By: Laura Lee Arant
I gaze into a bowl. It’s one of our everyday dishes, picked by me for the subtle floral pattern embossed in the rim. But now, I see Honey Bunches of Oats residue- left to harden by one of three daughters. The cereal’s dry, crusty remains, now hard as the dish itself-waiting for me to do the sand blasting. Such is the life of a mom. If your kids never forget to clean their own dishes, please don’t speak to me, I concede that you are a better mom than me, okay? This is my reality.
Obviously, dirty dishes are not the point. They are just part of the landscape. I recently read a book that gave me a fresh perspective on my role in these girl’s lives. In The Eternal Mark of a Mom, by Linda Weber, there was encouragement for the daily work of motherhood, challenge to mother more intentionally, and hope for the endgame- launching able, caring, responsible and loving human beings into the world.
I’ll never forget how it all began, years ago, when my husband Joe and I welcomed our first baby, Megan—all 4 lbs of her. When the tiny angelic face of our blanket-swaddled girl was gently placed my arms for the first time- life-altering love welled up in me for this little one. When Joe and my eyes met, unspoken in our glance was both the wonder of the moment and abject fear of the great unknown that stretched before us as we realized that a real live human being was now our responsibility.
Let’s face it- our kid’s didn’t come with instructions. And for that reason, I loved that Weber’s book was long on practical guidance for young mothers as well as those with school-aged and even older kids. Her wisdom extended to single moms, working moms and even those who have had tragedy or life experiences that separate them from a clear category.
In some ways, I found her book to be revolutionary as today’s culture seems to devalue mothers who take on that role with gusto. She writes in her chapter about personal fulfillment, “Many women have acted as if motherhood was a brand of mediocrity to bear—if you can’t make it in ‘the real world.’”
I know I felt the subtle pull of other’s opinions when I left the workplace in spite of my business degree and the wealth of experience I’d gotten throughout my 20’s. I just couldn’t face sending my little one off to have someone else care for her. Even so, my experience was different when my third girl entered our lives. Before she was three years old, due to our financial situation- I was forced into the workplace and had to put her in daycare. According to Weber, in that circumstance, “…work in addition to mothering, never in lieu of mothering.”
My favorite part of The Eternal Mark of a Mom was getting a glimpse into the author’s own experience as a mother. Looking back on her life with her now grown boys, she shared candidly about their lives and her heart to fulfill her vital role in their lives.
As I’ve helped my girls negotiate various stages in their young lives, this book spoke to me when Weber described the child’s life experience as the lines of a picture, with a mom having the power to provide colors to fill those images with richer life. No condemnation for not having done everything right thus far- just an opportunity to gain a better understanding of how I can best fill in those hues with the choices I make going forward. There are some things I would do differently for sure, however, there are also things that I would never, ever change.
Scrubbing with all I’ve got, the cereal eventually comes off of the bowl, and I feel encouraged and blessed- in spite of the clutter that sometimes grows – to have the opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the lives of my daughters. Thanks for the encouragement, Linda.