Other Mothers

My friend’s daughter ran into the kitchen, full of tears. A gang of girls followed with widened eyes, stepping over each other’s words, their explanations filled with proclamations insisting it wasn’t their fault that one of them had fallen from the swing. My friend kneeled before her daughter
swingsetand in the softest voice, the one reserved for addressing bumps and boo-boos, she made the appropriate inquiries and offered all the standard reassurances. I stood on the other side of the kitchen table, watching. There was nothing for me to do, no reason to interject myself into a situation fully under control.

Like a magician pulling a quarter from behind the ear of an unsuspecting spectator, my friend reached to the shelf behind her daughter and produced a roll of decorated bandages. It was Hello Kitty or some character that delights young girls. She offered one to her daughter, who really didn’t need it, but as all mothers – all parents – know: even the mildest of scratches demand TLC, and this is easily done in the form of an unnecessary band-aid. And then she offered a bandage to each of the other girls.

When I saw her do this, I said to myself, “Brilliant. Band-aids all around.” I wouldn’t have thought of that.
Later, sitting in her garden (it was a weekend get-away to the country) taking in the sun and drinking from a fresh pot of coffee, my friend admitted to me that often in situations like this little incident with her daughter, she feels at a loss, not knowing exactly what to do. I knew better than to say something stupid like, “but you did a great job.” She wasn’t asking for that. She was telling me, out loud, what I suspect every mother feels more often than we dare to admit.

When I told her how often I feel the same way, she was surprised. Like I have any confidence or expertise in mothering? “But you make it look easy,” she said. This just reminds me that I have no idea what I convey to rest of the world. Inside I feel like a loser; my history with mothering is anything but confident and easy.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I am in awe of my children. But you also know that I struggle, always needing more time to myself, always feeling like I’m treading water or falling behind with my
out_the_train_windowown sanity; and I will get to it, really, after I fill out those school forms or organize the babysitting schedule for coverage while I’m on a trip or pick up that present for the neighbor’s birthday party on Wednesday. On top of that, they run to me crying and I’m supposed to know how to make it all better? But what happens when I feel like running and crying to someone to make it all better? Oh and the guilt: that there’s something wrong with me because I don’t love every moment of being a mom, or because it isn’t effortless for me?

I remember when the girls were toddlers, I endured tedious play dates, where any semblance of adult conversation was interrupted with patronizing reminders to our children to share their toys. When we did finally get to finish a sentence, it wasn’t complete: the complaints were minimized, our desperation hidden, the “unacceptable” feelings buried. We only allowed ourselves to speak of the joy of mothering. To say anything else, I suppose, would be to rock the very foundation of our society.

But I’ll just say it now: I have no clue what I’m doing and it’s no picnic. But I’ve stopped beating myself up about it. I’m so shooting in the dark, with occasional guidance from a useful book or a good friend. I’m making it up as I go along, just like all the other mothers.

9 Responses to “Other Mothers”

  • j Says:

    If necessity is the mother of invention, could mothering be the necessity of invention?

  • tumbleweed Says:

    I liked this post sweet, and the pictures, and that you are putting your writing out to the world.

  • Betty Shamas Says:

    Good Morning and Happy Memorial Day (here in the US)….
    After reading this post, I am so reminded of motherhood in the early days. Tricia is here for the week end and last night while cooking together, I was
    lamenting and probably apologizing for times during her childhood that I wish had been different. Then I look at her and realize she is a beautiful young woman.

    Speaking of mothers, how is yours? I think of her so often.

    hugs to all, Betty

  • Jeremy Says:

    Don’t know if it helps to broaden the theme beyond gender, but I’d add “and fathers” to that last sentence. Especially the stay-at-home dad contingent. But maybe– this is an off the top of my head theory– the dads have it slightly easier if only because no one assumes that they *do* know what they’re doing in the first place? So maybe they don’t beat themselves up quite so much with the idea that they’re somehow “supposed to” know?

    • MDBlogs Says:

      So true, Jeremy. I did add a little “– and parents –” earlier in the post, but you’re right, I could have done so throughout. Ask De-facto. He’s battin’ out fungos, too. But his average is pretty good.

  • Cat Says:

    I love the way you put things into perspective. We are all learning, and we learn from each other. I love being a mom and with other moms.

    Great blog, I can’t wait to read more. I found ya on The Mom Blogs.

  • Missy Says:

    Amen!! Just as soon as I’ve got one tiny piece figured out, the whole puzzle changes!

  • Mom101 Says:

    You are most definitely not alone. Not by a longshot.

  • Ellen McCaleb Says:

    I’m now seven years into parenthood (girl age 7 and boy age 3 1/2). I feel I have done an excellent job at distilling the building blocks of the needs of my daughter and seeing that they are met – not perfectly of course, but adequately so that she is strong, independant and secure in knowing she is a good, valuable and loved human being. But this being a mom/professional with dreams and ideas/wife/etc. is the hardest thing anyone can do. I have no idea how women who work outside the home all week make their lives function. I’m still carrying around 10/15 unwanted pounds thanks to baby #2 and he is giving me gray hair (it’s proven…stress is one cause of gray hair) and this second child, job and financial challenges has aged me more over the last three years than any other time of my life. And of course, it has taken a toll on our marriage. I don’t know who said it best, but it went something like this: Life is a marathon…not a sprint. I think we can have all we want from life, but not at the same time.

Leave a Reply