guilty mom

I had to re-post this from my blog in 2007. It was written when Carter was 2, and in a mother's day out program, but the message is timeless. And, hopefully, still funny. And if you are a mom out there dealing with all the mother guilt...lay it down! Just lay it down!! :) :)

What makes a good mom?
Something has been bugging me since Christmas and it was brought to my attention today, so here I go, getting it off my chest.

My son is in a Mother's Day Out program called Weekday school. It is great, for many reasons, but the most important reason is that it gives me time away from my child and to myself, which I think is very healthy and needed. Not every mom feels that way and that is fine. For me personally, Weekday school is my salvation. 1o hours is not enough time, roughly 5 hours each Tuesday and Thursday, but it is enough.

One of the things that I have been dealing with is mom guilt. I am the sole person responsible for this. No one is making me feel guilty. It is something I do to myself.

It started this Christmas at Weekday school. Of course I brought Carter's teachers gifts for caring for my son, it was the least that I could do. They do a great job and they love my son. Enough said.

Well, the mother guilt started creeping in when Carter's teacher mentioned they were having a Christmas party and inviting me to attend. She actually called me at home because she forgot to mention it the last time he was at school. I go, do I not go. I really, truly did not want to go. I had five hours to get a lot of stuff done. I didn't have to bring anything to the party, she just wanted me to know that they were having it.

Thursday rolls around and she mentions, again that they were having the party that day. Well, I told her sheepishly, that if I got everything done in time I would try to come join the party. Inside I was thinking they are having this party at 11:30, smack dab in the middle of the day and it would kill any chance of me getting anything accomplished.

Well, I didn't go. I felt a little twinge of guilt, but really was fine with it. Until I picked up Carter from school. Apparently, some of the other mom's and grandmother's brought gifts to ALL the kids in the class. I let out a sigh. Did Carter bring any presents for anyone......Nope. Except for his teacher.

I left thinking, you know they really need to pass out Weekday school etiquette.

"Whenever there is a party thou shalt bring gifts to know, something like that."

I am a person that needs things spelled out to her. Just let me know the expectation and I can get it done.

Well, fortunately, not all the mom's brought gifts. So, I felt a little vindicated. Whew. You know, this is a mother's day out program. It is supposed to be bringing me LESS stress. Not all this stuff I have to be thinking of ahead of time.

Well, fast forward to last week. It was Carter's birthday. Did I bake cupcakes and bring them to weekday school, like some of the other moms, so Carter could have a party? No. Did I know that was the norm. NOOOOOO....

So, again, the mother guilt was laid upon me. Did I need to feel guilty. NO. But it is hard when other kid's mom's bring stuff in and you are the mom that doesn't.

Carter's teacher told me she baked some cookies for Carter and was it okay for them to have them. Of course, it was fine. (guilt, guilt, guilt)

So, just when I am getting over that mother lode, I get hit with it again today.

Apparently, Valentines Day is coming up. Carter's teacher and another teacher started talking about Valentines Day when a grandmother brought something in for the party.

Party? What party.

Carter's teacher: "Oh, we're going to have a Valentines party."

My sigh must have been overheard around the world.

Carter's teacher: "ohoohh...we'll have the kids bring in Valentines".

Me: "Okay, is that really necessary? He's two, he isn't going to remember this is Valentines Day, it's too much".

(oops, did I really say that?) I was being really nice but inside I was thinking all this is going to do is add something else to my list of things to do, which is why I have my child in Weekday school so that I have time to do the things I need to do and all this is doing is adding to that never ending list.....

The other grandmother piped up and said that is why she brought the Valentine straws in today. She's done, she did her task, etc. Well, I said I could bring in play-doh, as we had a lot left over from Carter's party.

There, that isn't so bad.

Well, then the poor teacher said she would buy the Valentines herself.

Guilt, guilt guilt.....

Me: No, you don't have to do that. Just let me know what I need to bring to the party.

Finally she said the party was really for her. She enjoys it so much that she loves putting them together.

Then they started talking about Easter. Carter's teacher looks at me and says, "Are we getting to far ahead of you, Susan?"


So, then I have to start thinking about what kind of mom am I?

I didn't get married till I was 34 and I had Carter at 37. The dream of getting married and actually having kids was kind of in the back of my mind. I had time to be pretty independent. I even kept working for a while after Carter was born. I work now, I just don't get paid for it. I wear a lot of hats. Guilt is a hat I would rather not have to wear and worry about. So, I am not like a lot of mom's that dreamed of doing all this stuff with their kids. And does that really make a great mom, bringing cup cakes to a party?

No. Some mom's never get the opportunity to do those things for their kids and maybe they want to. Maybe they are single and have to work and miss out on all the parties at school, never being able to be the class mom.

Me, I have the opportunity, but think at this stage it is just too early to get started with all this stuff. I mean, when Carter gets in school, REAL school, of course I want to bring cupcakes for his birthday party and we will fill out Valentines before his Valentine Elementary school when he knows what Valentines day is.

To me, being a great mom is meeting my child's need (and wants, sometimes). Nurturing him, tickling him, spending time playing with him. Loving him.

I think if I asked anyone if they thought my kid was loved and well-rounded, nice to be around and happy I think I would hear a resounding YES!!!!!!!

He is considered a blessing.

And just because I don't want to make cupcakes and take them to his weekday school program when he is oblivious that it is even his birthday, doesn't make me a bad mom.

It makes me a mom who is prioritizing what she has to do in a day and what is really important and what really matters. Carter had two birthday parties. One was really big. He didn't miss out on celebrating his birthday.

Maybe one day I will be able to deal with the guilt. But I somehow think there are going to be other things to feel guilty about, just in different circumstances.

