Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mothering

Posted by Vada

My husband and I are working on adopting, which is a large part of why I’ve been mostly absent here for the last year. I wrote this post last night on our adoption blog, but I thought it might generate some good discussion here, and go along nicely with some of the recent posts, so I’m cross-posting it.

Anyone who knows me know that I’m a pretty honest person, and I don’t sugarcoat things. Especially when it comes to my kids and mothering. In fact, this blog is probably about the least honest I’ve been, and even here I don’t feel like I’ve been at all dishonest, I just don’t have nearly enough whiny posts up for you to realize how whiny I can be in real life. That’s probably okay. A little less whining is good for me, and you probably appreciate not hearing so much of it. I know it grates on my nerves when my kids do it, so I really ought to be setting a better example.

But that’s not really why I’ve avoided my tendencies toward whininess here. (What do they mean, whininess isn’t a word? It totally is.) I’ve avoided it here because for the first time in a very long time people are judging me and I care what they think. I mostly got over worrying about other peoples’ opinions in high school. I’m far from perfect, but I’m fairly happy with who I am, and I’m not going to change based on what other people think I should be. My real friends take me as I am, warts and all (and I love them for it!). But now…

Well, first I had to pass a home study. I had to invite someone into my home and convince them I was a good enough parent that they would recommend that someone trust me with more children. Luckily, our SW was very nice, and she did in fact recommend that we be approved to adopt, in spite of my fears that she’d look at me, my house and my kids and say, “Really, lady? You think I’m going to approve you for more?” So that’s one fear down. But I still have a ways to go. You see, in a few months I have to stand before a judge in my daughter’s country and convince him (or her) that they should trust me with this little girl. That in spite of all my shortcomings and failures, they should let me take their precious little one home with me. And I’m petrified that they’re also going to look at me incredulously and laugh in my face.

For the first time it really matters what other people think. If they don’t think I’m good enough I won’t get to take my daughter home. I can’t bear the thought. So I’m sometimes inclined to hide the bad. To not whine or complain, and to pretend I think this motherhood thing is absolutely the coolest thing in the world.

And in some ways, I do. I adore my kids. They’re smart and fun and hilarious and I can’t express how much I love them. I can’t imagine my life without them. (Okay, I kind of can, and occasionally (on bad days) it seems like it’d be really nice. But in reality if my kids were gone I don’t know how I’d function with the gaping hole that would replace the very center of my being.) I’m completely blessed to be able to be their mom.

But the reality is that I’m not really very good at this whole mothering thing, and I don’t really like most parts of it. (Yes, I’m freaking out a little bit at writing that on my blog right now. I’m hoping and praying that if an EE judge reads this they’re also a parent and understand that it’s a hard and sometimes thankless job, and they won’t judge me too harshly. Either that or they won’t understand English very well and will stop reading this post before they get to this part.)

I love my kids, but unlike most people (it seems) who write mommy blogs, or even adoption blogs, I’m not really a great mom. I pretty much never do crafts with my kids. They’re pretty smart, and know a lot, but almost all of it has been learned from TV shows and video/computer games. I don’t like playing games with them, and I absolutely hate having to get food for them three (or more) times a day. While I’ve chosen to be a SAHM, and I feel like it’s the right choice for our family (at least right now), I often wish it wasn’t. I often wish I had a viable career, and could pay someone else to do all the things with my children that would enrich them but that I don’t want to do. I think it might be better for them and for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a horrible mother. I might yell a little too much and get short with my kids, but I do apologize for it. I might not do any crafts with them, but I do regularly take them on trips to museums, zoos, and national parks. I might let them learn their numbers from TV shows, but I spend a lot of time researching and becoming an expert on their host of medical issues. Overall it balances out all right. At least I think it does.

But I’m unlike some adoptive moms (or bio moms) I know, who keep adding to their family because they love kids and love being a mother. I have enormous respect for those women, but I’m not one and will never be one. In fact, while I wasn’t sure we were done after 3 kids, I wasn’t sure we weren’t, and I kind of liked the idea. Three was enough, and I could have been quite happy to stop. At least, until I saw my daughter’s face, and knew she was supposed to be mine. I’m adopting not because I love mothering, but because I love my daughter. Just like I mother my sons not because I love mothering, but because I love them. The work itself is hard and often thankless, and it’s not something I enjoy.

And some days, on hard days, I look at myself like I expected the social worker to, and think, “Are you kidding me, lady? You’re adding another one? You can’t handle the ones you’ve already got.” And I seriously question why I think I should add one more when I’m often not that great with the ones already here. But then I picture my daughter’s face, and remember the feeling I got when I saw it — “She’s yours.” And I think of the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” And I have to trust that if He wants me to do this He’ll make me capable of it. Not perfect by any stretch, but good enough.

