I have this real and palpable fear that on my deathbed, surrounded by my children, they will say something like this: “Yeah, you were a pretty good mom, but you never, you know, made us apple snacks in the shape of ladybugs.”
Because according to the best parenting magazines, a good mother not only outfits her kids from Pottery Barn, she also makes every meal resemble a funny man with grape eyes and shredded carrot hair.
Mothers wear guilt like an albatross around the neck. We have the right intentions; that is, we want to give our kids the moon on a silver platter. Childhood only swings around once, and we want it to be filled with laughter, bubbles, board books, happy music, finger paints, museum trips and a pile of life-changing memories. We want to be Magic Mom, the kind who pops a rabbit out of her hat every morning and spins the straw of daily life into gold.
The problem is that we moms are a finite resource. There is only so much of us to go around. Anne Morrow Lindbergh once wrote that women are like the center hub on a wagon wheel, with spokes shooting out in all different directions. She also said that mothers are like a delicate spiderweb, catching everything that drifts our way as we spread across a great expense.
We’re tough. Spiderwebs can take a lot. But push too hard, and we collapse.
I don’t want to be a spiderweb. I’d rather be a solid ball of creative fun. But hanging off my left hand is this household thing, and off my right are the three meals I must cook each day. My left foot says I have some church service garnering my attention, and the buzzing in my right ear comes from my own writing pursuits. I believe in being a good neighbor, a devoted wife and a mother who listens to her children. I would also like to solve world hunger.
You get the idea. I am spread thin. We are all spread thin. And we’d rather not blow over.
It’s taken me a good long bit into this motherhood journey to realize this: I can’t do it all. I can pick the few things that are most important and make those the center of the family, and the rest must drop by the wayside.
So I’ve chosen this: My kids will have lots of books and clay and picnics on the grass in the backyard. They will have home-cooked meals and music lessons and summer road trips and roasted marshmallows in the fire pit.
They will not have scrapbooks, homemade baby blankets, bedrooms that look like the jungle or a castle in the clouds, heavily themed birthday parties, or T-shirts decorated with freezer paper stencils. They will never be on a traveling sports team or have an Olympic career. They will not speak fluent Mandarin by the time they’re 15, or be on a game show or win the national spelling bee or scale Everest in their teens or play more than one instrument or own pet mice.
On a good day they will have clean socks in their drawer, a bed for sleeping and a mom who has chosen her energies carefully enough that she feels neither resentment for her chosen path nor regret for the things she has chosen not to do.
Edible food arrangements will never make it on that priority list, but somehow I think my kids (and I) might be the better for it.