to her Facebook account) and then excoriating her for her “traditional” views.

Here’s the original post by Always Learning.

Do you “expect” your husband to help w/ household chores? If you do, you won’t have a happy marriage b/c expectations destroy relationships. If he helps, great, and if not, do your housework cheerfully as unto the Lord. Remember, you didn’t marry your husband to help w/ the household chores. You married him to be your protector and provider. You should also have married him b/c you deeply loved him, wanted to be a great help meet to him, and to make his life better, not worse and put more burdens upon his shoulders that he already has to carry in providing for his family.

Make his life as easy and happy as you can!

This post – and people’s reaction to it – got me thinking about gender roles and today’s feminism.

What is “women’s work” and why is “women’s work” always said in a rather disparaging tone?

And I longed to ask this woman for more information. What is her definition of household chores? Does she do the “men’s work” as well? When I was a kid that’s how the household chores were divided – “men’s work” and “women’s work,” though the chore categories weren’t specifically labeled as such out-loud. It’s just how things were done. My dad would mow the lawn, wash and polish the cars, and fix any electrical or mechanical thing that would go wrong. My mom would wash and dry dishes, do the laundry, and vacuum all the rooms (among other things).  Most of my friends’ houses were divided up the same way.

When the feminist movement started in the late ’70s, it was to press for equality. Women should get paid the same as men for doing the same kind of work, and women could do anything a man could do (duh), from flying a commercial airliner to being the CEO of a major corporation. If they wanted to go out to work, they should be allowed to do so, and not be expected to quit just because they got pregnant or the husband didn’t want them in the workforce. And the traditional women’s work – making clothes (some women still do this today), quilting, cleaning house – should be recognized for exactly what it represents, a significant contribution to the family and to society (not just busy work).

Which of course meant that there was no reason why men should be ashamed to help with the “women’s work” portion of the household chores. In fact, they were (and still are) encouraged by all manner of articles, books, self-appointed critics marriage counselors, and most of all their “better halves,” that housework was something that should be shared.  It’s all about equality, right?

Now, some women – and Always Learning appears to be one of them – seem to have a different view. She believes that men shouldn’t have to do household chores at all. Or at least, they shouldn’t be expected to, in her words.  Okay, good for her.  Who cares?  It’s her life, her house, her marriage, her choice, right?  Apparently not, according to those writing about her.

A lot of women, and men, nowadays do expect women to work outside the home, that it’s a “given” – and some women’s groups are even advocating that they be drafted for combat duty in our military (which again, I’m not arguing for or against, just making a point that the feminist movement has evolved).

What has happened with this evolution of the movement?  Women who are “just” stay-at-home moms, who are content to be housewife and mother, are often looked down upon. Especially those women who also follow a religious path. They should want more than that, is the general consensus. So the entire focus of feminism, to me, seems to be changing. And maybe not for the better.

The whole point of feminism and the feminist movement, as I understand it, is for women to be able to live the life they choose, have total equality in government, social standing, and the work force (should they decide to enter it). Not to mention the reforms made early on (and still being fought for today) concerning domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and reproductive rights.

This woman in the Facebook blog is not advocating that women become second-hand citizens or lose their rights as “women” or as “people,” she’s simply giving advice based on her faith, her ideals, and her household.  While I don’t agree with it and never would (which is likely why I’m not still married!), this woman should be allowed her own life without being mocked or vilified for it.  Such is “feminism” in today’s world sadly.  Women mocking women because one is simply living the life she wants.

Social equality should mean being able to live the life you want as you want it, rather than being forced into something.  Shouldn’t that mean ALL lifestyles?  If this woman wants a marriage with traditional gender roles, so be it. She shouldn’t be mocked for it.  The feminist movement and all those behind it should have her back on this – IF they’re feminists.

