Monday, March 16, 2009

Groundhog Day

Have you ever felt like you were trapped inside a “Groundhog Day”? You wake up each morning, follow the same routine, listen to the same arguments and whining, wash the same dishes, clean the same house, put your children to bed, brush your teeth, and prepare to start over again the very next day. For us stay-at-home moms, the routine can seem especially dull, lonely, and unrewarding. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much to encourage us or help us feel important and valued; in fact, if we analyze our situation, we might easily feel that we aren’t doing a very great job, even though we are probably doing the most important things very well. In other words, it’s easy for the little triumphs of each day to be forgotten amid the deluge of routine chores and momentary challenges.

Unfortunately, many times it is the people closest to us who are our biggest nemeses, namely our children. I don’t know your children, but mine seem to have a knack for making me feel like I am failing miserably. They remind me on a regular basis that I am not fair, I’m not a good listener, I’m mean and annoying, and “doing it all wrong.” And I must confess that “I hate you, Mom!” is not the kind of remark that leaves me feeling good inside. I remember how relieved I was when I first read Glenn Latham’s book on positive parenting and found out that all of these comments are simply age-typical behavior that should simply be ignored (The Power of Positive Parenting, 51). Some days these words are more difficult to ignore than others, but I’m grateful to know that nearly every mother experiences the same name-calling and that I may not be the meanest mother after all!

Not only do my children express their chagrin at me verbally, there are many days when their disobedience and simple disregard for anything I say provides ample evidence they do not care much for my rules, suggestions, or feelings. "Time to eat," I cheerfully call. No one comes. "The pantry is closed--no snacking," I warn and then find wrappers all over the house. "Bed time!" I announce. No one moves. Once I literally took my five-year-old to the ear, nose and throat doctor, certain he had a hearing disorder, only to find he had developed selective hearing, the same as my other children. It's easy to develop an invisibility complex when you are so blatantly ignored.

Then there’s dinner time. You’ve been working hard day, when you suddenly realize it’s nearly dinner time. Truth be told, you don’t want to take time to make dinner, but you know your husband will come home hungry and you want to take good care of your family, so you trudge to the kitchen to assess the options. Dad comes home, and you sit down to a warm, nutritious meal, only to find that your children won’t eat it. Instead, they plug their nose and spout off something like, “I don’t eat chicken enchiladas!” You stare in unbelief, recalling a night not too long ago when they snarffed down two enchiladas apiece, all the while gushing over how much they loved them. It seems some days you just can't win.

Although there are days I feel invisible and underappreciated, I know my children hear me and even love me, and I pray that when I say the really important stuff--like “I love you,” “you did well,” and “I’m proud of you,” and when I share my testimony--then they listen from deep within their hearts, and they remember.

With all of the whining and fighting I listen to in a day I have often wondered if I am an effective parent at all. Then my nine-year-old will say, “Thanks, Mom,” for making her favorite breakfast, or my six-year-old will flash me a “You’re OK, Mom” smile. Maybe my four-year-old wraps her little arms around my neck and tells me she “loves me the most,” or my toddler plasters a big, wet, open-mouthed kiss on my cheek. Those precious moments occur far less than the chaos and contention, but they remind me that things aren’t so bad after all.

At the end of the day, what matters is that I have loved my children and have done the best I could under the circumstances of that day. So, although it may be true that my situation is far from perfect, I can still find plenty to be satisfied with. And besides, motherhood is not about having it all together all of the time (thank heavens!)—it’s about keeping it together when everything seems to be falling apart--and I'm getting plenty of practice!

So, the next time the alarm clock goes off (which in my case is my children getting out of bed), remember that, although you may have the same old routine to look forward to, and you may hear a lot of the same quarrels and spouts, you're still accomplishing something remarkable. I mean, after all, you're a mother!!!


Melanie said...

I think it sound like you're doing it all "right" I might need to arm wrestle you for the meanest mother title!

Taffy and Tony said...

Thanks so much for this post, Lori. I have been struggling lately with everything you mentioned, and needed a little perspective. I feel like you wrote this one for me. Thanks!

Julie Summerhays said...

Loved it Lori! I have been having "mean" days lately and it's good to know I am not the only one:)