So You Wanna Help a Mother, Do Ya?

-Mothers have a tough job.

-I have never worked so hard in my life as I did as a stay-at-home-mother.

-Motherhood is underrated, undervalued, and underappreciated.

-If you added up the salaries of every job a mother does, you still wouldn’t compensate her for a day’s work.

-I know I couldn’t do it.

I’ve heard a few commiserating comments about motherhood in my day. They’re scattered here and there amongst the glares when my children scream, or the *tsk* *tsk* looks when I reprimand the screaming, or the slight lift of nose-in-air as they walk by with their dressed and not-brawling children.

When I’ve had brain and time to think, however, I can’t help but wonder: if motherhood is so great, why don’t you do it? You could all support it, at least.

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Instead, I feel abandoned. I feel I sit in the muddy gutter of life with my little, half-me guttersnipes and get shown exactly what the negative voice inside says:

-Your children are monsters, and it’s because of you.

-The house is a mess; guess who gets to clean it forevermore?

-Don’t raise your kids this waythat way, or -for heaven’s sake!- that other way or you will screw up their entire future.

-Besides raising decent humans, keeping floors spotless, maintaining bills, finding everyone’s lost pants, and feeding the local inhabitants; you must also be cheerful, inspirational, encouraging, loving, and a whole person.

-If you are sad and depressed, it’s because you simply don’t believe in you.

Some parents (again, with brain and time to think) lobby for government support to fill the gaps. They ask for extended maternity leaves, an in-home nanny, free preschool, and childcare centers at workplaces. That’s all well and good and job-saving, but is not the real answer.

The real answer is always more difficult. It’s not a bill to pass nor a wad of money to throw. I believe the answer is a need for actual, hands-on, real-life support.

Think about my idea in relation to other problems that don’t go away with a friendly comment; like needing help with moving house, requiring an organ donation, or being trapped beneath a fallen timber at a logging camp. Does it help that poor lumberjack for his workmates to pass by, smile in commiseration, and say, “Been there, mate. Bit of a rough spot, eh?,” and keep walking?

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In the same way, it does little to tell a mother who is struggling to restrain her toddler at the grocery store that, “Mothers have a tough job.” I think she’s aware of it at that point.

I don’t mean to make anyone feel too shy to speak up at all. Instead, I suggest alternate reactions based on what a few, kind souls have actually done for me:

If commenting is your thing; try what an older couple did. A grandmotherly woman and her husband approached me in the grocery store and said, “You are a wonderful mother. You may not feel like it some days, but I know it and I know your boys know it.”

Another time, a fellow mom came up to me in the parking lot while I was putting children and groceries into the car. “Can I take your shopping cart for you?” she asked. Receiving a nod since I couldn’t manage much else, she smiled and pushed hers and mine over to the return.

Twice now when we were on vacation, an older man at the breakfast table near ours said something like, “What fine boys you are! I’ll bet you help your mom out, don’t you?” Then, he dug into his wallet and handed each of my boys a silver dollar.

Not only have these behaviors actually improved my spirits and helped me to feel supported, they have been examples to my children. There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child; one that many people look over in these technological times. Thing is, that adage is still true. As much as I try to micromanage my children’s behavior, they simply do not listen to only me. Sometimes they do not listen to me at all.

Occasionally a boy will come home, bursting with a lesson taught at school, on fire with how it’s changed his thinking. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to hammer into his head before -but do I resent the teacher for it? A bit. Still, it’s more than worth biting my tongue because my son learned it.

If you want to support a mother, do so. Oftentimes we parents are hesitant to receive help because of child-molester fears or judging-my-parenting fears. Don’t worry; start small. Work on turning the judgy face into a sincere smile. Think about offering a hand or an honest compliment. Remember your own childhood or your own children.

And, if you’re feeling really generous, I’m open for that in-home nanny or wad of cash as well.

 

Photo Credits:
Sharon McCutcheon
Luz Fuertes
Markus Spiske

Dressy Casual or Little Black Exercise Outfit?

About a year ago I began exercising every day.

I also had a content-writing job, was room mom for my second boy’s class, volunteered in our church, drove the boys to martial arts in the evening, thought it was a good time to go to counseling for me and for me and the hubby, and …I’ll bet you’ve skimmed to the next paragraph by now.

