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What Does “having it all” Really Mean?

March 9, 2010

I was surprised and delighted, last week, when my post about the Inner You Stink was honored by wonderful postitioning on the homepage. Over 125 readers clicked on the article.

But not one – not even one – did as I suggested, and gave a shout-out to another mom who was doing something right. One of the few commenters even observed “I have a sneaking suspicion that had you called out for comments sharing own inner ‘You stink”s rather than for shout-outs to other moms, there may have been more.”

Why why why why why?

Why is it easier to criticize other moms, or ourselves, than to take a look around and say “Yay!” for someone else?

Why is motherhood today so fraught with angst, guilt, jealousy and anger? There is so much talk about “having it all” as a mom, but what does “having it all” really mean? I’m pretty sure my grandmother didn’t lay awake at night and fret about how much quality time she spent with her kids that day. I suspect my mother didn’t either. They lived their lives, they made their choices, and they raised good kids.

Mother’s Day is approaching and it is now more than ever that I miss my mom. I’ll never forget the day she died. Where I was standing when the phone rang. What I felt. What I thought.

Every August 26 I relive all the pain of her death just a little bit.

But on Mother’s Day, I remember her alive.

I miss her most at this time of year – when I would otherwise be shopping for that perfect Mother’s Day gift. She was so much fun to shop for! (confession: I still buy her presents. And then keep them.) We had similar taste, although hers was more Victorian and mine a bit more Art Nouveau. My fondest memories were wandering the mall together. We would stop at the espresso cart outside of Nordstrom (it was so new and chic back then). She’d have her latte, I’d get a mint hot-chocolate (second confession: I was in the mall, ironically, when I got the call that she had died. I was shaking so, too upset to drive, too dazed. I stumbled down to Nordstrom, ordered a mint hot-chocolate for the first time in about 15 years, and sat there in front of the store, and cried.)

Mom was always there when I got home from school, and she would sit and listen to the stories of my day. I was such a talker (surprise!) and she was such a listener. But she didn’t hover. She didn’t get up and make me a hot breakfast every day. She wasn’t a morning person and I still felt loved even though I ate cold cereal all my life. She was home when I was but she was always busy. I remember helping her haul bags of clothes to the mother-and-daughter pair just off the plane from Poland with the clothes on their back, and no English, or money, to help them start a new life in the USA.

Sometimes I would feign a cold just to stay home from school, like any red-blooded 4th or 5th grader. The amazing thing was…she sometimes let me get away with it. (I thought I had her fooled.) Now, older and smarter, I see that she just recognized that everybody, even a 9 year old, needs a mental-health day every once in a while. She’d take me out to breakfast, and we’d have a leisurely, relaxing day. Just hanging out.

When I had had an especially rough time of it, she always told me to find solace in flowers. We’d go to the nursery (I remember one time she took me there straight after discovering I had failed my second Geometry final.) And you know, I did find comfort there. The flowers were friends, and I still think Summerwinds is one of the happiest places on earth. She made me pull weeds back then (oh, you can’t imagine the tantrums) and now I do it to relax.

She wasn’t reading books on parenting, or comparing herself with other moms, working or not, and wondering what she was or wasn’t doing right. She was just being HER. And doing a great job. I don’t think she told herself “You stink! You stink!” when we had grilled-cheese for dinner or canned green beans. She didn’t beat herself up for all those mornings of cold cereal (or, in a few instances, dog kibble, when my older brother was the one doing the preparing…I think he just wanted to see if I would eat it. I did.)

More on this tomorrow…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 5:00 pm

    >Beautifully written post. 🙂 You made me cry. And you are so right about our mothers and mothers before them. They did not WORRY SO MUCH about what they were doing that would screw all of us up. They loved us, they taught us how to take care of ourselves, and most of them had fun doing it. Today, we worry too much about the quantity of time we spend with our children. I do it, but I've been really trying not to. I'm human and I love my children fiercely, but sometimes my brain needs a break. 🙂 So glad to find your blog today!!!

  2. March 9, 2010 7:44 pm

    >Great post, thanks for sharing so much about how amazing your mom was. You are walking in her footsteps in so many ways! I think part of being a woman is looking at other women and thinking they have it all together while you feel completely un-together. But I'm sure your mom had her moments of doubt even though she did an amazing job raising you two. Don't doubt yourself because your boys will grow up remembering you as having it all together. You are composed, competent and sophisticated, no matter what your inner voice tells you!

  3. March 10, 2010 1:00 am

    >Funny thing. Your Mom and I did so many of the same things together. I have such wonderful memories of mall walking with your Mom and sipping our beverage of choice in front of Nordstrom. Looking in all our favorite shops, we got ideas for decorating our homes. We got our inspiration from the pricey shops and then head off to Cost Plus to bring those inspirations to fruition for much less money. We spent countless hours at nurserys looking at flowers, plants and garden statues. I still have the statue that I bought on one of those occasions. I named mine Elizabeth. She named hers Rebecca. There's so much more. I loved her dearly. We did not fret that much about being the perfect Mother. We just did our best to be available and create a good home.

  4. March 10, 2010 12:33 pm

    >Adelle, I was so blessed to know your mom and dad too and I can say they both had to biggest influence of any adult outside my parents! I loved your mom and always had fun with her. I think she had her own "you stink" moments but probably my mom, Karen Stipes, Donna Worely, and Mary Burch told her she didn't stink but was having one of those days and got her moving again! She was an amazing woman and even made her own taco shells!!! This was such a sweet tribute to her. Love you Adelle!

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