Good enough to apologize when I hurt my kids’ feelings. Good enough to always stop what I’m doing to kiss their boo-boos. Good enough to give enormous hugs and cuddle them whenever possible. Good enough that they always know that whatever my faults, I love them more than anything. Hopefully that will not only be good enough for God, but for my kids, who are, after all, the ones who have to live with the consequences of having a seriously imperfect mother.

15 Responses to “Mothering”

  1. 1.

    “I mother my sons not because I love mothering, but because I love them.” Perfect – absolutely perfect, Vada. I too, am one of those moms who hates crafts and doesn’t really enjoy playing games w/her kids – and sometimes feels inadequate next to the moms who seem to absolutely thrive on it – but I bring my own different skills and strengths to the table that I have to believe will be sufficient and “good enough.” Thank you!

  2. 2.

    Thank you for this. Sometimes I think I’m the only mom out there who doesn’t love it, or do all the cute, crafty things with my children. I often tell my children to “take my turn” when we play games. I love my kids but… like you said, this is a thankless job, and so often I wish it wasn’t right for me to be a SAHM too. Bless you for your honesty. You are good enough. You are wonderful. And that beautiful little girl, just like your other children, will be blessed to call you “Mommy”.

  3. 3.

    Everyone has parts of their mothering job that they hate doing, find tedious or just don’t do. That’s normal. It’s just that they are different for everyone.
    I highly recommend reading the book “MotherStyles
    Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet P. Penley
    It is great because it helped me understand myself and understand other kinds of mothers too. I feel a lot less guilty for not doing a bunch of things which I won’t list here because some mothers would be horrified. It made me understand why I find them too tedious to bear. And it totally made sense what I enjoy about mothering and what I spend my energy on. And it makes me understand why other mothers don’t do all the awesome stuff that I do with/for my kids which seems so obvious and basic and the purpose and fun part of mothering! So it made me less judgy of other moms as well as less jealous that they seem to manage certain things easily.
    Good luck with the adoption!

  4. 4.

    It’s weird. I’ve never really liked doing it. I’ve never been particularly good at it. Over the years I’ve met a lot of women who’s mothering ethic I admire and wish I’d had for an example when I needed one. I wouldn’t submit my results as anything especially exemplary. But I have never, not for a single moment, regretted having taken this particular leap into the unknown.

    I always thought having the honesty to apologize to your kids when you hurt them is a very good practice.

  5. 5.

    I’m adopting not because I love mothering, but because I love my daughter. Just like I mother my sons not because I love mothering, but because I love them. The work itself is hard and often thankless, and it’s not something I enjoy.

    I too appreciated this, Vada. It captures what we so often lose in the general discourse about motherhood–the specificity, the final uniqueness, of our human relationships with our children (even as, of course, there’s also a deep, almost shocking commonality in mothering children).

    Much of the talk about motherhood reminds me of middle-aged Mormons–among whose ranks I now must count myself–reminiscing about the highlights of our missions. My mission was life-changing; I’ve never regretted going. But there is simply no way I’m ever going to sign up for sixty hours a week of tracting again.

    I also love what Mommie Dearest said, and I’d pay a considerable sum to hear such sentiments expressed on Mother’s Day.

  6. 6.

    I think that if women felt comfortable expressing this, many moms would say the same thing you have expressed here, Vada.

    Every day I wonder why we are having a third child. If it wasn’t for my husband, our kids would eat chicken nuggets and hot dogs for every meal and would hardly ever go outside. But, I remember, if it wasn’t for me they wouldn’t be passionate about books, science, and philosophy.

    Crafts and food and other mundane (or how I see them) activities are part of the job. How often does a professional like every part of their job? That’s why I think you are a great parent. You recognize that you don’t like everything and maybe aren’t as good as someone else at them, however you love your kids – and your future daughter – and that’s what makes you perfect for them. It isn’t about what you make, it’s about the experiences you have.

    As a quick aside, how much of this angst in mothering is tied into our historic place in society? Do we hear fathers anguishing over how much time they have spend with their kids? Or about how many crafts they’ve done with them over the weekend? I don’t. Is this because femininity and mothering are often intertwined, with certain activities being more kosher than others? These are questions I’ve been thinking over lately and have yet to find any satisfactory answers.

  7. 7.

    Like EmiG and Eve, I love this line, Vada:

    I mother my sons not because I love mothering, but because I love them.

    Picking up a little on what Eve said, it does seem odd that lots of Church rhetoric, stuff aimed at YW in particular, seems to be focused on getting them to want to be mothers in the abstract, to love mothering.

  8. 8.

    I can’t imagine people feeling guilty about not doing crafts with kids. As for dads vs. moms, I do try to quit feeling guilty for not brushing my kids’ teeth because they have a father too, so he could step up and do it if it is important to him since it is obviously not my forte. But while I don’t feel so bad about it, it is hard for me to say it here because I know there are moms who will judge that and I want to explain all the things I do as a Mom and why I do them instead and that I am such an awesome mom, but seriously, who can do it all?

