Before you get too excited, I should inform you that this won’t be a D.I.Y. tutorial on how to whittle your very own gavel. Sorry to disappoint.
Being a mother these days is tough. I’m not saying it was any easier in the 1950’s or even the 1350’s, but that the role of motherhood can be challenging. For me, I blame it all on Expectations & Assumptions. Yep, those little lists we keep in our mind of what mothers should be like, how our kids should behave, and how our life as parents should look.
Whenever in a social gathering where I am introduced to new people, there comes a point in the introductions that The Question comes up. Back in High School, it would’ve been, What grade are you in? And in college it was, What’s your major? And now as adults it comes down to, What do you do?
When I was just weeks into being a stay-at-home mom, I was scared of this question. If you had told me five years prior to having kids that I would be staying home, I would have scoffed in your face. I thought staying home meant giving up on who you were, not having your own life, and melting into the role of motherhood – a boring, dreary life. But when the time came to go back to work or stay home, I couldn’t imagine going back. We were fortunate enough to be in a situation where I could stay home, as I know that doesn’t work for everyone. Needless to say, my views on staying home have drastically changed and I better understand the sacrifices and the joys of my new role.
But back to that question: What do you do? Now, I don’t mind the question. Instead of being embarrassed about not having a job to boast about, I am prideful of what I do. I’ve learned it isn’t interesting to spout off every little thing my son does, but talk in terms of what we do on a regular basis: playdates, Spanish immersion, outdoor activities, classes, etc. I know if I were introduced to an accountant or doctor I wouldn’t want to hear every detail about payroll or how to treat patients, so I need to keep that in mind as I share, too. Not all moms that want to stay home have the opportunity, so I am grateful that I can. And add to that, not all moms want to stay home. There are a lot of factors that come in to play, and no mom fits in the perfect cookie-cutter-shape of what society sets forth for us. For me, staying at home with my son has taught me more about patience, grace, gratitude, selflessness… so many things, and I know the list will grow as he reaches more milestones.
I fully realize that I represent a certain cliché that circulates our society: I am a stay-at-home mom, I write a blog, I like to do crafty things… but I hope I am more than just those things. There is an assumption to go along with the cliché that we SAH moms just sit around all day eating Oreo’s (frankly, I prefer chocolate chip banana bread, thank you very much), and just watch talk shows while our kids run around the house. That somehow, we have all the time in the world, that child-rearing is the easiest job on the planet and are in desperate need of things to fill our time.
As I have already admitted, I was much of this mindset a handful of years ago. I had whittled, and carved my very own gavel that I could point and thrust and slam in the faces of parents, thinking I had it all figured out and that parenting was so much simpler than what people made it out to be. Instead, I now see that along with preparing food, changing diapers, doing laundry and dishes, cleaning, and finding a few minutes to jump in the shower, there are about a bazillion teaching moments, and the need to read books, and point at the garbage truck, and explain why we can’t pull every last CD off the shelf, and that Cheerios on the floor are gross and shouldn’t be eaten, etc., etc., etc. There is a constant-ness to parenting. And, there is the ever important game of Balancing: When to play with your child and when to help them be independent and play on their own; when to eat vegetables and when to laugh over a messy cookie; when to let them pick themselves up from a fall and when to rush in and tell them everything is okay; when to say yes and when to say no.
There is still a need to have your own time, too. I don’t just crochet and make little projects to tell all of you about it; it’s a kind of therapy for me. It’s Maggie Time. It’s a necessity in my life, otherwise I would be consumed by my child’s existence. I also need time with my husband, otherwise our relationship would only consist of Quincy’s stories until our ears bled. Again, the Balancing Game comes into play. (My friend, Lindsy, just wrote an interesting piece about this that you should check out here).
To those parents out there for whom I shaped the perfect gavel to pass on judgement about how kids should be disciplined, how they should sleep, how they should speak, how they should be, I get it now. There is so much more than the silly assumptions and expectations that I held so closely before.
What about all of you out there? Is there a cliché that you embrace, but you know you’re so much more than what the world assumes of you? Do you have a a kind of therapy that soothes your soul? What gavels are haunting you?
Trying to whittle down my gavel(s),
P.S. A special thanks goes out to our friend, Jeremy Benson, who took the awesome photos of his wood working tools to make this post so much more impressive and metaphorically cool. Read more about him at his website, get filled up on bite-size literature, or send him a postcard. Thanks, Jer!