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Motherhood Moments

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Yesterday, a 2-minute online video gave me 24 hours of angst. The film, an ode to motherhood, documents moments in a typical mom’s day: placing a hat on a small head, giving a bath, going on an outing, meal prep, comforting a sick child, rocking a baby to sleep. It’s set to cinematic music, shot in low light with images evoking the cozy feeling of closeness between the mothers and their children. It honors the selflessness of motherhood and it’s lovely – the kind of thing that reminds you how wonderful and special it is to be a mom.

Then I read that the filmmaker made it as a “thank you to stay-at-home parents.” I don’t think he said this to slight working parents in any way, but with that sentence my working mom psyche was tied in knots.

I spend far less time with my children than I would if I stayed home. I don’t sit and ponder this fact too often because (a) I don’t think I should feel guilty for having a career, and (b) I try not to dwell on things that will not soon change. But after watching this video I felt guilty and sad. My missed moments – not our shared ones – were glaring at me. Through this lens my experience of motherhood seemed to be lacking. We don’t have days full of intimate simple lovely experiences, I lamented to myself. We have the hectic times before school and before bed. There’s less warm fuzzy, more stressed yelling. (Our family-centered weekends were overlooked during my harsh self-reflection.) I couldn’t put it out of my mind, and I was quite depressed by the time I went to bed.

And then I woke up today, and I opened the shades in A’s room and gently smoothed her hair. I pulled my smiling brand-new-day toddler out of his crib as early sunlight streamed into his warm bedroom and I kissed his toes while I changed his diaper. I served breakfast and packed lunches and zipped winter coats. I wiped a runny nose. I walked my kids to school. We laughed together at a joke N made. I watched the leaves falling around us and felt the warmth of A’s hand in mine as she balanced on a sidewalk ledge.  And then it hit me: if a filmmaker shot these images and set them to music it would look really beautiful. Indeed, it IS really beautiful.

And so my funk dissolved as quickly as it began. I do miss a lot of things because I’m a working mom. I have to admit that and own it because it’s a choice that I’ve made. And yes, at times, I wish it was different. But I’m no less of a mother because of it. Sweet and simple shared moments fill our lives too. Every single day. Perhaps I need to be more conscious of these moments, make an attempt to be more present to cultivate more appreciation for them. But today I see that my motherhood is not lacking. How could something so full of love and blessings and joy be insufficient? [Cue poignant music and close-up of me in the middle of a 3-kid group hug.]

A secret weapon

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Last month on vacation in lovely Kennebunk, Maine, we ate once again at a fun little place called The Ramp in Cape Porpoise. (I highly recommend it for their lobster roll and blueberry cobbler.) We had planned to get there early to preempt a long wait and hunger-induced freak-outs. But, despite our best intentions, there we were getting seated at 6:30 and the kids were on the verge, particularly little JB, who had eaten the last of my diaper bag Cheerios hours ago at the beach. We were able to occupy the older two with menu decisions and the decor – the room is packed with old sports and politics paraphernalia. And right in front of the hungry and cranky toddler was his recently-discoverd piece de resistance: ketchup. Within moments there was a whine rising in his throat, his arms outstretched, eyes hopeful. So, I did it. I squeezed ketchup into his bowl and presented him with an appetizer. The big kids thought it was hilarious that I was letting him eat a bowl of ketchup. Everyone was suddenly happy, the mood lighthearted and conspiratorial. JR and I virtually high-fived ourselves. After a few refills (yes, I allowed him not one, but 3 “servings”), our salads and entrees arrived, and he moved on. At the end of the meal, two women in their 70’s stopped by our table to commend us on how well behaved our children were. One of them asked, “What’s your secret?”.  Only after they left the room did I answer honestly: ketchup.

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