Or How I Learned to Embrace my Inner Crazy
I am a woman and a mother, and a child who harbors a dark secret. I am also crazy. Now well into my fifties, this is not a recent phenomenon, but one brought on by childbirth (whether my own or my children’s is subject to debate).
Just as my mother before me and her mother before, I have learned this terrible secret about myself and have done my best to mitigate collateral damage. Mother to two beautiful daughters just seventeen months apart, I found myself not prepared for the chaotic environment of raising children. At work, I was confident, organized and in control. At home, I failed miserably in balancing the needs of my young daughters with the demands of running a household.
Faced with choosing one or the other, I was prone to opt for the tyranny of urgent household requirements over the tender emotional needs of my girls. I too often dealt with this frustration through self-expression, my feelings paraded out for public display. After, there was always the inevitable regret and apologies; at least I could be responsible and not blame my little ones for my behavior. “That’s o.k., mommy,” I would hear as I vowed it would never happen again (which as we all know, was not exactly the truth).
For years, I tried to keep this shameful secret to myself. No other mother was as crazy as I. Maybe my images of mothers came from those reruns of Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver – starched dress, heels, apron tied with the perfect bow.
Other mothers cheerfully rose in the morning, exercised and dressed, their charges ready for school well on time with no lost or soiled clothing to worry about. Breakfast was full, hot, and hearty, and the time their precious children spent sitting at the kitchen table consuming that balanced, nourishing meal was used reviewing every item and permission slip needed for school. There were no raised voices, no sibling spats that included things like throwing grape juice on your sister’s last clean school uniform when you were already running late (for the third time that week).
Other mothers spent the six hours after lovingly bidding their children goodbye joyfully engaged in housework, then welcomed them home to the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Theirs was the home that would pass the most stringent white glove inspection; cleanliness is next to Godliness and all that. Once her precious children were home and had finished snacking on warm cookies and ice cold milk, she would have a craft prepared (never creating a mess), before inviting her budding chefs to join her in the kitchen to cook a delicious dinner (never frustrated at spills or missteps). Dishes done, it was homework time. Her children loved homework as it gave them the opportunity to spend such quality time with their parents who were so knowledgeable in all the core subjects, regardless of how many years had passed since they were in fifth grade.
Of course, there were extra-curricular activities – after all these were exceptionally rounded and intelligent children. These were well-planned and incorporated seamlessly into the humming enterprise that was that other mother’s domestic empire.
I, on the other hand, presided over what I considered barely controlled chaos showing a gift for picking the wrong battles and finding unique ways to mortify our dear girls. Our home was, well, home, with its share of dirty dishes, laundry, and dusty surfaces. I was unable to guide our oldest through ninth grade math, and my craft skills were very suspect. More than once I found myself saying something I thought was innocuous only to face not two, but three family members staring at me like I had gone over the proverbial cliff. Somehow, though, they survived. Not only did they survive, they thrived. One day it dawned on me. I was crazy. And I was loved as surely as I loved our daughters. The only person who had expected perfection all these years was me.
These days I find crazy mothers everywhere. The other day I was talking with my dentist (which, as you know, is a difficult feat when you’re in the dentist’s chair with your mouth propped open). She shared a precious story of her son and their shared emotional trauma of getting him to clean his room. The tipping point for her involved a stuffed monkey and the overhead fan. I won’t go into the details, but yes it was hysterical. I understood perfectly and we enjoyed a good (and healing) laugh.
What is perfect is that I have been blessed with a husband and children and God’s grace has covered us all. Our girls are now grown, the youngest on the cusp of graduating from college, just a year after her sister. We’re close, in a shared crazy kind of way. We laugh a lot, often at ourselves. People ask after them, and I’m proud to say they’re doing well. Often the response will be, “That’s because they’ve had good parenting.” I smile because I know the truth. “Isn’t God good?” I respond, knowing that even crazy moms fit into His plan.