What Do I Have to Show for a Year as a Mom?

My husband decided to begin the New Year by watching a slideshow of the past year so the kids could see what they’ve accomplished, where they’ve been, how they’ve grown.

The year’s opportunities, adventures, and stories did not disappoint: beach trips, a 40th birthday, the Atlanta aquarium, zoos, camping, Hershey Park, the Amish countryside, horseback riding.

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The Atlanta Aquarium

The scariest moment? On a bike trip, I watched my speeding son fly over his handlebars. Motherly instinct set in, the one that told me not to panic, to not gag when I saw a bloody mess under his shirt, to be strong when the bandage later became one with his scab.

Our year was filled with many small moments and firsts that added up to big things for our young kids: a better basketball season, an overnight trip without us parents, new glasses, lost teeth, spelling bee success, slumber parties, acing spelling tests.

As I watched a year of their young lives flicker by—baby faces transform even more into those of kids masking bigger problems, deeper emotions—I saw glimpses into unknown futures that I dreamed of when my children were nothing more than strange movements in my round belly.

But for all of the joys, victories, and triumphs of the year, I also saw something missing. Me. As my kids get older and do things on their own merit, how does a mother measure up? Most days, I’m the cheerleader, the coach, the teacher, the pusher, but my kids do all the work. From year to year, what is there to show for what I’ve done? When you’re a stay-at-home mom, the loads of laundry, clean toilets, nightly meals, and clean sheets don’t make the cut into the year’s highlights. After-school meltdowns, sex talks, and the truth about Santa don’t quite have heartwarming memories to fill slideshows.

Sure, pictures of the birthday table show off my confetti sandwich cookies. The Lord of the Rings Halloween costume my husband and I made for my son—that I swore he wouldn’t wear at the last minute—did meet his expectations. Of course, I had to make Gimli’s beard twice.

But as a person, I don’t have much to show from 2012. Some pay stubs from freelance work. A house where the cleanliness ebbs and flows like the tide on any given day. Stacks of magazines still wait to be riffled through, just like last January when I swore I’d get to them. I’ve added new recipes to our repertoire, but they haven’t made mealtimes any smoother or the family any more agreeable.magstack

It’s hard as a parent sometimes to not have a team to make or a test grade to show your worth. I get no job performance reviews each year, and the feedback I do get often comes in shouts of anger followed by a slammed door. When my kids hurt and come to me, they still hurt when the crying is over but maybe a little less. I can’t solve my kids’ problems the way I could solve a client’s. If I make a suggestion, it’s the sure route not taken. The fine line between manipulation and real pain is hard for me to gauge sometimes, so I dangerously let myself get pulled across it. Many days, I don’t know where I stand in my parenting job but I know at the end of the day, I just want a drink or a chocolate or to climb into bed and hide hoping I’ll get it right tomorrow.

I guess as a parent you trudge along from year to year and never really know how you’re doing, but you do it anyway. As a mom, I never quite know where mothering ends and I begin. In time, I guess we’ve become the same person.

The only thing I am certain of is that mothering is somehow the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s not measured in time. One hug or smile, one simple moment makes being the mom behind it all worth it.

41 Comments

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41 responses to “What Do I Have to Show for a Year as a Mom?

  1. I get your writings all the time. Relate to you in so many ways on this one. Perfectly put.

  2. I really loved this because of the honesty and I agree, I would think being a mother is both rewarding, and on certain days it can be the one where you want that piece of chocolate and to wake up the next day to try again.

  3. Amazing post. Well put and totally agree.

  4. I love this! It is so true!

  5. Weirdly, you have just described my house: “A house where the cleanliness ebbs and flows like the tide on any given day.” Today is high tide here…

    I agree entirely with your post – and I guess we don’t know whether we’ve done a good job or not until it’s too late to do anything differently…?

    Happy New Year :) x

    • Yeah, I think that’s the hard part. We won’t know much until all is said and done, bags are packed, kids are out, right? Some days I have a hard time with that. Some days I just can’t care! ;)

  6. Wow, yeah. Just yeah. I truly could not put it any better.

  7. i think i agree and i’m also now a little depressed.