  9. 9.

    I can’t imagine people feeling guilty about not doing crafts with kids.

    It’s okay, jks, you don’t have to imagine that anyone feels this way. Here people are, saying that they do. This should more than make up for your failure of imagination.

  10. 10.

    I don’t know, Ziff. I am not sure what you are getting at with your comment #9. There seem to be several moms who don’t like crafts with kids commenting here. Amber seems to find it mundane but goes ahead and does it as part of the job. Vada doesn’t do crafts, but she seems to realize that she does other stuff like educational field trips and activities so I’m not sure she feels guilty. Christine doesn’t do crafty things and feels alone…does she feel guilty?
    I think mothers should embrace their own style. Of course there is always going to be some tedious stuff, but some stuff is entirely optional and in my previous comment I tried to tell people about a book that helped me not compare my mothering. Plus, my mom was her own self and I thought she was a great mom so I grew up thinking every woman brought her own talents and interests to the mothering table.
    I’m trying to spread a little more of that idea, rather than perpetuating a one and one kind of mothering culture that gets people down.

  11. 11.

    “I’m adopting not because I love mothering, but because I love my daughter. ”

    I love this.

    I personally think that part of the reason we hear so much about motherhood in the Church — because it IS hard, and some of it isn’t all that fun, much of it is thankless, and for some, it doesn’t come naturally (I’m one of those). I think doing it for love is really the bottom line, though. I see the Church’s teachings not as trying to say ‘you need to love parenting’ but rather to encourage us to choose that role out of love, and with an understanding that it’s part of God’s plan.

    I think love is what sums up God’s parenting, too. His work is His work because of His love for us. I don’t hear the scriptures ever talking about Him loving the role, but they are permeated with message of His love for us. It’s what makes it holy work, methinks.

    On another note, I agree with jks. Let’s not create artificial definitions for what ‘good mothers’ do. There’s so much space within the day-to-day for good mothering, and it doesn’t need to be limited to a certain kind of hobby or down-time activity or teaching style.

    I really enjoyed this article that showed how different moms brought their own passions/backgrounds/education/interests into their interactions and activities with their children. http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2588

  12. 12.

    The thing I find most fascinating here is Vada’s certainty that she should add another child to her family. How does one feel that kind of certainty? How does one know when their family is complete???

    I have 2 kids, small for a Mormon family, but I’m happy with that. My husband wants one more, but the thought of going through another infancy makes me want to lay down and never get up again. My patriarchal blessing says my children are “already assigned” to me, which makes me feel some sort of horrible Calvinistic predestination where I have no choice in the matter. But the blessing doesn’t say how many, and I don’t know either. I’m sure if I had another baby I’d love that child, but what if I just really, really don’t want to?

  13. 13.

    I’m right there with you, Conflicted. (I have two kids as well.)

    I wonder if the idea that there’s a given number of children assigned to a family is the Mormon analogue to the myth of the one-and-only romantic soulmate (a myth that’s got a Mormon version as well, of course). Many people do have powerful spiritual experiences about whom to marry and about the children to come into their families. I don’t doubt that such experiences, including the one Vada describes in recognizing her daughter, are real; I’ve had such experiences myself. I find them anchors in the face of the sheer continuous onslaught of motherhood.

    But I think we start inadvertently shading into dangerous territory when those experiences become normative. (Which is not to say this is your claim or expectation, Conflicted; your comment is just making me think of social norms I’ve encountered.) Then those who don’t have them wonder why the heavens are silent on this, the most crucial matter of a Mormon life: marriage and family! Are they somehow spiritually deficient? Is God punishing them?

    I believe in a God who expects us to consider our circumstances and exercise good judgment, and who–of course, we’re Mormon!–gives us all the latitude in the world to make choices and to learn from them. And I believe God isn’t intent on killing us here with more than we can handle in order to make us blissfully happy in the hereafter. (In other words, I think our desires matter to God. If someone really, really doesn’t want more kids, I have to believe God understands and considers that–although God’s ways are of course not our ways.).

    But I simply can’t believe that God’s got a magic number of children in mind for everyone, and if someone doesn’t meet her quota for whatever reason, well, it’s off to a lower kingdom with her.

  14. 14.

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Eve. I appreciate it.

  15. 15.

    Wow. Amen!

    We are adopting as well (through foster care) and we’ve asked ourselves why a million times but it all goes back to having the ability to love someone else. And feeling like we’re “good enough” to do it.

    I really don’t like sitting on the ground and playing etc. but I think I will have to do that more to establish attachment with our adopted child. It will force my hand I think, make me work on something that could use some improvement.

    Anyways, fabulous post. Real and lovely.

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