This anonymous post from a teenager had me all out of sorts after I read it. It’s exactly the type of post I don’t want to read from my kids some day. I don’t want to hear that they think I don’t spend time with them, leave the house a mess and generally like my job more than them. In fact, it really made me want to hand in my resignation notice today. But that’s nothing new and honestly, I don’t think it would fix many problems.
Instead of feeling defeated though, I wanted take that post and really listen to what she’s saying. What is it she’s missing now that her mom is working? What is it that I can really concentrate on? I know she’s not my kid but there has to be some universal truths here. This paragraph especially stood out to me:
Before she went back to work my mom baked bread, sewed for us, spent time with us and dad, hosted guests, and stuff like this. Now everything needs to be perfect for school, but a clean and orderly house, and time with the family is pushed on the back burner and more than not gets burned. It hurts to see that she cares more for her job and lets life at home and together get sloppy.
I don’t care if you’re working or not, you can fall into the trap of she loved [________] more than me. Now hear me, I’m not suggesting our entire worlds revolve around our kids. God and our husbands come first and we are people, not just mothers. But. What are some things to take away from this to make us all better mothers, working or not?
In the last few years, I’ve really learned to like cooking but it’s been in the last 8 weeks or so since we went gluten free that I’ve learned just how valuable menu planning is. I love that I know what the kids are eating, I’m far less stressed in the evenings and we have a ton more time together. All of that adds up to happier people spending more time together.
However, if you’re not a cook this doesn’t mean you need to cook every meal from scratch. Buying a cooked rotisserie chicken or even throwing some hot dogs on the grill counts. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. If you need help in this area, Money Saving Mom has some great resources. And of course, eating out has its place. I love that we all love Moe’s together and it’s a treat when we go.
In addition to dinner, I think taking the time to do some baking once a week is a great memory-maker. I love thinking back to my mom’s no-bake cookies and rice krispy treats.
And furthermore, cooking is a skill we should be teaching our kids.
She loved that her mom sewed for her. Unfortunately, I’m not a seamstress by any stretch. I can sew a button or a hem if I’m in a pickle, but I don’t “sew”. But I can help them take care of their things. Wash a baby doll’s face to keep it clean, brush out a Barbie’s hair, buy batteries for that special toy, display art they worked hard on, get a stain out of a favorite shirt, help bandage a bruise, respect their belongings. In other words, they want mothered.
I find it fascinating she says things have to be perfect for school but not home. Are we spending more time taking care of people outside our home than inside our home? Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for them to see you take a meal to someone sick or run an errand for a friend, but what is priority?
I’m going to work harder at this because I’m really good at being around but not really good at being engaged. It’s hard for me to really stop what I’m doing and just “play”. Three things have stood out to me to work on:
- Play with them every day. Yesterday they did a fashion show and just wanted us to watch. We got them the Just Dance Wii game that I *need* to do for 30 minutes every day. Jump on the trampoline. Be a “student” in “school”. Color. Read. Just talk. Play a board game. The possibilities here are endless.
- I’m personally making a pact with myself to not be on the cell phone anymore around them. I’ve noticed Emma saying a few times “Get off your phone and pay attention!” Ouch! Staring at my phone is the last thing I want them to remember and yet, that’s the memory I’ve been building for them. Please forgive me if I’m not answering calls and texts, particularly in the evenings.
- Finally, the last thing that I saw online recently I want to implement is to quit rushing bedtime. It’s so hard by the end of the day to have any kind of patient energy to slow bedtime down. Some nights, I feel like throwing them in their bed from the hall and then make a mad dash into my own bed. But there’s something special that happens at night. The kids are more apt to talk, more apt to listen and be less distracted. I’m going to try to be more intentional at bedtime and quit rushing it.
ImpressYourKids.org is a great resource for Christian activities to do with your kids, particularly if you have younger ones.
I’m going to be honest and say hospitality can be hard for me. I *love* having people over but I always feel like my house is not clean or organized enough to have others over and it paralyzes me. We had my aunt and uncle over for the night over the weekend and it reminded just how much good it is for the whole family. The kids got to see hospitality at work and we enjoyed sharing our home—together.
It’s no secret—we have a house cleaner. For those of us that are working you cannot do it all. For our family, the house cleaning went first. We have someone come in every 2 weeks to do the heavy cleaning. However, in between I’m vacuuming the living room, doing dishes, laundry, straightening their room, cleaning off my desk, etc. It’s a never-ending task that I don’t do well all the time but I have to remember it’s important that they see us take care of our home. I highly recommend getting familiar with FlyLady if there’s some way you aren’t already. She has some great basic things we can do to stay tidy every day all the way to full-on house cleaning management.
All of this begs the question, particularly for working mothers, when will I do all this? Well, there’s no easy way around being a good mother: it’s going to take a lot of your time. Since I work full-time, I’ve given a lot of other things up. I have given up watching almost all TV live. I either wait until they’re in bed or have a show on while I’m working. I barely read these days. Coffee with friends is few and far between. I don’t get out to the movies as often as I like. I’m not saying you have to be a hermit and work all the time. Rest is important. But our own desires cannot be the MOST important.
Here are some hard questions I’m asking myself:
Have you spent more time reading a book than spending concentrated time with your kids?
Have you spent more time on Twitter than planning out a bedtime routine?
Have you spent more time watching TV than cooking?
Do you know more about the complaints of acquaintances on Facebook than your kids today?
There’s not a magical solution here except to say take a look at where your time goes and see if your kids would say she loves her family more than anything else. And if not, in what areas do you really need to work? There’s no way to be perfect in all of them but there are baby steps in at least one of these we could all take. As I mentioned quality time is my weakest link right now so that’s the direction I’m heading.
I didn’t write this to beat you or me over the head. I wrote it because that post stirred something inside of me to be a better mom and wanted to bleed my thought-process of it so you might be encouraged and prodded to be a better mom too. I hope you are.