  8. I don’t think you can separate yourself from your mom-ness. And I don’t think I’d want you to. :)

  9. Funny thing…you’ll understand how vital you were, and what a good job you did, when they move away. Their lives become little reflections of the values and ideas and dreams that you helped to shape.

    • I think I know that, but I think the payoff being so far down the road is, well, unfair! But at this point in their lives, it’s also a pretty thankless job and some days I get a lot of reminders of that. ;) As you related in your post, it’s winter.

  10. I can certainly relate to this post. Like momshieb said above, I like to think what we do now shapes the adults our kids will become and the world will be so much better for it.

  11. Annetta Bartle

    Perfectly said!!

  12. It is a hard thing to admit to, that feeling of measure or lack there of in the parenting world. I like having something to show for all my hard work and you are right when you say that the numerous meals cooked, laundry loads washed, and toilets cleaned just seem to fall flat sometimes. Right now my kids are still at the age where I am more actively needed than not but when that tipping point comes it will be a tough one for me.

    In the end it is the smiles, the hugs, the excited “mom, mom, come look at this!” that fill my heart and make it all worth while.

  13. Thanks for this. My little ones are only 18 months and 4.5 but I was just thinking about this today. I once heard it said that to be content as a mom you must “embrace selflessness.” :)

  14. this post rings true for me as well. the older the kids get their needs change–it’s learning where the middle ground of independence and dependence. also, i have to remember to not forget myself and do things that i would like to do and learn and be. i’m getting there too.

    • Yes, I think that’s part of it. The kids get busier and I do tend to forget myself sometimes, or at least I can’t figure out what it is I want to do. During those early years, we are so consumed. Now I’m just used and abused some days as independence takes hold. Maybe this is pre-pre-empty nest. ;)

  15. Your Job Performance Review – YOU totally ROCK as a mom, a coach, a cheerleader, and everything in between.

  16. Truth is, mothering IS me now, even when the kids are grown and gone. Probably you too. All I do now — my fun, my hobbies — are tied to the children of the world in some way. “Mother” may very well be the highest calling I have ever answered. And to think we actually decided at one point NOT to have kids…

    • I agree with that but I think I’m ready to expand too. When the kids are teens and beyond, I’ll need a life and I think I’m naturally starting to feel that progression now as they move ahead and need me less. Some days I feel like a kid wondering what I’ll be when I grow up–the second time around.

  17. Well said! For me, looking at pictures of the past year almost (almost, but not quite) feels like a pat on the back. We need a mom medal of honor, don’t we? It is amazing how much of our identity is changed by them. You are an awesome mom and you are writing about it which is so cool. My hope is my kids will look back at my blog and be like, “My mom really rocks.” I am sure yours will do the same. :)

  18. This morning, my almost 16-year-old got up on his own after his alarm went off, shaking the house. I thought to myself “finally he gets it. Winning!” Sometimes marking these milestones in our head is really enough.

    • Ha! I look at that comment and think, “Hmm. It never ends, does it?” ;) I know what you mean though. Small triumphs like that are cause for celebration after so many years!

  19. Motherhood, like teaching, does not have many tangible rewards. But the intangible ones are oh so worth it.

  20. Hershey Park….Oh how I miss the joys of the East Coast: Amish Country, The Delaware Beaches and Cape Cod in the summer, Sweetle’s cookies in the autumn, season changes I can understand and picking apples.
    I always wanted to take my son to Dutch Wonderland, but I can’t see spending a day doing that now if I’d have to forfeit part of a family visit to do it…

  21. Beautiful post. You eloquently captured the thoughts, hopes and aches of this mom. While motherhood is my most rewarding job, I also wish I had a metric to gauge my progress (and sometimes a less surly/whiney cheering section!). I am a mom and so much more. Now that some of the all consuming parts of raising my kids are behind me, the “so much more” parts need some breathing room and nourishment. I hope I remember how!

  22. Cassi with Tennessee Posh

    I wholeheartedly agree with you!

  23. I know exactly what you mean–I have no eloquent way to say that. It’s just completely true. Great post.

  24. Thank you for sharing. Beautifully written.

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