Not That Mama

Ten minutes ago, I took Lucas into my room to change his diaper. I walked past piles of books in wire baskets, clothes that need mending, extra blankets, bins of baby things, and the list goes on. I thought about problem solving specifically in the area of all our books and learning resources. The wire baskets are typically on a long buffet type counter just outside my kitchen but birthday season is upon us and we use that counter for food during parties. It gets tiring bringing everything in and out so I leave it in our room for the summer and then put it all back again when the birthdays are done in September.

So I thought about those moms who see a mess like this and immediately set to work building shelving, re-purposing rooms or closets, hunting thrift stores and yard sales for just the right bookshelf until they fix the problem of “too many books piled all over the house.” I changed the baby’s diaper and was reminded again that I’m just not that mom. Oh, how I would love to be, really. But in this season especially, I am not. And in all honesty, I never really have been that kind of person at all. I have built a desk, spray painted countless things, applied contact paper to beautify various pieces of furniture but I’ve just never been the type to try and work and plan in order to fix the mess or clutter in my home.

What I have become is someone who ignores the mess. Every so often, it creeps into my consciousness and rubs irritatingly against my brain for a bit. But then I sigh or on a really bad day, have a cry, and move on. I tell myself that someday, when my kids are mostly grown or out of the house, I’ll get organized. Maybe I will, or maybe at the end of this intense journey of parenting many children, I will hire someone else to do the work for me. Or move into a tiny house.

 

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Stuff good moms do

…And why I don’t do them. At least not now.

When my oldest was a baby, it was scrapbooking. Everyone was doing it and had multiple page spreads of each child in their family. They went to retreats and craft nights and spent every spare moment working on their scrapbooks. They had them for camping trips and holidays and homeschooling.

I tried. I really did. For about a month. My daughter got a photo album because we still used film and then she got a baby book. She’s still the only kid with one of those but the rest of them are boys and I figure they don’t care as much as she does anyway.

Quilting and blanket making was another one. My own sisters-in-law have made blankets for their children and a few friends have knitted one every time. I made a few baby blankets when I was pregnant for the first time but again it required a complete devotion to the craft – can you imagine the moms who were scrapbooking AND quilting?!

I remember someone asking me when my oldest kids were still pretty young if I had finished all my Christmas baking yet. I just sort of stared back at them without comprehending. It turns out that up here at least, moms bake for weeks in preparation for Christmas, making enough to last them through New Years and give adorable tins of them away to friends. This was one thing I jumped into with both feet for a few years. I filled buckets for my freezer weeks in advance and made cute little gifts of cookies or other treats to pass out to family and friends.

None of these things are bad, but when they become expectations we feel we have to live up to, they can become suffocating.

Since I started homeschooling, I found the big thing was having a garden. Most of my homeschooling friends grow something and of course, involve their kids in the production of all of those vegetables. Our growing season here is extremely short and my one attempt at a container of carrots left me with a handful of inch long carrots. Now rhubarb is the only thing I grow because I couldn’t kill it if I wanted to. People ask me if I garden and my answer is, “Not in this season.” I may do it someday but I have released myself from the often suffocating expectation that if I was a good mom, I would have a garden.

I know how some people will read this – “Hey, I have a garden! What’s so bad about having a garden? I love it!” Sure you do. That’s fine. But as someone who has a baby every other year and incredibly busy summers (all of my babies up to this one have been born between the end of April and the end of September so that’s birthday season for us), it’s just not feasible for me to garden every year and keep my sanity. Maybe some new baby-free summer I will pick one thing that I love and just plant that, but right now, it’s not the season I’m in.

Maybe I’ll be the grandma who makes blankets for all her grandkids but my own children are getting the short end of the stick on that one and they honestly don’t seem to care. I think most of these things we do that feel like service to our kids are really some kind of obligation we feel in ourselves. And I said no to that years ago. I’d rather be a stable mom than a hyper productive one and I know that I have a tendency to overdo things and fall back into perfectionism so it’s better to just put certain things by the wayside for now.

This is not particularly funny or entertaining, I realize, but it’s something that needs to be said, and said again, and again. New moms every day are coming under the weight of all the “shoulds” that their peers, their mothers and society unwittingly put them under. Let it go, mama. If it doesn’t work for you and your family or your lifestyle, let it go. Eat convenience food, buy canned vegetables, skip the Christmas baking and the crafting and the journaling and all the other stuff that someone (or yourself) told you to do. Just do what works.

So what sort of mother are you, exactly?

A few nights ago, I was in tears because the weight of my different-ness was so heavy. It is isolating at times and the obvious answer of, “Um, maybe don’t be so different, duh,” is not the answer.

I have often felt that if I could just be “that mom” – the one who happily orders curriculum, sets up her home like a classroom and joyfully takes on the role of teacher, I could be happy and accepted.

But I’m not that mom.

If I could just be that mom – the one who journals creatively, builds furniture, makes Pinterest worthy birthday cakes and sews dresses for her little girls – I could be content and successful.

But I’m not that mom, either.

Maybe the public school mom,then? Taking first day of school pictures, packing lunches, chatting with teachers and going to Starbucks after the kids have all been dropped off?

But I’m not that mom.

So who am I? What kind of mama am I?

I am the only, very only mom like me. I believe that.

Look at me, tooting my own unique little horn.

But instead of making people ooh and aah at my uniqueness, I feel more often people shake their heads, roll their eyes and question my sanity.

Today I make a brand new declaration:

“That’s okay.”

Go ahead, world! Shake your nicely coiffured heads and roll your eyelash extensioned eyes. This is who I am. This is my family, my life. Time to be okay with it. Time to be at peace.

I can acknowledge that this is easier said than done. It will be a challenge every day to remind myself that I’m okay as I am, that my kids are okay. To ignore all the “you should”s that are ever-present in the world of motherhood and do what I know I need to do even if it looks vastly different than what everyone else is doing.

I’m here all night, folks!

I’ve had this bubbling in me for awhile. I knew it was time to start writing again, and seriously this time.

But not too seriously.

When speaking to a blogging friend recently who asked me what I write about, I replied easily that my favourite thing to do is make people laugh. And being a mother of seven (eight, actually, but one isn’t out in the open yet), I know how much laughter encourages me.

Psalm 17:22 says that “a merry heart does good like a medicine,” and I believe it. At the end of a long day with my kids, I am often served best by laughter. In our house, that means a lot of inside jokes with my husband and movie quotes galore. And just laughing at my kids (or with them, depending on the situation).

My goal here is to laugh at myself a little bit and let you do it, too. We are a weird family, choosing to have a lot of kids and homeschool yet we look nothing like the typical large homeschooling family. We are living counter-culturally within multiple different sub-cultures and that can be a little bit lonely at times. I can be okay with that most of the time because I see the humour in it and little by little am learning to accept that isolation comes with the territory.

I’ve been writing for nearly my whole life. I believe my first piece was titled, “Sally and Me,” or something like that. I started blogging way back when blogging was still a baby but writing has been lying dormant in me for awhile now. Time to wake it up. I know I have something to share that might just have a great purpose in encouraging other weirdos like me.