I was a great Mama till I had kids of my own.
Exactly two years ago, I walked away from a well-paying, stable job with vacation and insurance and benefits and retirement to become a full time stay at home Mama.
It ranks in my top five life-defining moments, along with the birth of my boys and marrying RJ (both times).
While I was working, I was a Mama, but I don't feel like I was doing much real parenting. With a 50 +/- hour work week, I felt like the time I was with the kids was largely spent on maintaing basic life functions, like baths and food. My day or days off each week were a flurry of laundry and errands and grocery shopping, just to get our family prepared to make it through to the next day off.
Then I jumped in with both feet to a full-time stay at home Mama gig, and truth be told, I found out the hard way just how difficult it is to be a reasonably good Mama.
I used to be the person who would smugly judge people with crying kids in restaurants and stores, absolutely certain that would never be MY kid. I thought baby leashes and cabinet locks were for lazy parents who didn't pay attention. Then I had kids of my own, and I started to realize this whole parenting business was a whole HELL of a lot harder than anything I had ever done in my life. But somehow, slowly, oh so slowly over the last two years, I've started to get a clue about this whole Mama business. I'm by no means finished learning. But I do know a couple things about how I'm raising my boys.
I know that it's important to talk walks and pick blackberries and play pretend and make crafts and go to the park and fly kites and blow bubbles and play with the water hose and watch movies and laugh with them on a daily basis.
I also know that this is only about 10% of my job.
It's the fun stuff. But it's not by any means all of it.
I know that what I teach them about how to act and interact will be with them the rest of their lives. I know that teaching zj to do the laundry is a skill his wife will thank me for someday. I know that teaching them to be respectful to each other, and to us, and to strangers, and to themselves, is something that will form their sense of self-worth. I know that teaching them limits when I need to, then letting them run free when I can, will help turn them into adults who know how to enjoy life without stealing the joy from someone else's.
I know that hard work is a trait RJ and I both value, so it should be important to them, too. I know that they are learning - every day - how to fit into something larger than just themselves, and that by putting an emphasis on our family, they are learning how to have their own someday.
I know that by actively nurturing my marriage, even if it means they get dropped off at the sitter's so RJ and I can have date night from time to time, they will learn that it's important to work on relationships instead of just being in one and expecting it to work. And whenever RJ and I don't agree on something, I know that they can see that there are good ways of resolving issues when the goal is as important as keeping your family running smoothly.
I know that it's important to listen to them when they have something to say, even if it's a 14 minute recap of a 15 minute cartoon, or the excruciating details of a certain superhero's costume, because if they know that I listen now to what's important to them, they'll feel like they can talk to me about anything at all as they grow up.
I know that it's important to say yes when I can, and important to say no when I should, because even though they are the center of MY world, they need to know that they are not the center of THE world.
I know that it's important to let them win sometimes when we play games so that they can learn to be gracious winners, and I know that it's just as important to let them lose, because being a gracious loser is just as important.
I know that it's important to teach them that they're special, oh so special, but so is everyone else, and their needs and wants and wishes cannot always take precedence over everyone else's.
I know that when I snap at them or get frustrated at them that they will forgive me much quicker than I forgive myself, and I know that when they act like active little boys and make me crazy sometimes that this, like everything else, is just a chapter and that I shouldn't keep trying to skip forward to the next one.
I know that it's ok to let them see me as the imperfect, flawed person that I am, and I know that it's ok that they have flaws of their own.
And most importantly I know that I DON'T know it all, and I never will, but every day I will try to teach them something important, or silly, or meaningful, and every day I will try to learn just a little bit more about how to do this job of being their Mama.