Before I had children, I was probably a much better mother. At least I thought I would be a better mother. I can remember thinking that when I had kids, I wouldn’t become one of “those moms” I would see while shopping at Walmart. They were the moms with disgruntled kids and a cart full of diapers, wipes, bananas, string cheese, and other mysterious baby things. Their kids would be crying and whining and their faces would be crusted over with ketchup and boogers. I would look at the mom with pity and think, “How hard can it be to wipe your child’s face before you leave the house?” as I pushed my cart filled with Diet Coke and rice cakes farther away from the noise and chaos that seemed to follow that mom around the store. I knew that when I was a mom my kids would always be clean and cute. Their clothes would match, their hair would be combed and their shoes would be on the right feet. I would never be one of “those moms” who let their child run around the yard in a diaper or wander around the store with a pacifier when they were old enough to talk. My children would always say “please,” and “thank-you,” and would never throw one of those giant tantrums in a store because they wanted a candy bar from the check out lane. And I would never be one of “those moms” who wandered around in sweats that obviously need to go in the wash and wearing a hat because she couldn’t remember the last time she took a shower.
And then, 7 years ago I became a mother and everything I thought I knew about being a “good” mother flew out of the window. Over the last 7 years I have done every one of the things that I swore I would never do as a mother. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the store and discovered that there is some glob of goo on the corner of my child’s mouth. And of course I lick my thumb to try to scrub it off. Diet Coke is still a necessity but rice cakes have been replaced with bananas and string cheese. As soon as my children learned to dress themselves I lost some of the control over what they wear. My boys often pair their favorite orange t-shirt with their shiny red shorts. I do try to comb my daughter’s hair every morning, but by the time we are ready to leave the house, it is back to being messy. My youngest was walking and talking long before she gave up her pacifier. It was just easier and a sure fire way to get through the Walmart trip with at least some of my sanity intact. My children do say please and thank you, but sometimes not without prompting. And yes, there has been at least one tantrum in the check out lane that involved a candy bar. I spend most of my days in comfy sweats because it’s easier to run up and down the stairs as I’m doing the 800th load of laundry. And I do have a hat or 2 that I can throw on when I haven’t taken a shower because of a morning emergency — which usually has to do with somebody doing something to someone else that shouldn’t have been done. Or, the cat has puked on the rug. In other words, I’ve turned into one of “those” mothers.
I’ve learned that being a mom is less about making sure the children look presentable and more about making sure that they act presentable. It’s about teaching the kids independence; washing their own face and getting themselves dressed. Even if that means I have to deal with a ketchup-crusted chin or an orange shirt and shiny red shorts. Although, honestly, sometimes their wardrobe choices are more than I can handle and they are sent back into their room to try again. It’s about teaching commradery. And realizing that it’s hard to keep curls in place when you are battling evil with your brothers. It’s about teaching the child to respect others so that “please” and “thank-you” will happen more often than not without prompting. It’s about teaching self-control so that a “no” answer doesn’t turn into battle of the wills. It’s also about learning to think of others as more important than yourself. So, that when the morning turns into a teaching opportunity instead of a shower opportunity it doesn't throw you for a loop.
And so, I’ll happily stay one of “those” moms who gives her all for her kids; even if it’s isn’t apparent to others. And hopefully, in return, I’ll be one of “those” moms whose children rise up and call her blessed. Maybe, someday. Now, has anyone seen my hat? It’s time to go to Walmart again.