I often wonder how many other mothers are plagued with guilt. Not many days go by without me wondering what my Mother Rate is. I mean, if all mothers start out with, say, 100 Mother Points, how many do I loose for having my children watch more than 60 minutes of TV in one day, for raising my voice, for cleaning more than I play, for not going to the park, for feeding them processed foods, for filling sippy cups with more juice than milk, for continuing to use sippy cups at all, for forgetting to brush teeth, for laying down with my kids at night to get them to sleep, for having children that recognize all fast food signs.... Believe me, I can make an impressive list of things to feel guilty about.
As I sat in church on Mother's Day thinking about the splendid calling of motherhood, I found myself tearing up. Not because I felt blessed to be a mother of three wonderful kids, which I am. But because of how inadequate I felt as MOTHER. Lousy, in fact. There was no holiday that got more tears out of my own mother, and I'm pretty sure they weren't tears of joy. Although in the case of my mom, she had nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, I'm ready to celebrate just about every other mother I see. Just not me.
Yesterday, our little neighbor boy, Tommy, come over to play for the day. His mother just had a baby 5 days ago and needed a break. At the end of the long, rainy day, after Kaleb had gone on time-out for more time than he had been in, I became frustrated and raised my voice. Kaleb told me I was rude for putting him on time-out. Okay, I admit it, I sounded like a 4-year old myself as I explained why his behavior was unacceptable.
"You don't call me rude," I said, sounding perfectly adult. "In fact, mister, you'll be on time-out for the rest of your life if you keep this up!" Napless Kaleb began to cry and his good friend Tommy stood by his side and said, "I have a nice mommy."
So I can celebrate Tommy's nice mommy, Rebecca, who had her little baby in their home, naturally. If fact Rebecca, dilated to 7 and a half, climbed their stairs to invite her husband to the birth of their child. "She didn't even raise her voice until the very end," her husband later told me. "And all she said was 'This hurts'." He paused. "She's a wonderful woman."
And this mother? I wonder how many people I yelled at, merely 4 centimeters dilated, once I got to the hospital. “Someone get me an epidural, dammit!"
I'm hopeful that my Mother Rate is determined by the things I get right and not the things I get wrong. Or maybe as long as the sum is positive I can consider myself an okay mom. Tommy wouldn't do well living with this Mommy. And Kaleb wouldn't do well living with Rebecca. I guess God has it all figured out when he sends out souls. My optimistic guess is that as long as you try to do your best every day, God sorts out the mistakes and makes up the difference.
About two weeks ago Rebecca was outside working in her yard when Tommy started throwing rocks at passing cars. His mother swiftly picked him up and swatted him on the bottom to which Tommy howled inconsolably. Rich, who was outside pulling in the hose, leaned towards me and whispered, "Bet you don't think your mommy's so nice right now, do you, Tommy?" I appreciated my husband's macho attempt to console my still troubled heart. But most comforting was the fact that my lovely neighbor is probably more like me than I thought, with imperfect children and imperfect mommy moments just like the rest of us.
Now maybe we could start a support group, because I could sure use one.