Not the Mom I Wish I Were

Author: Elizabeth Foss

NOT THE MOM I WISH I WERE by Elizabeth Foss

It was only eight o'clock in the morning and I was already tired. The boys were still sleeping and I thought I'd get a jump on the housework. A crumpled piece of paper in the corner of the kitchen caught my eye. Smoothing it out to be sure I wasn't throwing away a precious work of art, I was greeted by a neatly handwritten note unmistakably penned by my five-year old: . Just the encouragement I needed.

I looked at the note again. The editor in me kicked in. Does he really mean the worst mom? Did he set about comparing me to all the other moms and come to this conclusion? I know I compare myself all the time. Perhaps he compared me to my neighbor, who is also pregnant and due any day.

Last week she redecorated the entire third floor of her house, painting, papering and sewing everything with her five-year old merrily helping by her side. I'm so tired and so busy it's all I can do to lug the vacuum to the third floor, never mind major renovation. Where does she find the time or the energy?

Maybe he was comparing me to another friend's mom. She allows the children to play all day and never requires them to do chores. She assumes all the responsibility for housework herself. Her philosophy is that children will grow to be adults and there will be plenty of time to work then. My little guy has a list and by golly he will be held accountable for the chores on the list. I count on his assistance. Maybe I'm scarring him for life.

I sat at the kitchen table and thought about the note some more. At least he didn't give it to me. Maybe he reconsidered and decided I wasn't really the worst; I was just bad. My rational side reminded me that five-year olds are prone to angry outbursts heavily laden with superlatives. Earlier the same week, my friend Cheryl had been labelled "boringest" mom by her kindergartner.

I also reminded myself that I shouldn't compare myself with anyone else. But deep down I knew that I am simply not the mom I wish I were these days. I'm impatient, disgruntled and short-tempered far more often than I'd like to be. I'm also disappointed in myself and not very tolerant of my own shortcomings.

Two weeks before I discovered the note, I had been to a conference where I listened to one inspiring talk after another on how to be an excellent parent and an excellent Catholic. All those speakers seemed to have all the answers. I set about trying to put every idea into practice at once and I was utterly discouraged and completely burned out. I knew there must be a missing piece but I had no idea what it was.

A few days after receiving Michael's note, I sat down with him to read the day's Gospel. Doing daily Gospel meditations with a five-year old is interesting to say the least. I'm never sure where he and the Spirit will lead me.

"Come to Me and I will give you rest ¾ all you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear My yoke ¾ for it fits perfectly ¾ and let Me teach for you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens." (Mt 11:28-30, .

I told Michael that the verse meant that we would always have the time and energy to accomplish whatever was in God's plan. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Then why are you always so tired and why do you always tell Daddy you'll never get everything done that needs to be done before we have the baby?" Why, indeed.

Perhaps I need to take a good look at my priorities. Perhaps I need to take some time to ask God what He would have me do. The inspirational talks and books have a place in my life. They give me food for thought, questions for prayer. I should not allow them to dictate how I spend my time. God alone should do that. Lately, I have been so busy trying to do His will that I haven't stopped to ask Him what His will is. It's time to retreat to a quiet place to pray. The Father has promised to be faithful. He will not allow me to be the worst mom.

Foss is a freelance writer and managing editor of Welcome Home, a magazine for mothers at home.

This article appeared in the August 18, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.