Dear Working Mother,
It’s that time of year again when I take stock. As Christmas and the year-end approaches, I look back, analyse, cringe at the mistakes made, smile at the memories and vow to do better in the year ahead.
One experience I’ve been mulling over happened recently.
It was my husband’s birthday. The kids made him a list of all the things they love about him. It went like this:
- I love when you give me cuddles
- I love when you make me pancakes (Sunday morning ritual in our house)
- I love when you bring me to the swimming pool so I can practise for my lessons
- I love when you read me a story at night
- I love when you play with me
- I love when you bring me to school in the morning
- I love when you make me hot chocolate
- I love when you tickle me and make me laugh
- I love when you hold my hand every day
- I love when you put me on your shoulders when I get tired
- I love when you play with me at the beach
- I love when you bring me to Moe’s Café for ice-cream
He loved the present and it’s still proudly hung on our kitchen door. After we finished the exercise I asked my five year old what she loves about me. I was eager to see how I ranked in her eyes. It went a little like this:
- You do everything else Mam, you know like washing and cleaning and make lovely dinners…can I go play now?
I was a little deflated following the experience. I wanted my little girl to know I was so much more than that. But she’s five. Her biggest priority at that moment was to get back to playing Lego.
I wanted to explain that being a mother is difficult. It means always putting everyone and everything ahead of yourself…your children, your husband, your boss, the dog. It’s being selfless all the time.
Being a mother means sitting up late at night with a sick child, talking to whoever is up above, begging to make my little one better. Wishing I could trade places. And wondering how many cups of coffee will be necessary to function the next day.
It means managing the family schedule with military precision. School, birthday parties, play dates, swimming lessons, dancing, dentist, drama, music…
To be a mother means being my own worst enemy at times. Always wanting the best for my children but wanting to teach them values at the same time. Always struggling to do things the right way when there may be no right way.
It means being the enforcer of rules. It sometimes means losing my patience and shouting. Followed by the awful guilt that always finds me after the argument. And the questioning of my parenting skills…am I ever going to get this right?
Being a mother means being a rock, a cheerleader, a punch bag, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a lending hand…just about every cliché in the book. I listen to the minute details of my children’s day and act like it’s the most fascinating news. I lament when Sally says she’s not going to be my daughter’s friend anymore. I correct and guide when they’ve acting out at school.
Of course, I realise that going for ice cream and swimming is way more fun. But don’t my children realise how much I do for them out of love other than cooking and cleaning?
This whole episode made me realise that I may need to be more goofy with my kids. To play with them more. To not always be so busy doing all the boring stuff that they don’t know I do anyway.
My daughter told me later that day, as I kissed her goodnight, don’t you know mam you’re my whole world. So maybe I’m not doing so bad after all.
And so as a new year approaches I smile about all my wonderful memories of 2015; the arrival of our son, renovating a house, my first daughter starting big school, watching my girls as flower girls at my sister’s wedding.
And, of course, I vow to be a better (more fun) mother in 2016.
Elaine and I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with your families. We’re certainly looking forward to some downtime with our families. We’ll be back with you early in the new-year. Until then, enjoy the celebrations.
The working Mother