My son, Sam, is learning to talk.
Instead of leading with
" Can you say, 'baby?' Buh. Buh. BAY-BEE???"
I'm taking a less traditional approach. I'm leading with,
"Can you say, 'Mommy is beautiful?' Mommy is BEA-U-TI-FUL."
Because, first of all, why not? Am I right?
But beyond the obvious perks of this being my son's first sentence, there is some very intentional
brainwashing training going on over here - some world-view-shaping, if you will.
I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I am aware that when my kids are teenagers, their culture (by "culture" I mean the voices in their media, music, friends, and hormones) will undermine me, the parent, at every turn.
I know this because it was true for my parents' generation, for my generation, and it will continue to be true when my babies turn 12 (even though this is never going to happen because they are going to start heeding my instruction and stop growing). I will be the most embarrassing breed of parent: the stay-at-home mom. And this is my determination: I will not add fuel to that fire by planting "Mommy is a mess" seeds in their heads at this tender age. How unfortunate that insecurity prompts so many mothers to shoot themselves in the feet in this way!
Not I. I will see to it that my children grow up hearing that their mom is a smart, capable, skillful woman.
I will never forget the day that I sat across from a fellow mom as we waited to pick our kids up from school. At the time, Madeline was my only child, and I was vain and stupid. I thought that I was hot stuff because I was wearing real, daytime clothes and makeup, unlike so many of the other stay-at-home moms in the pick-up line. As I chatted with this mom, I discovered she had 3 kids, all under the age of 4. During the course of our conversation, she said off-handedly,
"I could do one child blindfolded and with one hand tied behind my back."
I remember sitting in awe of her. I had one kid, and on most days I felt like it would kill me. I thought, "I could never do what you do." And I was right; at the time, I couldn't have. Why? Because she was a pro and I was a novice. Because she had skills - time management, people-management, and manual skills - that I hadn't yet acquired.
There is physical skill involved in all-day, every-day parenting. There is muscle memory. Strategy. Method. Rhythm.
Now that I have three of my own, I get it. One kid is hard, it is. (See here.) But now I can say that I could handle one kid blindfolded and with one hand tied behind my back. Because I've logged 48,212 hours of this stay-at-home mom gig; I'm a professional.
THIS is why I'm changing the dialogue around here. Because my yoga pants are not indicative of "letting myself go;" they are my uniform. Perhaps I'm a weird mix of idealist and feminist that, funnily enough, operates within the conventional female gender role - but it's important to me that my kids see my yoga pants as a sign of expertise, which is quite the opposite of letting oneself go. I want them to know that just as my role isn't lesser than a business woman's (or a business man's), neither are my skills. Neither is my beauty.
I am not a mess. I am a professional mom - a beautiful one.
The words we label ourselves with matter; they stick. I do my best to frame myself (with attitude and words) as a skillful woman that deserves admiration for the food particles on her clothing, not consternation.
When Madeline asks me why I'm "not in my daytime clothes yet," I do not say (under my breath or any other way), "Mommy is tired," "Mommy is busy," "Mommy is a hot mess," or "Mommy has let herself go." I say, "Because I am a great Mommy, and sometimes I work so hard that I don't have time to change clothes."
If she asks how I know what worms eat, or how to sing that lullaby in French, or how I know what she was about to say even before she said it, I say, "I am very smart. Mommy went to school for a long time and Mommy is a very smart lady."
If, as we stand in front of the mirror, she asks why I have stretch marks on my belly, I tell her, "Because Mommy's body grew THREE WHOLE BABIES in there. It was hard work for my body, my skin GREW (whoa!), but I did it. Pretty cool, huh?" And you know what? It is.
I am not a perfect mother; there are a lot of things that I don't do, can't do, or try to do and fail impressively. But I am a darn good mother, a professional mother. So in this house, Mommy isn't tired, haggard, old, frumpy, frazzled, out-of-touch, or a mess. In this house, Mommy is beautiful.
Just ask Sam. :)