Sunday, May 10, 2009

"This Is For All You Mothers Out There!"

A few weeks after Will was born, the kids and I went to my Mom and Dad's house for a little visit. Andrew had been having a rough adjustment to having a baby in the house and being apartment-bound because of said new brother was not this 2 year old's style at all. Going for walks down my parents' dead-end road and adjoining bike trail was still one of our very favorite things to do and seemed to me to be called for at the moment.

I put tiny Will down for a nap in the guest room and took Andrew out. We were on the way back to my parents' house, taking our time to investigate every mud puddle and rock that called Andrew's attention, when I saw my dad come running up the road toward us, clutching an enormous bundle of down comforter. Lost somewhere inside was Will; I could hear him crying.

"I tried to calm him down and then your mom tried, but he just got madder and madder," my dad explained.

I took him from my dad and he immediately stopped crying. Initially I thought he may have finally succumbed to heat stroke (I think it was pretty warm out and that down comforter was just simply ridiculous). By the time I carried him back to the house, he was asleep in my arms.

And I had a thought.

My baby did not seem to have any particularized reason for crying. He was not hungry, he was not tired; he simply wanted to be held. But not by anyone. He wanted to be held by his mother.

Just like his two year old brother wanted to go for a walk, but not with just anyone, this brand new baby knew to whom he belonged and that was the only person with whom he wanted to be.

There is so much discussion of "quality time" and so much concern over what we should be doing as moms and how we should be doing it. That is perfectly appropriate, as our time should be spent in quality ways and it is often not easy to know how to handle the various situations that arise in parenthood.

But in the final analysis, as this little memory serves to remind me, all of the caring acts that comprise the daily ministrations of parenthood--diaper changing, bathing, shaking little toys in a baby's face, picking a child up from school, even--all of these simple acts that are so easy to denigrate as things that anyone could do, are not things that just anyone can do. Not, at least, in the eyes of the child. The fact that it is his mother that is doing them makes all the difference in the world to him. And to me as a mother. Perhaps the biggest mistake we can make as mothers is simply not being there to do those things, those simple, sometimes boring and taxing, things.

Realizing this makes me feel simultaneously more and less guilty about the job that I am doing as a mom. But motherhood, like anything else, is all about balance and common sense. We know we cannot and should not dote every moment on our children, and they do not need, may not want and should not receive every ounce of our attention and participation in their play, and every mother needs a break and should not feel guilty for taking one.

It is to say, however, that we need to seize this short day of our early motherhood. It all passes so quickly. I am already nostalgic for my children's earlier stages. In two years, Andrew will be spending more (waking) hours at school than at home. Maybe mothering a baby and small child is the most critical opportunity for us to lay the foundations for our bonds with our children. Children will spend their lives growing more and more independant of us, as is our job to teach them to be.

Though our job can be described as teaching our kids to no longer need us, the emotional bond we forge continues forever. One of my more macabre activities of late is reading black box recordings of airline disasters. In one of the recordings a member of the crew, knowing he was about to die and that there was a black box to transmit his final message, called out: "I love you, Mom."

Motherhood is about giving yourself away to the tiny people that we invite into our lives, who pay us back in double.

Thanks, Mom, for exemplifing this for me. Love is a home-made Egg McMuffin sandwich kept warm in a tin foil envelope by the front door at 6 am. And drawing smiley faces on little toes.


Troy and Nancee said...

Well said. I still struggle to find the balance between keeping my sanity and serving my kids, but when you get that little hug or kiss or they figure something out on their own, it is such a joyous reward that only a parent could truly appreciate.

Todd and Juliana said...

I love this... I love how you said it. You are the best writer I know... I have always admired your talent for the written word and this is so well said. Can I reference it in my blog? I absolutely loved it.

Michelle said...

what a sweet post. I love reading your thoughts. I love you and your kids!

Sarah said...

