When I left my job fourteen years ago to stay home with our first born son, I was determined not to become the stereotypical stay-at-home-mom. There would be no soap operas and lounging on the sofa for me. I would not be running errands in my sweats covered with baby food stains and no make-up.
Armed with the skills I accrued during my ten years of working in the corporate world as an assistant to various financial executives and all of the parenting books one person could read, I set out to be my ideal of the modern educated stay-at-home-mom.
As if my first born was just a small version of the executives I once worked for, I began scheduling our days with stimulating and educational activities.
(Feel free to take a minute to laugh or make fun of me right now, I completely understand.)
Tom and I took our first enrichment class when he was about seven months old. We started with a baby swim class, followed by a gym/swim class, then a play gym class, and several mommy-and-me classes.
It’s never too early to instill a love of the environment, and that led us to do two sessions of “wee-sprouts” at a local ecological center. We rounded this out with several Gymboree classes as well as several mother-and-child music classes. This was all before he started preschool at three.
Since my son had some speech and motor delays, he also started receiving early intervention services at home a few months before he turned two. Each week, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist would meet with him two times apiece for a total of six weekly sessions.
For “fun” we went to two different play groups each week, and had a host of play dates with age appropriate children.
On our, “down time,” I structured our play to include the activities I read about in parenting magazines and books. I made petting zoos out of stuffed animals, puppets out of paper bags, and set up sensory games with shaving cream and dried beans. We also read lots of books and sang a wide variety of songs.
I’m not going to lie, we did watch our share of Nick Jr. and PBS children programing. In my defense they were always deemed educational and age appropriate. I even managed to have a second baby at the recommended spacing of three years.
Boy was I dumb.
I’m surprised somebody didn’t plan an intervention, perhaps luring me with the promise of a parenting seminar and then holding me in a room while more experienced mothers pounded some sense into my head.
Tom’s physical therapist did comment once that he had never seen a more scheduled two year old, but I foolishly took this as a compliment.
As it turned out, I got my intervention. I had more children. All my carefully scheduled activities went out the window when our daughter, Lizzy, was born. By the time our youngest, Peter, was added to the mix my master plan had become something my friends and I laughed about.over coffee in our baby food stained clothes.
The crazier our life got the more I had to let go. Instead of going to formal classes, Peter and I counted fruit and vegetables as we went to the market. We sang songs while we drove Lizzy to pre-school, or read a story while we waited for Tom’s school bus. Fun became a natural part of our day, not something I needed to schedule.
Motherhood is messy, hectic, confusing, and frustrating. It’s also a lot of fun. By letting go of my need to do mothering perfectly I became the mom my kids needed me to be. Not anywhere near perfect, but perfect for them.
Authors note: This is an updated version of an essay titled, Best Laid Plans that was published on the dishwasher April 17, 2011.