Because exercising was the priority, I wore my workout attire until I actually worked out. Sometimes I was still wearing black stretch pants, a sweat-wick shirt (also black), and the natural musk of one who has not showered past the time the boys were all in bed.

I was one of Those Moms wearing workout clothes at the grocery store.

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Yesterday, however, I was not. It was Sunday and I therefore put on a skirt and sweater and went to church. I was still wearing that dressy casual getup after the boys were asleep.

-“I said, ‘the boys are all asleep!’ Now, QUIET!”

As I was saying, I had a skirt on when Mom Time finally rolled around. I sat on my bed to type on my iffy laptop and heard a ri-i-i-i-ip.

I then realized an important fact about my choice of outfits: I need versatility.

Problem is, I demand versatility even when it shouldn’t be present. Last Memorial Day, my mother was shocked that I was scraping mud and weeds from a relative’s grave marker (again) in my church clothes. I accompanied my husband to the RedBox in Wal-mart in my socks Friday night. Anyone spying on my carpool activities will see me sporting house slippers at pickup.

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In my defense, they’re the really nice slippers with hard soles.

Besides ruining a new shirt because I was bleaching the white clothes, wearing holes in my socks, and using jackets as bathrobes; I don’t really mind my casual approach to clothes. I mean, obviously. Part of that is that I value comfort, part of it is that I’m too lazy to change, and 83.6% is how many small hands wipe indelible substances on me.

Surely I can’t be alone in this. Do you wear white after Labor Day? Socks with sandals? Yoga pants to the store? What’s your go-to garb?

Parks and Procreation

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I live in Utah, the land of a ton of children. Public parks are a great place to witness this.

Actually, anywhere that advertises “free” and “children” (though, not “free children”) is guaranteed to be crawling.

What can I say? Having children is expensive and drains any creative energy one may have exhibited during babysitting years. Who wouldn’t tie them all into a car for a little public park diversion? At this point, I’d take my boys to a puppet show about phlegm if it advertised free popsicles.

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This morning, I walked with my youngest to Puke Park.

No, that’s not its real name. It was christened thus shortly after opening, by my second and fourth children. They had looked peaky all morning before losing their breakfasts on the lovely, windy path. The city also chose to paint all the play equipment purple and orange, colors my mind automatically blends into a vomit-like hue when they’re near each other like that.

I’m happy to report that we enjoyed a puke-free visit today. We were not, however, spared from masses of miniature persons. We’re used to it; we contribute to it. What always gets me is not so much the number of children, but what names those poor kids were slammed with.

“Come down from there, Cole,” a mother (?) called. She looked about old enough to vote, but not purchase cigarettes.

“Ella, Greer,” a grandfather called to two girls. “It’s time to go. Abby needs to use the potty.”

“Now, now, Crue, we don’t push. Wait your turn.”

“Emyrson, Emyrson!” (a girl) “Don’t lick the pole!”

My husband and I picked traditional, English names for our boys. They’re names like Reginald Rutherford III and Edward Theodore. (Okay, not that traditional.) We’re somewhat aberrant in this. Preferred name choices of our procreating peer group appear to go one of three ways: very traditional, different spelling of common ones, or completely made up.

Don’t believe me? My friend’s daughter is named Adelaide. A relative of ours went with Heidy for her girl. When I was visiting my sister (also in Utah); she told me of a Zax and a Jax.

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We could go on and on about why people pick this or that, but I’m actually more fascinated by a different phenomenon: why we all pick the same type of name at the same time. I thought, perhaps, everyone talks to their friends about names they’re considering. Or, maybe they all pick names based on popular shows or books.

With the exception of Bella/Ella (looking at youTwilight), pregnant couples seem to just think along the same wavelength. We picked a name that starts with “E” for one of ours coincidentally the same year that four others in our friends group did, and our choice wasn’t even on the list of ones we liked. Last year, four neighbors went with “C” names: Cole, Crew, Connor, Charlie.

How does it happen? Why?

Amidst the screaming, running hordes of Puke Park, I came up with a new theory. Perhaps we’re all just trying to pick something original so that we can actually find our offspring. This is true even within a single family, so the kids can tell which one Mom is yelling at.

That, and it’s quite possible we’ve run out of names.