My mom sent me an LDS mothering book on contentment for a Mother’s Day present. (Yeah, I know. What’s my mom doing sending me a present for Mother’s Day? She’s really awesome like that.) I’m on chapter three and not particularly loving it, but I think the premise deserves some thought: am I content as a mother? Hmm. Let me see. I’ll review yesterday for you:
7 am: Yes. I’m sleeping while husband cooks breakfast (German pancakes) and wakes up the five kids. I wake and finish breakfast while he leaves to drive junior high carpool.
8 am: No. First (poopy) potty training accident of the day. Dishes. Laundry.
9 am: No. Mowing and watering the lawn, so I can spray it for dandelions. Husband should have done this last weekend. And cleaned the garage. And tilled the garden. Oops. How sexist of me. I repent. I am content. I will do it myself.
9:30 am: No. Waiting for phone to ring. Waiting to hear from principal of elementary school about yesterday’s incident—a very, very not-content mothering moment.
10 am: Yes. Littlest off to excellent neighborhood preschool. Afternoon kindergartner and friend come shopping. To buy a new shirt. For me. I will wrap it and write, “To Mom! From? Happy Mother’s Day!” Plus, I have a coupon. Extra content.
11:30 am: Yes. Shopping successful. Now visiting Grandma while kindergartner and friend play in basement. Grandma tells me about her hard childhood, and I feel rebuked. I’m a baby. My life is cake. Toting a few kids around in an carseat-filled SUV to errands is simple compared to what she went through.
12:30 pm: No. Little people not happy about cheese sandwiches for lunch. What’s not to like about melted cheese on bread? More dishes.
1:30 pm: No! Another potty training accident. How can I conserve water by “only washing full loads” when we have stinky clothes multiple times per day? Rush, rush to change one child, take that one to sitter, and rush, rush to take kindergartner to elementary school.
2 pm: Yes. Kindergartner has end-of-year reading test. Doesn’t miss a word. Good mom moment.
2:45 pm: Yes. Successfully resolved fight over DVDs. Kids watching “The Never Ending Story” while I do editing work on laptop.
3:15 pm: Yes. Big kids come home. Pick up mail and see new book. Love my mom because she loves me.
3:30 pm: No. Kids spill after school treats all over floor without even noticing. Hate sticky brownie crumbs. Hate left-open doors and bugs.
3:45 pm: Yes. Husband offers to take boys for haircuts. One less errand.
4 pm: Yes. Sit outside in sunshine and talk to my sister on the phone.
4:10 pm: No!! Another potty accident. So much for “turning the corner” yesterday.
4:15 pm: No. One son chokes the other over unexplained problem on trampoline in backyard. Lots of tears and yelling (theirs). I fight the urge to join in and lose.
4:30 pm: Yes. Boys gone to haircuts. Oldest child helping neighbor girl learn to sew. Youngest child playing outside. Me working on laptop again.
5:30 pm: Yes. Making dinner. Oldest helping nicely.
6 pm: Yes. Neighbors come to dinner. Eat outside. Talk to adults.
7 pm: Yes. Working more. Kids playing outside.
8 pm: No. Bedtime meltdown. Another potty accident. (Should I cave in? Go back to diapers?) Kids whining about going to bed. Husband gone. Last minute “forgot to tell you” about ten things that “have to be done” before school tomorrow. Three-year-old says she “hates and loves” me.
9 pm: Yes. Quiet.
9:30 pm: Yes. Reading. Alone. In bath. / No. New mothering book is annoying me.
10 pm: Yes. Decide to blog about contentment in mothering.
So, am I content? Yesterday I generally was. And, really, all jobs have “no” moments of discontent, so that doesn’t upset me too much. Potty training is like grading research papers: it makes for a terrible week or two, but the rest of the job is pretty enjoyable. I hate grading my 40th research paper, but I love teaching, class discussions, and interacting with bright, excited, college-age students. I love studying and reading so I can have something bright and exciting to say to the bright students. I love learning from brilliant colleagues. I love all of that, so it outweighs the grading stuff, just like little kisses and hugs outweigh the whining and potty training.
But, then again, mothering is not a “job”; it’s a calling. Eternal. Glorious. The highest and noblest thing a woman can do. (Etc.) I sometimes think that type of rhetoric does mothering a disservice. I get where it’s coming from—with all-too-little praise available for the SAHM, we feel the need to compensate. But overcompensation sets us up to feel let down by reality. If motherhood is all that glorious, then why am I scrubbing poopy Carebear underwear? If motherhood is my eternity, then why do I spend more time thinking about food, coupons, and cooking than salvation? Yeah, yeah. I know: that’s my own problem, and I could think about eternity while dunking Cheer Bear in the toilet, if I really wanted to.
But just consider this: if you told me that mothering was a job, I’d weigh the costs and the benefits and think it was a job well worth doing. I enjoy it far more often than not, and I feel like I’m making a difference—something that is important to me in my choice of occupation. I don’t find it highly intellectually stimulating, which is a big downside, but I love these guys. I love having (relative) control of my time. I love how this job is both predictable, even repetitive (I’m a big fan of stability) while also surprising and complicated (I’m not a big fan of boring). And, frankly, not many other jobs let me hang out on the back porch in the sunshine reading a good book while my “students” jump on the trampoline. On the whole, it’s definitely the best job I’ve ever had. I only feel discontented when you tell me that mothering is everything, my eternal role, my whole reason for being, my all. Then I can’t help missing some of the things I loved about my other jobs, things that are missing from this one. Like a break every once in awhile.
So this is my point: Mom, you’re the best. All those flamboyant adjectives everyone says about mothering? I apply them personally to the job you did (and do) for me and the seven others in your care. I’m sorry that I never once asked if you were content being my mother because I, like most kids, was a selfish little monster. I’m pretty sure you’re headed to heaven, and, when you get there, I hope you get a job that pleases you in every possible way and makes you more content than you ever dreamed.
11 pm: Yes. Rant complete. Read my scriptures. Say my prayers. Apologize to Heavenly Father for venting. Thank Him for my mom. Plead for potty training help from on high. Pray that the principal doesn’t call tomorrow, either. Go to bed knowing I stayed up too late blogging—and thinking how nice it is that my husband lets me sleep in while he fixes breakfast every day, not just on Mother’s Day.