Recently while showering in my new home, I noticed the words "Happy Mother's Day" written in steam on my bathroom mirror. I started to think about who had put it there for the woman who occupied this home before me. Was it her husband? Her children? And what were they thinking about when they wrote that lovely message?
It is likely they were thinking about all of the traits we think of when we hear the words "Good Mom." Caregiving, keeping house, kissing boo boos and nursing the sick. Driving to practices, games, recitals and music lessons. Having the neighborhood kids over for pizza and sleepovers. Helping with homework. Putting the needs of the children above her own.
All of these things are wonderful reasons to celebrate moms.
But why not celebrate more than mothering skills? How about celebrating the smart, independent, hard-working, passionate, sassy, silly, tough women moms are? I hope that someday, my sons will have a deeper understanding of who I am as a woman, and recognize the things I did that modeled independence, individuality and strength. I hope they will be thankful for this, and respect and applaud women who have their own lives, passions, hobbies and jobs.
Don't get me wrong - -motherhood is the bomb. By all means, let's celebrate it! But it's the non-motherly things that are silently shaping our kids. They benefit from seeing us dancing, playing instruments, working outside the home, creating art, volunteering, having friends of our own, traveling on our own, exercising, coaching, going on dates with our partners, writing books, mentoring... these teach our children invaluable lessons about being an individual, and working to succeed.
Here are five things I hope my sons will someday realize made me more than just the lady who made lunches, read books at bedtime, and nursed them when they were sick.
1. My mom had a job that she loved, and she was good at it.
This one is especially important. I am NOT at all downplaying the importance of staying home with your kids, if that is your jam. But working mothers bring something to the table that cannot be undervalued -- we teach our kids that it is OK to have a career outside the home, and to love it. Excelling in a career is something to be proud of. Contributing to society and using your education are good things. Follow your dreams, work hard and you can have a career you love. What a message! Not to mention it helps our children understand that they are not the center of the universe, and sometimes we have to go to work even when we don't want to. Yeah... that's life. Get used to it.
2. My mom had hobbies she enjoyed and it made her a happier person.
Sometimes the kids have to entertain themselves and let mommy get her rock and roll on! Just as I support their desires to play sports and video games, they should support my desire to play guitar. Why should our kids be the only ones that get to "play?" I would argue that finding time for a hobby teaches our kids about balance. It teaches them that finding things you enjoy is a healthy part of adult life too. I am not suggesting we ignore our children when they are in need so we can rock our favorite pastime, but it won't kill them to have to wait for your attention while you enjoy 30 minutes of you time. After all, it makes us more pleasant moms if we take time to do something that doesn't involve macaroni art or watching animated television.
3. My mom took care of herself and felt good.
You can interpret this however you choose. It could mean exercise, eating well, doing yoga or meditating. It could mean regular massages, gardening or therapy. It could mean dancing with abandon or walking in the rain. It is different for each of us, but whatever it is you need to do to feel healthy in body and mind, do it. Show your kids you feel good about yourself. The healthier we are as women, the better we can care for our children. And feeling good about our bodies and our minds teaches our kids about healthy body image and self esteem. The better we feel, the less likely we are to put ourselves down. Exercising in front of our kids doesn't have to translate into looking better, but simply feeling strong. Eating well doesn't have to mean dieting for weight loss, but simply choosing to put nutritious foods into our bodies because it makes us feel strong. Who wouldn't want to pass these values down to their kids?
4. My mom loved her partner and it showed.
What better way to teach our kids about healthy relationships than to show affection to our partner. Hugging, kissing, saying kind words and being helpful are all great ways to model what it means to respect yourself enough to be in a loving relationship. Sure, we all have days when we are frustrated and just want to be left alone. But the relationship with our partner is the template that our children will refer to when entering their own intimate relationships. If they never saw us smooch and only heard us complain, how will they sustain a healthy, loving partnership? I am not condoning subservience, or accepting a bad situation just to save face. But when two people are in a happy, loving relationship they should show it in the many little ways that keep a relationship strong. I want my boys to be excellent boyfriends/partners/husbands some day, and how will they know how to do that if my husband and I didn't show them?
5. My mom was a unique individual.
If someone were to ask my sons to talk about their mom, I hope they would say more than just, "She was a great mom. She took great care of us." While I would gladly take that compliment, it would mean so much more to me if they could express what makes me unique. I hope they have seen my personality shine through, and will appreciate that I was more than just "mom." In my wildest dreams, it would go something like this: "My mom was a strong, independent woman. She was a teacher and scientist, loved to write, loved to run and loved guitar. She was opinionated and not afraid to speak her mind. She was always willing to have a dance party, and loved the ocean. She sang. She joked. She taught us how to be adventurous, and always encouraged us to try new things and find our passions. She overcame her fears. She was a great woman."
Is that too much to ask?
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, not just for being great moms, but for being great women.