Let’s Have a Truce from the Mommy Wars: A Bit of Memoir

The other day, a friend posted a blog by someone who was bothered by “crafty moms”.  Once in awhile, I’ll read a post that stays with me, positive or negative.  This was the latter.  It wasn’t so much the message (which I think was to make not-so-crafty moms feel better about themselves), but the mean-spirited tone in which it was written.

There seems to be a cultural shift in our country to call bad things good and good things bad.  I’m not saying being an uncrafty mom is a bad thing (I don’t consider myself a terribly crafty person—I like simple, relatively cheap projects, due to time and money constraints), but having a crafty mom is just a bonus.  Different people have different talents, and they pass those interests on to their children.  Some not-so-crafty moms prefer to do other things with their kids (can’t go wrong with any activity away from a screen), and that is totally fine.  Right now, one of my focuses is fostering in my daughter a love for books.

Artwork I made for my daughter's nursery.

Artwork I made for my daughter’s nursery.

Personalized alphabet book I made for Hannah through Shutterfly.

Personalized alphabet book I made for Hannah through Shutterfly.

A glimpse inside the ABC book.  For C, I used a picture of my parents' beautiful cat, Half-Face.  For D, I used my daughter's 25 inch Raggedy Ann doll, and also, my parents' dog Ray.

A glimpse inside the ABC book. For C, I used a picture of my parents’ beautiful cat, Half-Face. For D, I used my daughter’s 25 inch Raggedy Ann doll, and also, my parents’ dog Ray.

Being crafty has never been considered part of good mommyhood.  Spending time with them is.  However, there are blogs out there that will overwhelm you, saying things like, “Being a mom is the hardest job in the world”.  It really isn’t.  It’s the most important job, but not that hard (even though it does have some stressful moments, like when I’m tearing the house upside-down looking for a paccie while the baby is crying, etc.).  You don’t have to go to school for forever and you do get quite a bit of down time (even though you’re always on call).  The hardest thing for me has been to adjust to not being able to pick myself up and go somewhere alone, unless my husband is home, or I have a baby-sitter.  Of course, there are those times I’m dealing with a migraine, and the last thing I want to do is do anything but watch reruns.

(Now ask me again if motherhood is hard in fourteen years.)

Good moms can drive themselves crazy trying to “have it all” by doing it all.  There are memes about “Messy House, Happy Kids” (can’t you have both?; does this also mean, “Clean House, Unhappy Kids”?) and “Real Women Have Curves” (so women who don’t have curves are artificial?).  It seems like if a woman is lacking in one area, instead of accepting themselves, they have to diminish the other side to make them feel better.  Let’s just say that everyone has a talent, and generally, that talent will be where one’s interests lie.  Houses get messy, and that’s fine (that’s what clean-up is for).  Messy does not equal dirty.  However, how much happier I would’ve been if my mom had kept a cleaner and/or neater house so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring friends over.  That said, my mom is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.  That I was, and am, pretty proud of.  She was and is a good mom despite not being a cook (only thing she knows how to make, or will make, is goulash) or a housekeeper.  Because I do remember how it felt to have a not-so-nice house (bed sheets rarely matched the pillowcases; men just don’t care as much about those things), I am more like my grandmothers, one of whom was a full-time SAHM.  See, I don’t have a messy house because I have a husband who helps and because I’m lazy.  I don’t like to spend hours cleaning or picking up, so I just do a little bit here and there all day long.  Sometimes I’m tired, especially if I’ve just worked five hours waiting tables while the A/C was out, and that’s fine.  It can hold.  If I don’t feel like washing dishes, I’ll let them soak overnight.

My dad, who was a SAHD, burned everything (just the smell of medium rare meat makes me want to throw up), but yet I’ve always been pretty healthy.  I don’t think you have to be a great cook to be a great parent, and you don’t have to have a perfect house.  My dad was notorious for putting my dress on backwards or giving me Vienna sausages and Almond Joys for lunch.

I’m a woman with curves (some not all in the right places), but I don’t put down those who work out harder or eat better than I do and have “earned their physique”.  If I ever get to the point where I’ve had my children and managed to get flat abs, I’m not going to post a picture of my stomach with a caption emblazoned over it that says, “Three Kids, No Excuses”.  A Facebook friend of mine did that, and I won’t call it “fat-shaming” (it isn’t), but it wasn’t an effective message.  Now later on, when my FB friend posted a picture of a woman in a bikini who had a belly (but was a good size everywhere else), and then a photo of her three weeks later with flat abs, that inspired me, because this woman gained weight like I did (all in the middle).  I’d always heard that you have to lose everywhere else first, but now I know that is not necessarily true in all cases.

This all ties into the truth that we all have different strengths and weaknesses.  I’m not a great cook because I don’t like to cook (that much).  I’m a much better baker, which is funny, considering cooking is an art (I’m a creative person) and baking is a science (I may be studying science, but it’s an acquired skill for me).

