Be Yourself: Kid-Advice That’s Good for Moms, Too

July 7, 2011

Playing with my daughter

Something happened to me when I had a baby.

And I don’t just mean my body turned into a bloated pickle, though that happened, too.

Another transformation began, out of my desire to Do Well and Be Good for my child. I went from being “Amy” to “Mama” – I became “a mom.” A Mom. Not myself.

Mom: A role I was playing without any rehearsal, an archetype I was enacting without any experience.

My little girl tottering in my heels – me teetering in mom shoes.

Of course, you have a baby, you stop certain things, like swearing; and you start other things, like caring about nutritional values and safety ratings. Your goals shift from enjoying yourself and achieving personal aspirations to keeping this little needy little human from getting run over or choking on a safety pin. The years blur.

And then, several years into Motherhood, you realize you’re trying really hard to be This Person, this Mother, and you’re failing, desperately, and the reason you’re constantly stricken with bouts of inadequacy is because you’re striving to be something that you’re not.

Contemplating this recently, I asked myself: What would it be like if I gave up trying to be A Mother, and instead was just me, myself, Amy again? Amy, who is a mother, but who is – still! – Amy. Me.

I’m not sure if it was the kava-kava tea or not, but relief flooded my veins, just at the thought.

In my meditation practice, I’ve been learning to be true to myself, to find my authentic self. But I noticed when it came to mothering my kids, I felt this requirement to listen, not to my own needs, instincts, and preferences, but to some strange idea of Perfect Parentness.

Included in this was:

– trying to get the kids to behave properly at all times

– ignoring my own feelings

– behaving like a drill sergeant

The real Amy:

– sings incidental songs

– is playful and flexible, but definitely not perfect

– has feelings and needs

Of course, there are things that go against my original self that I still try to do – creating/adhering to routines, eating regular and robust meals, being on time to things.

But I think being honest about these challenges – to myself, and even somewhat to my kids, is more helpful than my attempt to just make them happen, forcing myself along with my kids.

Being a single mother is harder than anything I’ve ever done. It frays my nerves, it strains my heart, it kicks my ass on a regular and nonstop basis.

But I think remembering myself in it and through it, being myself and being present, I can draw on my strengths and be honest about my weaknesses and survive with an adequate amount of humor and grace. Trying to be A Mother is just pure exhaustion and totally unachievable. Trying to be myself is both a help and a hope. It’s a lot more fun. And being a mother is more fun, too.


The Dinner Drill

July 14, 2010

I’ve never been a cook. I don’t have the gene that causes a person to derive pleasure from constructing a meal and watching people’s pleasure as they scarf it. I love to eat, and I can find ways to enjoy meal – making – but really – alien territory for me, mostly.

(Just ask the people who have had to eat my bizarre food combinations.)

Anyway, as a single working mother, I have to make dinner every single night – for two picky children, and sometimes for adults who require more sophisticated creations. Yikes.

One of my favorite ways to deal with this daily challenge is as pictured – my fresh fruit and veggies with hummus and cheese plate, easily turned into a ridiculous happy face, easily put together, and easily ramped up into something more spectacular. (I would assume.)

Make Me Dinner!
I will never forget the radio story I heard on NPR about the place in Spain where mamas whose children have left the nest but who want to cook big, traditional meals have formed an online service where young professionals who don’t have time to cook can order this home-cooked food – even form a steady relationship with a local mother.

Collective Solution
Wouldn’t that be fantastic? I would like to see more collective-type enterprises like this start up in Cville. I’m thrilled with the new local Retail Relay service – that’s the right idea – a grocery delivery service that shops at a variety of local stores and CSAs.  Sure, Cville has a bunch of stay-at-home moms and those who can afford help, but there’s a lot of working parents, too.

Toy shares, toy exchanges, CSAs… all heading in the right direction. I don’t think the barter thing took off… but I like the idea…

The only problem: I don’t know that I have either time or money to put in the pot. Unless you can somehow quantify my children – certainly their health and wellbeing is worth something to the larger society?

Thoughts, ideas?


Shout Out to you, EH

June 11, 2010

You were totally ridiculous.

There I am, in clothes I grabbed from the bottom of the “clean” heap that is growing like a landfill on my bedroom floor. My eyes as puffy as marshmellows, wrinkles like fault lines criss-crossing age spots, hair ragged and indecisive. I’m struggling to make ends meet, find work, keep chaos from crumbling my sanity.

Next week I turn 35, and I tell you how I haven’t accomplished the things I’d hoped to do by now, and it just feels crappy.

If I could only insert a YouTube video here now of your response.

You kind of started to do one of those car dances people do behind the wheel.

And you started brightly chanting in this giddy skippy way that was completely unreasonable for a Chinese restaurant – something like:

What are you talking about? You’re a single, working mother, you got two fabulous kids, you got great hair, you’re smokin’ hot, you’re super smart, you’re on your own …

You made it sound like these were GOOD things. No – not just good – admirable, sexy, and fun.

I am still laughing.

And that’s what I want to thank you for. I don’t for a minute believe any of your compliments – though, thank you – but making me laugh my ass off at my life – making me imagine, as bizarre as it is, for a minute that the circumstances of what has felt like utter failure and hell were things to be thankful for – to celebrate – to car dance about – well, that’s something to cherish.

You lifted my spirits. You injected me with some of your sassy vibe. You’re crazy, but I love you for it.

Funny how sometimes we can get so wedded to our self-sculptured concepts of who we are – like having one of those drama masks over your face with a permanent frown or smile, despite the reality underneath.

Sometimes it takes someone else pulling the mask up – or showing you a mirror – to remind you that you’re wearing it at all.

Here’s to Friday, here’s to reminding each other to dance and laugh at ourselves and not take everything so seriously. Here’s to friends!