Today I was a veggie mom. And I don’t mean this in the sense that I was an enforcer to my son’s daily consumption of vegetables. (I’m actually very fortunate that he loves his veggies, enforcement unnecessary. )I mean it in the sense that I myself was a vegetable. I was a casual observer as opposed to an active participant in my son’s day. Laying on the couch watching him run in and out of his fort, sitting with a cup of tea while he was engaged in one of the sensory activities I’d found on Pinterest (More on this in a later post). As nap-time crept closer, we cuddled in bed to watch an episode of Barney. (During which, by the way, I made the ultimate IMDB-worthy recognition of a young Selena Gomez in the cast!)
I know that my baby was fed, cleanly diapered, and well-supervised for the day, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty as the day progressed and I was daydreaming about my next opportunity for a nap. I mean, I even stooped low enough to plop the little man in front of the TV. Super moms everywhere are shaking their head in disapproval.
I blame my mediocre day of parenting on the strong probability that I overdid it yesterday. That walk into town. That damn woman at the bank that totally called me out… she’d be so smug right now to see me this way… unshowered, tired, uncomfortable.
4:00 rolled around and I was still in my pajamas with a night plus two-naps worth of bed head. I’d moved so little that I was slightly worried that my muscles at atrophied. I felt like I’d done nothing all day, and I was feeling guilty about it…
And then I re-read a blog post* my friend had shared on her facebook page. It was written to scrutinize the stay-at-home mom vs. working-mom debate, questioning why the debate exists in the first place. Interestingly enough, it was written by a man. I find what he wrote to be really romantic in an untraditional sense. I think it’s because feeling appreciated is a close cousin to feeling loved. The author defending his wife in her sometimes under-valued role as a stay-at-home mother demonstrates his appreciation for her, which equates his whole post to a sort of love letter. (Any guy that stumbles upon this page should take note: earning big points with the love in your life can be as simple as saying “thank you” or “I appreciate you”, and meaning it, of course.)
In particular, his closing passage really resonated with me….
“I’m not looking to get into a fight about who is “busier.” We seem to value our time so little, that we find our worth based on how little of it we have. In other words, we’ve idolized “being busy,” and confused it with being “important.” You can be busy but unimportant, just as you can be important but not busy. I don’t know who is busiest, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I think it’s safe to say that none of us are as busy as we think we are; and however busy we actually are, it’s more than we need to be.”
Spot on, Mister Blogger who loves his wife. What is “busy” anyway? What activities do you have to be partaking in to be considered busy? If it’s managing a multimillion dollar corporation or running a marathon before performing life-saving heart surgery on one of your patients, then I wasn’t busy in the least. But if it’s ensuring that your 17-month old doesn’t close his fingers in any doors, choke, run into sharp corners, or that he doesn’t feel hungry, tired, or bored, then I was actually very busy.
Anyway, I think that very few mothers look down on their stay-at-home peers (just like very few women bash pregnant ladies in the queue at the bank). But I think I relate to what he’s saying on a different level, not so much as a problem of Working Mother vs. Non-“Working” Mother, but as a problem of Woman vs. Self. Why are we mommies so hard on OURSELVES?
Now, being home with Brayden, I often feel like I’m not doing enough. At the end of the day, even if I never set foot outside of the house, I’m exhausted. Then I feel guilty about being tired because I don’t think I have an excuse… I mean, I’m not even teaching! I didn’t grade papers, organize lesson plans, manage a classroom full of oftentimes incompatible personalities, and maintain enthusiasm while teaching Integer operation rules for the millionth time. What did I even do all day?
Fast forward to me being back at work, putting my degree to use, writing lessons, and enriching the mathematical minds of society’s youth. I’m certain, even in this new situation, I will find myself in a different line of reasoning that leads to the same conclusion. It might look something like this: I didn’t change a diaper, kiss a boo-boo, take my kiddoes to the park, read Tugga-Tugga-Tugboat for the millionth time… what did I even do all day?
Either way, I think I’d find a way to make myself feel inadequate in some way as a mother, wife, human. Whether it be my perceived lack of time with my family or my unused college degree/lack of financial contribution. Despite my husband’s love, support, and appreciation for what I do, I put enormous pressures on myself. And I think, to some extent, that all women do this.
Which leads to the question of why are we women so quick to compare ourselves to others? Everybody has flaws, insecurities, or moments where they feel that they aren’t doing their best. And so what if they don’t! Does it even really matter? I am surrounded by countless women who do all sorts of wonderful things inside and outside of being amazing mothers. I am in constant admiration of them all. I don’t hold anyone else to impossible standards. So why do I do it to myself?
And so comes the little epiphany I had at the end of my day as a veggie mom. Maybe we all need to focus on what we ARE doing instead of what we AREN’T doing. Maybe I didn’t shower, do the dishes, exercise, or make any money. But I did make my baby laugh, read him stories, showed him love, and kept him safe. Busy or not busy, important or unimportant, none of that really matters. I was one little boy’s favorite mother in the whole wide world. And I guess that’s not really nothing after all.