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t much of a housekeeper till I had my own house; I didn’t change my habits because I compared myself to others, I just wanted to better myself (and yes, please my husband, as he tries to please me).  However, I’m still the kind of person who uses clean dishes out of the dishwasher rather than putting them up, or leaves clean clothes in the dryer till it’s time to use them.  There is a pile of clean clothes on the loveseat I will get to…eventually (usually when I want to sprawl over it like a cat with a good book).

As for the child rearing thing, I’m better at reading and singing and playing simple, silly games than coming up with more elaborate activities.  My parents never really did crafts with me (except for a diorama of the Revolutionary War I had to do for school, which I got a C+ on), but they allowed me all the paper and crayons I wanted.  I wiled away the hours creating snowflakes as unique as the real ones, I stapled together sheets of construction paper and wrote books about the future, I created different backdrops for my Barbies, or “scenes”, as I called them.  They bought me all the books I wanted, they let me play in the park, they let me make forts out of sheets and all the living room furniture. In short, they allowed me to foster my creativity, and I do believe that’s a part of why I am so creative today.

My parents allowed, encouraged, supported, and taught me both by word and example how to become a compassionate, worthwhile human being.  They didn’t teach me that shyness was bad—it was just a character trait—but they did teach me to stand up for myself when necessary.  They taught me not to beat my own drum; I don’t feel comfortable doing that today, but in this modern era, it’s sort of expected.  I know I don’t come across as confident as I would like in interviews.  I like my work or work ethic to speak for itself.  There is a quiet dignity in doing that.  I don’t post a photo or story online and say how great it is, and I accept praise with humility (though inside, I’m secretly doing backflips).

Instead of begrudging those who have talents I don’t possess, I’ve appreciated all the lovely handmade gifts people made for my daughter before she was born.  I’ve always thought it would be nice to be able to make something so lovely, but if the desire isn’t there, why care so much?  (I once tried to learn how to crochet at my husband’s church with their Prayer Shawl ministry and by the end, I had a headache).  Everyone has a talent—mine is capturing things, whether it’s moments, images, stories, etc.  Mine isn’t necessarily in the kitchen, and I’m about the unhandiest person you could imagine.  I walk into a Lowe’s and I am totally flummoxed.  It also took me awhile to learn how to work the Xbox controller.

So the gist is this:  Let’s not put down other moms for being crafty or not being crafty.  As a friend of mine once said about eating/issues with food, “Just keep your eyes on your own plate.”

I’d had no idea until I read this particular blog post (the one that sparked this one) that there was a new ailment called “Pinterest Stress”.  I just know I waste too much time on it.  Not so much a time or money issue, more like an energy and patience issue.  I’d rather write anyway, but crafts are great for getting away from the screen.

So the next time, if a mother hands you something cute and craftsy, maybe the appropriate reaction is just to thank them and let it bring a smile to your face.  When a friend makes me something, I proudly show it off, whether it’s a poem or a picture (I like to say I have talented friends).

Framed baby shower announcement my friend made for me, complete with elephant (general theme of my daughter's nursery) and Victorian pram.

Framed baby shower announcement my friend made for me, complete with elephant (general theme of my daughter’s nursery) and Victorian pram.

Crocheted doll a friend of mine made for Hannah.

Crocheted doll a friend of mine made for Hannah.

I had one friend in particular whom I wrote a nursery rhyme for after she had her last child, and I can’t say how glad it made me when a friend of hers told me how she showed it to everyone in church and then her mother telling me it was one of the best things she ever got.  That, that right there, is one of the reasons I love to make things for my friends, in addition to the experience of making it myself, but no matter how nice it is to make your friends or children things, the most important part is just being a friend, and being a mom, not just a mother.

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My wall of photography.  I take them, my husband hangs them.  Each picture is supposed to sort of tell a story.  We begin with the past:  my wedding veil, then progress to the cameo (not sure how that fits in), then Hannah's pewter baby rattle and brush, and then the future:  her dancing shoes.

My wall of photography. I take them, my husband hangs them. Each picture is supposed to sort of tell a story. We begin with the past: my wedding veil, then progress to the cameo (not sure how that fits in), then Hannah’s pewter baby rattle and brush, and then the future: her dancing shoes.

My soaps.  I don't do the hard stuff, like cold process.  I prefer to do the melt-and-pour, but I have since found that humidity collects on it here like raindrops, so I have to make it on demand.  Can you tell I love cameos yet?

My soaps. I don’t do the hard stuff, like cold process. I prefer to do the melt-and-pour, but I have since found that humidity collects on it here like raindrops, so I have to make it on demand. Can you tell I love cameos yet?

Your children will remember how you made them feel about themselves far more than they’ll remember a specific activity, because that is the foundation for making wonderful, lasting memories.

 

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