Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Enough is Enough

Memorial Day weekend will mark my seventh anniversary as a blogger. In May 2006, I sat on my brother-in-law's porch swing and scribbled down my very first blog. My daughter, who is now finishing her freshman year of high school, was still in elementary school and had not yet grown to the point of towering over me, and a blog was this new thing I'd just heard about at a writing conference.

I've written many blogs on a variety of sites since then, and in honor of my blogging anniversary, I'll be sprinkling some of my favorites posts among my new posts throughout the month - blogs that still ring true for me now, reminding me that some things remain consistent, even as life changes and children grow taller.

The post below is from August 2008, back before my daughter was too cool for theme days, and back before I actually got to be a stay-at-home mom during the school year. And you know what? My daughter is still good company, and this stay-at-home thing is all I thought it would be.

I have always been a stay-at-home mom wannabe. It caught me by surprise - I expected to want to to back to work after my daughter was born, but as it turned out, that wasn't what I wanted at all. I thought that three months of maternity leave would be enough, but at the end of those three months, I still wanted to stay at home and change the diapers of the child who napped much less often than she was supposed to and stole my heart more completely than I'd expected her to.

My daughter is ten now, and though I like my go-to-work job, those yearnings to be a mom who doesn't work outside of the home haven't gone away. I still want to be the mom who volunteers at the school library, who is available to attend all of the school functions that are scheduled in the middle of the day and who can stay home with my child when she is sick without feeling as though I'm abdicating my work responsibilities.

I'm fortunate to have a hob which gives me summers off, though, so during the summer, I play at being a stay-at-home mom. The truth is, like most stay-at-home moms, I don't stay at home all that much. I run Leah from camp to camp and to the library and to doctor's appointments. I try to find activities that will make the TV less of a magnetic attraction. My daughter is good company, and I find myself wishing this lifestyle lasted more than three months.

Today, Leah's camp had Wacky Wednesday, and as I watched my daughter head into camp in her mildly wacky attire, surrounded by other girls in varying degrees of wackiness, I wondered if just being at home is enough. We'd given consideration to her outfit, but we hadn't turned it into the epitome of wackiness that some kids (and their moms, it appeared) had. I'd had an appointment last night - two, actually - so although we'd discussed the day and laid out some clothes, I hadn't been at home to help her pick out fuzzy hats, furry boas and style her hair in a gravity-defying 'do. Had I done enough? Had I fully dedicated myself to her wackiness?

And should I have? She's at an age where I expect her to take a certain amount of responsibility for herself. After all, it was her Wacky Wednesday and I was merely a consultant. But had I fulfilled that role to the best of my ability?

And in the midst of this wacky introspection, as I was beating myself up for not taking wackiness seriously enough, it came to me. It's not about going to work or staying at home or showing up at PTA meetings or taking our kids to work on the designated day in April. It's about being enough for them. It's about being home with the baby even though she doesn't nap, hanging out with the pre-teen even though she doesn't want to talk, expecting our kids to take responsibility for themselves, but still worrying that we haven't provided enough of a cushion for them when they fall. It's about loving them when we don't much like them, making them do homework even we think is ridiculous and taking them to the library instead of the video arcade. And sometimes, taking them to the video arcade, too, because after all, they're kids.

It's a pretty tricky job description, and one that doesn't travel alone. Being enough for our kids is complicated by other realities of life, such as being enough for ourselves, our spouses, our homes, our families, our employers, our communities...Whether we work inside the home, out of it or both, we're fragmented into so many pieces that it's tough sometimes to remember that the pieces aren't neat bits of mosaic, but instead, overlapping pieces of a collage. Taking care of our homes impacts our families, taking care of our marriages impacts our kids and taking care of ourselves impacts all the rest of it. And so the collage moves and bends, its component parts blending together to create an ever-changing picture.

So when are we enough? According to our kids, probably never, so "enough," like so many other things in parenting has to come when we say so. "Enough" depends on the moment, and varies with our energy levels, our life circumstances, our willingness to let one piece of the collage overtake another. "Enough" is mercurial, elusive, undefined. "Enough" comes for us only when we are satisfied, which means that some days, it may not show up at all.

So was my daughter wacky enough today? Probably. If not, there's always tomorrow. That's the nice thing about enough. What's not enough for this moment may be more than sufficient for the next, and keeping this in mind can make those moments of dissatisfaction easier to bear. 

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