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Moms Need a Grace Period

There’s a list of shortcomings that some mothers carry around in their heads. For a semi-empty nester and work-from-home mom, that list may be rooted in the fact that she spent a large portion of her kids’ childhoods finding ways to ignore her children so she could work.

Each mom’s list is unique and full of items with flashbacks that might be elicited by reading a random social media post, seeing a ten-year-old memory pop up on Facebook, or flipping through a middle school yearbook that she paid thirty bucks for ten years ago and doesn’t even remember seeing in her home.

Depending on the mom, the items on the list might remain a mystery, unless she starts ranting about them on the phone with a sister, or in a parenting column for a trusted family-lifestyle magazine. 

Some of the items on my list:

• I have been a class parent only once.

• I never chaperoned a high school dance.

• I attended exactly two PTA meetings after elementary school.

• My daughters didn’t do Girl Scouts because I hated it when I was a kid.

• I didn’t pre-read any of the books my overachieving children read.

• Math help (of any kind) was not happening.

• I was glad when my oldest daughter didn’t make it for the high school play.

• The only thing I disliked more than taking my kids into a grocery store was using the self-checkout aisle with them.

• I considered applesauce or a handful of chips an acceptable side with dinner.

• I didn’t like having other people’s kids over for dinner.

• I never really tried to understand how Model UN worked.

• I never figured out my way around my children’s middle schools, high schools, or colleges.

• Swim team was not happening.

• I did not establish a regular system of chores at our house.

Over the holidays, a friend of mine with a preschooler shared the antics of their family’s Elf on the Shelf on Instagram. Her little guy was enthralled watching this adventure series unfold every day in his home. What the heck would that Elf get up to next? It wore me out just looking at her posts. It warmed my heart seeing how happy this effort made her son. Also, I thanked God we missed the Elf on the Shelf boat. 

A few weeks ago, another young parent I know posted about her plan to rotate her toddler’s toys. I chuckled when I saw this because I, too, devised a plan for rotating toys for my kids. I remember carefully categorizing toys and packing up a few boxes. I do not remember, however, getting the boxes out of storage and rotating those toys into our family room. They might still be in the closet. Maybe my one-day grandkids will appreciate them!

When my kids were in elementary school, during the month of March, moms were out there setting leprechaun traps, trashing their homes (okay, turning over a chair or two), and stenciling tiny green foot prints around the house that led to a pot of gold. Are people still doing this? If yes, more power to you. Never tried it.

Coming clean about the items on my list now should neither be considered an apology nor an admission of guilt. In fact, just putting them out there feels like therapy if I’m honest. I know in my heart that my kids have turned into the thoughtful, compassionate, and independent young people they are today because I worked throughout their childhoods, often left them to solve their own problems, and like I said way up there in the first paragraph, sometimes tried really hard to ignore them.  

Man, these are some challenging times. As you may know, my women-children are in their twenties – two in college and one out on her own. I can’t imagine my state of mind right now if my kids were school-aged and home with me all day and every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t stop and say a prayer for all the moms, dads, and teachers out there trying to take one day at a time and keep it together. And parents who are teachers get extra love. Please grant yourself some grace. Perhaps you should get started on your list. 

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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