Yes, she’s giving advice based on her views of traditional roles – but no one is twisting anyone else’s arm to make them live the way she does. She’s not claiming you’ll go to hell if you don’t follow her ideals and she’s not forcing her lifestyle on anyone.  Just like with any of the thousand pieces of marriage advice or parenting advice you may come across in a week, if you don’t like the advice she’s giving and don’t agree with it, move on.  Simple, right?  I thought so.

Feminism is supposed to give us equality. That means we get to choose what we do with our lives. So long as the woman is making the choice (and not being forced), good for her in whatever she may choose. I may not understand the mentality and I definitely wouldn’t advocate the lifestyle for my daughter or myself. In fact, I don’t agree with much of anything Always Learning has to say (big surprise there, I know). BUT whether it’s my cup of tea or not is irrelevant.  The feminist movement has paved the way for me, as a woman, to choose my own path, as it has done for so many of today’s women. Why isn’t Always Learning allowed the same luxury?

Simple Apologies Are Best

I’ve been told that simple yet heartfelt apologies are best. They should come from the heart without all the accompanying fanfare that might make them seem insincere, even though in all likelihood they’re well-meant.  So here I am…prepared to give a long overdue, much-needed apology to someone who deserves it most.

Mom, I’m sorry I tried to drive you insane while I was growing up.

You deserved better. But instead, you got us. So you hunkered down and did the best you could with what you had and hopefully you’re proud of your handiwork.  Love you — and Happy Mother’s Day!

Kitchen Mishaps

I blame my mother. I’ve written before about this truly amazing yet probably possibly deceptive chef I have for a mother. Trying desperately to duplicate her mouth-watering recipes is what surely brought the demon spawn down (or is that up?) into my humble abode. I haven’t yet caught Mom out in her kitchen-y lies. But I will. Oh, you can be sure, I will. Eventually.

 

summoning a demon

Mom Speak

There’s a saying that goes “the best tricks are the old tricks.” At least I think that’s a saying. I might be coming up with that one on my own. And if so, consider it hereby trademarked.

I thought of this phrase when I ran across the picture below. Of course no one really thinks that they’ve turned into their mother. In fact, that would probably be the cruelest thing you could ever tell a ‘tween girl. It’d send her running for the hills in fear…and most likely tears.

But guess what…it’s sort of true. I blame the kids. Yup. That’s right. Just as they drive us to moments of insanity, I think our children drive us to become our parents — mothers especially. We Moms may start out with the best of intentions, but let’s face it. We all start to sound alike after a while regardless of our “I’ll never do things the way my mother did them” mentality.

Classic phrases like “because I said so,” “go ahead, keep it up,” or “try me,” and “don’t think I won’t do it” (usually said when threatening bodily harm that rarely actually occurs) are tried and true comebacks that get results…oh, not because they make any kind of sense whatsoever, but rather because they are the debate stoppers in every mother’s toolkit sure to deal with a kid that’s in Brat Mode.

Yes, our children goad us to a level of inanity that beggars belief.  And yet, here we are, babbling absurd phrases like “yeah, well, if Holly jumped off a bridge, would you??” and “don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where it’s been,” and “if you must kill each other, for god’s sake, go outside!” (for moms of more than one), or my all-time favorite “don’t come running to me after you break your leg on that [insert skateboard, bike, 4-wheeler or other unwanted item here].” Of course that’s when we’re not standing there like fools counting down the fuse to an imaginary time bomb to some horrific, albeit as yet unknown, punishment that never materializes.

The mother’s curse works. Namely, I hope you have children who act exactly like you act.  That’s why all mothers end up sounding exactly alike. It’s the children. It always comes back to the children.

So, yes, sometimes when I speak it’s like I’m a ventriloquist doll with my mom behind me working the mouth lever. The thing I’ve come to realize now is that this is not a bad thing. We may have different perspectives on life. We may still hold conflicting viewpoints on any given day. But by and large sounding like my mother is okay with me. Need proof? Just look how awesome I turned out!

 

my mother2