I'm not sure how to view this mothering work of mine with its workday that never ends, its workweek that never ends. The rhythm of a stay-at-home mom still feels odd and unfamiliar to me: the ebb and flow of a day with no punch clock, no boss over my shoulder, no coworkers to shoot the shit with (okay, that would be you all).
This is not my job. This is simply my life.
I mentally fight every day to allow my children to be people, separate people, not projects of mine that I get to hold up as examples of what I've accomplished in my life. I can take their issues, behavior and general comportment a little too personally. This messy house and these sticky children are what I have to show for my days and when sometimes they just don't measure up to anyone's general standards for cleanliness or civility, I can't help but feel like a complete failure.
They are not a product I am making. They are not a craft project that I can post on a wall and say "See all the macaroni perfectly in a row? I did that".
I bask in their glow when they shine. Their joy and successes are some of my most precious memories in my life so far.
I am also reflected in the pools of their misery. I have never felt so low or despondent as I have sometimes as a parent.
Have I emptied myself out into a shell of a person? Am I just a vehicle for my children's development?
Sometimes at the end of the day, I'll ask Z what her most favorite and least favorite parts of the day were. After she tells me about the yummy snack at school and the tragic loss of a favorite marker, she always asks me for my report and more often than not, I list things I've observed her or E doing.
MY favorite parts of the day are usually about watching someone else do something.
When did that happen?
Of course, there is undeniable joy in watching a baby's first smile or a toddler's first steps and you would have to have a heart of stone to not have that be a highlight of your day. But lately, I've noticed that my highlights are rarely, if ever, things I've done. And that just doesn't seem right.
Next thing you know, you'll ask me what my favorite TV shows are and I'll give you a treatise about the relative merits of Sid the Science Kid vs. Caillou. And then you''ll have to shoot me.
Can I find a way to be a whole, fully realized self and an observant, caring parent? Why is this so hard for me?
Baby steps are the only way I know how to approach this.
Today, when the girls were drawing with chalk on the driveway and I was watching them and cleaning up leaves from the flower beds, I put down my bucket and sat with them in the driveway. At first I watched them draw flowers (Z) and try to eat the chalk (E). Then I took pictures of their beautiful, fleeting faces.
Then I drew my own picture.