Monday, February 05, 2007

I'm Giving June Cleaver the Bird

And I don't mean a perfectly roasted, golden-brown turkey on a silver platter.

Did I ever tell you about the time I stopped trying to be a perfect mom and began learning how to actually be a mother and more importantly, how to be myself?

Toward the end of 2002, while I was pregnant with Mashuga, I suffered an almost complete breakdown -- a quarter-life crisis if you will. I realized that I had spent the past five years of my life trying to be the "perfect Mormon mom and wife". I faced up to the fact that I just wasn't cutting it. And I started to tell myself the truth. I was sick of it. I was utterly finished with feeling inferior because I didn't smile as I buffed the kitchen floor or decorate my house with flowers and pastels. I was done with feeling guilty because I didn't always speak softly or enjoy every moment of motherhood.

I realized that I had completely lost touch with the vibrant, messy, passionate woman named Heather that I once knew. The person I'd become -- the vacant-eyed, simmering "Stepford-wife" with the artificial smile -- sickened and frightened me. It was sobering. I had no identity of my own. I was my children's mother, my husband's wife, but nothing that I could honestly call "Heather".

One day, while I sat on the couch crying out my frustration over my complete lack of desire and ability to be the "perfect mom", I had one of those 2X4 moments. (You know, those ideas that hit you across the face like a 2X4). I realized that God had sent each of my children to ME. Furthermore, If God had intended for all children to be raised in exactly the same, perfect-cookie-cutter way, he would have just made perfect-cookie-cutter-June-Cleaver-mom-models for all the children of the world. Forget this crap-shoot of hoping that every variation of woman would somehow, someday figure out how to fit the mommy-mold.

My children didn't need a cross between June Cleaver and Mother Theresa. They needed ME, in all my glory and all my mess, with all my contradictions. My authentic self was the perfect fit to be their mother.

Then I began laughing wildly. How had this never occurred to me?

Trust me. My children were worried about me.

But my life changed in that moment.

Sloiwly, I recognized that the ideals I held were unattainable and therefore ridiculous.

I started writing again. I let my soul pour forth in poetry once more. At least once a week, I'd leave the kids with JDub and take my laptop to the library for hours.

I made goals and started on the path to becoming a doula and a Birthing From Within Mentor.

I introduced my children to real music -- jazz, emo/punk, rock, country, classical, celtic, show-tunes. And I refused to insert the “Down on Grandpa’s Farm” tape into the car radio EVER AGAIN.

I read "evil feminist literature" from the likes of Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir and Gloria Steinem and *gasp* actually agreed with a lot of what they had to say.

In short, I began to unearth my authentic self. I remembered what good company she'd always been.

As my sense of who I am has blossomed over the last four years, I've been able to see each of my children as their own authentic individuals. I’ve begun to release some of the responsibility I feel to shape them into a pre-conceived picture of perfection. I've realized that, ultimately, I have little control over who my children will be. I've stopped giving myself wholly to their every possible whim and need, stopped eating myself alive every time I make a mistake.

And I enjoy them SO much more.

I’ve given myself permission to let our family life be messy sometimes. My children will learn a lot of forgiveness and love and patience from my example. But they will learn just as much from practice -- when I serve cold cereal for dinner three nights in a row, when I am 30 minutes late to pick them up from school, when I say “uh-huh” one too many times in a conversation and they realize that I haven’t really been listening, when I yell at them one minute then hug them and apologize the next.

It’s been a long process, but I’m slowly, slowly letting go of that picture of “perfect mom” that I tried for so many years to live up to. I’m listening to my heart and flipping up my ever-lovin’ Scottish kilt to moon the world when it tries to tell me that my instincts are wrong.

Vacuuming in pearls and heels may have been blissful for June Cleaver, but it’s most certainly not for me.


Duchess said...


Heather, it's moms like you that give me hope that I might just cut it in that oh so frightning world called motherhood.

Edge said...

Awesome, Heather. Just awesome. You've put it into words so beautifully. Perhaps this is the threshold of the labyrinth again?

Heather said...

Duches -- I know you'd be a fabulous mother, Simply because of who you are. And you've always done such a beautiful job at being you.

Edge - My life is most definitely labyrinthine right now. Still wandering the depths and finding all sorts of surprises.

Derrick said...

Do you mind if I show that to Kendra?

Heather said...

Derrick, absolutely you can.

You're a writer. I don't send this stuff out into the world hoping that others WON'T read it.:)

brightonwoman said...

Amen. Me too. :-)


Anonymous said...

I ran across your article while searching for a photo of Mrs. Cleaver. I loved your writing style and your message.

I'm a single dad raising a nine-year old daughter. My aspirations as a songwriter have been on hold through more than a dozen years of a stressful and ultimately failed marriage.

Your thoughts have inspired me. You've have set me free from feeling I have to be my own 1950's mom and dad wrapped into one. Thanks!