Guess who got a new toy for Mother’s Day?
Almost everyone has a mom—and thank heavens for that! So it’s easy to remember what your mom did, and think you know what I do as a stay at home parent. Making assumptions about how I ought to spend my time is also popular; everyone is an expert on the shalls of house and home.
- I shall keep an immaculate home
- I shall cook tasty yet healthy meals every day
- I shall nurture and guide my children to grow into superior adults
- I shall keep myself up by exercise, diet, and fashionable dress
Fortunately, the only negotiation that matters over my job description is between my husband, my kids (as non-voting constituents), and myself. As with most complex topics, I consider every presumption ripe for investigation, and every given, suspect. A modern life differs markedly from historical norms, and the contemporary house offers its occupants radical improvements and newfangled problems to negotiate.
Maybe I don’t get the clean towels folded and put away before they’re used again, but I manage the finances and do our small business accounting and taxes; I’m not a good nor cheerful cook, but I’m doing a bang-up job educating an unorthodox middle school student according to a curriculum of my own devising.
Occasionally, I’ll still encounter a form where checking a box labelled “homemaker” is my best match. It’s kind accurate, in the sense that my being available at home goes a long way toward defining the atmosphere and function of our collective family life. This is the most traditional role I assume: I am the heart of our family home; I set the standards.
Homemaker snuggles up awfully close to housekeeper, though, and anyone who’s passed through our doors is probably aware that I approach household chores with an attitude of “maintain basic hygienic standards whilst avoiding as much cleaning as possible.”
If I’m brutally honest, I’ll admit that my self esteem is tied up with the state of my house. Sometimes, the mess bothers me. On the other hand, I’m philosophically opposed to the notion that a woman carries the full burden of a presentable home, so I fight to reject this sense of shame. Besides, the latter position requires less frequent dusting.
Our social circle includes several stay-at-home dads. While their daily efforts to simultaneously manage children and keep a tidy home are similar to mine, none of them seem to internalize failures in this area the way I do. Undoubtedly, these men have their own, equally irritating, internal critics and crises, but they don’t appear to see themselves reflected in the same distorted way by their kids’ messy rooms.
I have a creative friend who excels at caring for her family, but she doesn’t always conform to a Martha Stewart meets Donna Reed standard of motherhood or housewifery, and she feels a failure. How can this be when her husband, children, and pets are healthy and happy?
I know and love fellow stay-at-home moms whose lives are replete with Pinterest-worthy projects and well-ironed linens, home-canned organic produce and hand-knit baby clothes. These efforts are valiant, creative, nurturing, and worthy, but they are not the only valid expressions of the good wife or mother.
Instead, I would suggest setting one’s own course of purposeful actions based upon deeply held values, carefully considered. Externally imposed societal expectations are sometimes valid, but sometimes mere figments.
I hope it rings crystal clear in every post that I write: I am in no way seeking to redefine roles for anyone but myself. If I am nudging you, the reader, it is only to think for yourself, seek for yourself, and then define for yourself your own goals and ideals.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
What about the unexamined wife?
Speaking for myself, and my kids have heard some of this before…
I don’t need a Hallmark card on Mother’s Day.
I don’t need a mug that says “Mother.” I don’t need any thing at all. You don’t even have to buy me flowers.
On Mother’s Day, I’d like your time, your love, and your cheerful participation.
I’d like to sleep in
I’d like to sleep in, on Mother’s Day, until I wake up with a yawn and a smile and no alarm clock—digital or demanding human—in sight.
Then, when you’ve heard sounds of my stirring, I’d like my two favorite kids in the history of the universe to come joyfully in and jump in my bed with hugs and kisses like I got when you were toddlers and I was the center of your world.
No one’s too old to kiss his mom on Mother’s Day.
I’d like someone else to cook & clean
I’d like someone else to cook breakfast, but I don’t care if its fancy. I want the dirty dishes to disappear without my saying a word. In fact, I’d like to find the kitchen clean at the end of the day,
even especially if I never set foot in the room.
A running dishwasher without prompting is like a love song to me on Mother’s Day.
I’d like to spend time with you
On Mother’s Day, I propose we build a jigsaw puzzle with nary an eye roll and no suggestion that a video game would be more fun. I like playing Ages of Empires with you, or The Sims, but I enjoy building things more.
If you bought me a gift over my protestations, I hope its a 1000+ piece puzzle with an image you like, too. Or maybe a Lego City set—one of the modular town buildings that I love. We could spend a whole day assembling and playing with that.
If there’s a gift, I hope you bought it with the intention that we would enjoy it together.
Show me your best self
Order takeout or pizza for dinner, if you don’t want to cook again. I don’t mind; I just like to be fed.
Show me your consideration by remembering what I like, or use that excellent brain to observe that I’ve marked up all the menus with everyone’s usual order. That’s how I make sure your favorite dish is never forgotten.
If you looked, you’d find my cookbooks full of similar notes, too. Who likes what? How must I challenge Betty Crocker so you like a recipe better? Have you ever noticed that this is just another little way that I take care of you every day?
Serve the food on plates, not from the boxes. Remember to put napkins on the table without being reminded that we’re civilized. Ask me if I’d like a glass of water instead of asking me to get one for you. Bring silverware for everyone, even your brother.
Use your very best, cruise ship manners.
Tell me, show me, acknowledge me
Tell me you love me. Show me you love me. Today is the day to acknowledge my boundless love for you.
That’s what I’d like for Mother’s Day.
How will you celebrate Mom on Sunday, May 14?