I think that story illustrates it perfectly. Kids really do need their mothers more than anyone else in the world. You are a wonderful mother Alexandra! I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Oh, and I think babysitting totally counts. I didn't mean to scare anyone away with having to make something incredible. Although I do recall you making some fabulous stick coasters and other crafty things while you were going through that Martha Stewart phase....maybe I shouldn't let you off the hook that easy. :)

Alexandra said...

Andrew just informed me very casually that he likes his dad more than he likes me. I asked him why and he explained it is because his dad is stronger.

Momo Cannon said...

Alexandra, Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day. Brigham called me but I missed talking to you and telling you that I think you are an awesome mom! I loved the post and couldn't agree with you more about how important what we as mother's do. You will never regret the time spent with your children. Love to you all, Momo

Carrie said...

I love, truly love, being the person that the baby, toddler or preschooler wants more than anyone. It fulfills me in a way I never understood before I was the one with the child snuggled on my shoulder.

That said, both the older boys have informed me, at some point that they like their (stronger than me) dad better. For a long time Luke preferred his dad because he claimed Dad always knew where the batteries were kept.

Jacqueline Auna and family said...

I LOVE this post. You are so insightful!

brooke said...

Well said. It always surprises me how my children just knew instantly that it was me holding them, even as newborns. It also surprises me that I can hold a nephew the exact same way and he wants nothing to do with me.

I love that my kids adore me and smother me with hugs and kisses at night even after I have yelled at them all day.

Great post.

Kimmie said...

Beautifully stated! I feel really sad for those women who take motherhood for granted or who rather "work" to claim her bit of fame in this world. Im not perfect and feel bad every night as I peek at each of my sleeping children and remember how I got mad at them or yelled at them...BUT, I try and my kids are my life! There is NOTHING that I rather be doing.

Tara, Doug, and Isaac said...

Thanks. I've been (half-heartedly) job searching today. Sometimes I wonder whether I ought to teach a class or two, and I looked at job listings in Pocatello today to see if my sevices were needed. They aren't. Satan's working hard on mothers. I would go for a once-a-week class that fell into my lap, but anything else would feel painful.

Also, would you mind sending me your dad's phone number and email address? Troy's moving back to Virginia for a Master's degree and he wants to talk to some old ward members who may know of anyone who has basements for rent or whatever. My email address is, if you wouldn't mind sending me your dad's info.

kentandnellie said...

Allie, you are such a great writer. This post brought tears to my eyes. I bet you are wonderful mom. Your boys are lucky. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Loved them.

Alexandra said...

I just wanted to clarify something. I hesitated to post this largely because I didn't want to seem to be entering the discussion of working moms v. stay at home. But I am not really commenting on that at all; there are too many variables and factors involved to make a pronouncement on that subject.

The parental duties I described are performed by moms who work outside the home, too. Sure, a woman (or man) can be so career-oriented that their devotion to work affects the quality of their parenting. But simply holding a job does not mean that you are a bad mom. As I said, there are too many factors unique to each situation to be able to say anything either way.

The real point for me is just that moms are so uniquely special--irreplaceable--to their kids, and that even though parenting can start to feel like you are spending your days in unskilled, boring or thankless labor, it really does matter.

I realize that it still sounds like I am criticizing the decision to work (since I say moms are irreplaceable). But I am really not. I think most people would agree that children prefer their own mom to others, and when a kid prefers the babysitter, the mother usually feels rather upset.

A mother does not need to change every diaper to satisfy her kids' needs or her role etc. I suppose what I mean is that her role is much larger than just wiping bums, even when it feels like that is all she is doing all day.

Alexandra said...

And wiping bums is about a lot more than wiping bums.

Ok, I'm done!

Alicia said...

well stated and I couldn't agree with you more

Andrea, Mrs. said...

I just want to say: Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this topic. I agree with you. And, I hope I can be a good mother. :-D

Gina said...

Thanks for sharing that. I think that you are absolutely right that there are times that no one else will do, but mom (not even dad!). You are a wonderful mom!