I have a very close relationship with both of my children. Their dad always tells me, “It is obvious that our children adore you.” Despite this realization, I cannot help but feel some deficiency as a mother.
I’m not an artsy mom. I don’t create elaborate birthday party themes or handmade decorations and invitations. I’m not the mom with plastic containers of home decor prepped for every major holiday, and when the first day of school rolls around, there are no calligraphy chalkboards with my children’s likes and dislikes scrolling down Facebook and Instagram.
While I recognize and appreciate the value of these things, they’re just not my personality. Unfortunately, I find that a great deal of who I am at my core doesn’t align with societal expectations of a mother, and though I am able to keep those feelings of inadequacy at bay most of the time, they do creep in occasionally and leave me unsettled.
When our son was in kindergarten, I taught at the school he went to in Brazil. He came home with an assignment for the International Festival. The assignment required a presentation about and a sample of food from his home country. We baked mini-apple pies for the class and created a slide deck about North American snakes.
On presentation day, I came to his classroom during my conference period and helped him present about the USA. He loved it. He loved that we had made pies, researched our home, created a project, and presented to his friends. If I’m being honest, it is still one of my most treasured memories. My favorite part was not the baking, though; it was the research. It taught him how to locate information, help it make sense for others, and use technology to do it.
Our daughter was born shortly afterward, and I stopped working full-time to stay home with her. Being home gave me more time to volunteer with parent-teacher organizations, bake dozens of cupcakes and cookies, etc., but I still didn’t truly find those things fulfilling. For one thing, I learned that I’m not actually extroverted and would much prefer being away from lots of people, especially ones I don’t know personally.
When our daughter needed a float for her school’s Fiesta parade, we spent a couple of days helping her make the unicorn masterpiece. She still talks about that occasionally, so I guess it was a good memory for her. My children seem to care more about me helping them with projects at home, showing up for conferences, sending (store-bought or homemade—apparently it doesn’t matter) cupcakes to school for their birthdays, and bringing their teachers gifts for Teacher Appreciation.
Feeling pressure to perform motherhood in a way that doesn’t come naturally to me can create unnecessary anxiety.
Motherhood, like womanhood, looks different for every person, and what I’m working to internalize is my own picture of it. I’ve already made it my own, but I have to fully embrace that it’s OK if I’m not the same as someone else. My expressions of love are valid.
I must say that I don’t feel any guilt for working outside the home, though. That’s never been part of my issue. I love my career, and I think it’s important for me to maintain it while also being a mother. However, I sometimes struggle with the outward displays, as mothers are judged for everything. I prefer birthday parties outside our home. I have no desire to clean up once the party is over. I prefer paying someone else to make the cake I want. That’s not a skill I’m interested in developing. I think Valentine’s Day cards in a box do the trick.
My devotion to my children is not measured by whether the “extras” came from a store or Pinterest. What matters is the relationship we’ve cultivated and will continue to grow. The memories, whatever they look like for us, are so incredibly important.