I just need to accept the fact that I am not perfect, won't be the perfect mom, and to just love my child and focus on him and not worry about what other people think.

Because that is the bottom line. I am worried about how other people perceive me, that is really what I feel bad about. Not meeting everyone elses expectation of what a mom should look like.

Okay. I feel better now.

To Santa or not to Santa....

Ugh. The season is upon us. The crazy, busy, relentless time of year when we have so many thing pulling us in many different directions and the most important, significant things--like, say the birth of Christ--is kept in the background.

I am all about keeping Christmas simple, however, the world around us makes it very difficult. And, unless you want to make your kids feel like they have been raised under a rock, I feel, we, to a certain degree, must choose to participate in the whirlwind ride that we now know as Christmas. I am mainly talking about the expectations like, gifts for people, going to open houses, Christmas parties galore and eating lots of food that is just not that good for us.

You know, I would really love to write some meaningful, significant prose about the true meaning of Christmas. The reason will celebrate. I would hope that by writing about it, it would turn our hearts back to Christ and the simplicity of the season. But the thing is there are lots of books out there that tell you to do that. You can read scripture and be reminded of the humble beginnings of our Lord and Savior. The reason for the season.

But for me, I realize that unless I have a heart change about the season, it's really not going to make anything different. It's not going to make the Christmas carol we sing in church become any more alive. Where is the awe and the wonder? The magic and hope?

In that same respect, taking all commercial aspects of Christmas out of my house will not make me worship the Savior any more than keeping them in will. It still has to do with the heart.

This leads me to something I have wanted to write about for a while. Hopefully, no one will take offense. I am not saying one view point is right and one is wrong (because it is a personal decision). I can't quote scripture or tell you how you should celebrate Christmas in your home. There are arguments on both sides of the issue.

However, that being said, I really don't understand why Santa gets such a bad rap? Taking Santa, or any other commercial aspect of this season, out of the picture is not really going to change my heart. I can be just as in love with Jesus and tell my boys about Santa and go take them to get their picture made with him every year (which I do). I don't worry that by telling them about Santa they are just going to remember me lying to them....and if I lie to them about this fable, then, what's keeping me from lying about something else? Like God's love.

Please. Let me tell you, I grew up in one of the most legalistic church environments ever. I mean, I had no idea that God's grace was sufficient, but I did know that if I sinned he was keeping track of those and holding them against me (which is not true, but it was my perception). And lots of things counted as sin, or "worldly", such as wearing pants, listening to secular music....even listening to certain CHRISTIAN music was taught against. So, I know a thing or two about legalism.

I don't remember what our church taught about Santa growing up? If there was an opinion given, I have no idea now what it was. I did have friends whose parents rejected any commercial aspect of Christmas and refused to celebrate it, including having a tree and if you had to get them a gift, please get them underwear. Heaven forbid you actually have fun thinking about your family and get something meaningful. That was just too "worldly". We were fundamentalists, we had standards to uphold. LOL!

In my house, we believed in Santa. I can remember our first Christmas in Tennessee, maybe the second. Family was visiting from Florida and my cousin and I were looking out the window on Christmas Eve looking for Santa and his reindeer. I remember the presents from Santa and baking the cookies and seeing if the cookies were gone Christmas morning. I remember the excitement. The wonder. The memories.

However, Santa always had his place and he was never the center of attention, Jesus was. We talked more about Jesus birth and the reason for the season than we ever did about Santa. Santa was part of the celebration, but he wasn't the main event. Jesus was. And that's all I want to be able to do for my children. I don't feel like I need to take Santa out of the picture to draw them closer to Jesus.

I have an almost five year old that is full of questions. Believe me, he wants to know why we celebrate Christmas. And we tell him. We tell him the true meaning. We share with him the Christmas story. We bake a cake for Jesus the week of Christmas. He knows the songs about Jesus in a manger and why Jesus came, which was because of His great love for US. So, I get excited when Carter talks about Jesus. Jesus is the primary focus of the season in our house. But until Carter asks Jesus into his heart, he is not going to get the true meaning of Christmas, of Christ's birth. And more importantly, why He came as He did, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and to do what no other self-proclaimed savior has done....rise from the dead.

But I have to say that as we were decorating the Christmas tree the other day and night had fallen and Carter looked out the window and said, " I wonder if we can see Santa up in the sky" my heart melted. The excitement. The wonder. The belief in Santa. I loved it. It didn't break my heart because we had already been talking about Jesus. Those seeds have been planted and my prayer is that when the time is right, Carter will come to know Christ, preferably at a young age.

I don't remember when I stopped believing in Santa. It obviously wasn't that traumatic. I have never felt lied to or deceived by my parents for telling me about this fairy tale. It was fun. It had it's place. And it is magical.

I never, ever tell Carter that he better be good because Santa is watching. I don't ever use getting Christmas presents as a way to control my son's behavior. In fact, I cringe when parents do that. That is one aspect I don't agree with. Good behavior should be expected regardless of the season and it should be learned, not used as a bribe. I want my kid to learn self-control from the heart, not because Santa won't bring him any presents if he misbehaves.

The thing is, I respect my friends or people I know who choose not to make Santa part of their kids lives. I mean, who am I to tell you that you are overreacting? There is no right or wrong answer here. I guess the most important thing to remember in all of it is the HEART. Because no matter how holy you think you are making Christmas, if you just take away things and don't focus on the heart, then all you are doing is making a statement for the purpose of being different. And being different doesn't make you holy. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ makes you holy.

So, that's my feeling about Santa. I think he has his place. He is not the centerpiece. Having Santa in the celebration of Christmas doesn't make me any closer to the Lord, just as leaving him out doesn't bring me any closer to the Lord. The heart is the matter.