A cheering season: when being a mom isn’t enough

trunk and ivy via kimberlyanncoyle.com

My kid wanted to buy me a magnetic bumper sticker that said, “No money, No time, No life: My kid plays (insert your sport of choice).” He thought it was funny and also, absolutely true. My other kid wanted to buy me a magnet of a guinea pig with a lacrosse stick in its mouth, which I politely refused. My husband ended up buying one that said something about “giving blood” by playing lacrosse, to which I said, amen. I don’t have to play a sport to have it drain the lifeblood out of me. Magnets aside, most days, I love it.

The kids and I chatted about it yesterday, and I told them how blessed I am to have the time and flexibility to attend all of their games, stock up on their equipment, wash their dirty uniforms, and cheer them on. I worry that my occasional complaints about maintaining this kind of schedule implies that I resent their activities. Occasionally, I do resent it, but for the most part, this is what parenting is about for me–showing up and cheering from the sidelines. I’m really, really good at it.

I felt pretty great about myself for about 3.5 seconds until my son turned to me and said, “The bumper sticker is true. You don’t really have a life of your own. You live my life.” On hearing this, my mouth flew open, but nothing came out. When my speech was finally restored, I tried to bluster my way past this ridiculous statement, and quell the rising anger/tears/homicidal thoughts. This comes on the heels of a rather unfortunate incident in which my husband told my daughter to clean up a mess she left in the kitchen. In a voice full of sincerity, she said, “Why can’t mom do it? She’s not doing anything.”

Jesus, take the wheel because this mama is careening towards a head-on collision.

I haven’t stopped thinking about my kids’ words since. One of them wrote an apology letter, and from this I quote, “Even though her children may not deserve it, a mom accommodates to her child’s every need. We don’t realize what it would be like without a mom to be there for us every day of the agonizingly stressful week.”  Apparently, this kid inherited some of my flair for the dramatic, along with a rather twisted perspective on how I view my week. These words, along with a few other recent life happenings, set off an internal maelström.

I saw a post called “Why being a mom is enough” making the rounds recently. I couldn’t bring myself to read it, although I’m sure it’s filled with lovely and sincere thoughts. I may be guessing at the content based on the title, but in my kid-induced crazy state, I don’t need to be reminded of something I’m not sure I believe any more. I don’t think being a mom is enough. I don’t think being a wife is enough either. I spend most of myself–my time, my energy, my heart–standing on the sidelines, while my family expends all of themselves in doing something worth watching. I’ve watched my kids excel at academics, at sports, at friendships. I’ve watched my husband excel at his career, graduate school, and every last one of his hobbies (of which there are many). I have cheered and cheered and cheered until my throat is sore and my hands are numb.

Sometimes, I just want someone to stand on the sidelines and cheer me on too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments. They create hand-made signs and they stand at the finish line and they ask to hold my marathon medals. They ask about my writing and they say a prayer for me and they wish me well when they leave for All The Important Things in the morning. But these are only moments, and I find myself longing for an occasional role reversal, for a Cheering on Mom Season. I want my children to reject the idea that a woman’s life is only important as it relates to her husband or children. Instead of raising up children who believe a mom’s role is to live vicariously through her family, or “survive the agonizingly stressful week”, I want them to see the fullness of a woman–her abilities, her ministry, her inner beauty. I want them to say, “Wow, look at Mom’s crazy, beautiful life! How lucky are we? We are still the biggest and brightest part of it!”

………………………………..

I realize I might be stepping on some toes here, but I’m sharing what’s true for me in this season. I’d never presume this is true for you too. Are you ready for a Mom’s Cheering Season or do you find yourself quite content to cheer your people on from the sidelines? There are no right or wrong answers:)

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  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Oh, Kimberly. I got a book out of the library recently, probably similar to that blog post you referred to, although from the other end of the spectrum and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack after about 20 minutes of reading. It just stirred up too much dust, too much anger/fear/resentment. I just got back from a two-day retreat and I’m so grateful for the ways my family released me and supported me through my two-year training program, but I’m also hungry for more. I’m trying to take some practical steps toward teaching my kids independence and I’m so thankful that my husband’s so fully supportive. May your discontentment and your desire be your guide. (BTW, we read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey” at the retreat, do you know it?)

    • http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com KimberlyCoyle

      I have one of Oliver’s books at my bedside. I’ll look it up:) And I love how you say you’re hungry for more–that’s exactly the feeling. Hungry for life, kids and all.

  • Jenn MySquareInch

    I haven’t read the post called “Why being a mom is enough”. But I agree with you. It isn’t enough for me. I want to be known for me, not for how I washed clothes, or picked up after my family. Two things that have helped me is being passionate about my own hobbies and teaching my kids to be more independent. My daughter asked me for a snack and I handed her a granola bar that she unwrapped and threw in the floor. When I told her to pick it up and throw it away she said “That’s your job, you’re the Mom”. We had a life change right then. Now she cleans her own room and her bathroom. I’m a person not a maid.
    PS. She is much more appreciative of all I do now!

    • http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com KimberlyCoyle

      “We had a life change right then” Love it:) I’ve had a number of those life changing moments over the years. My kids are older and independent too, but for some reason that mindset of Mom as maid still seems to stick! It’s nice to know another mom can relate.

  • http://www.susanellen.blogspot.com/ Susan Harms

    Yesterday my husband announced that he had a mother, and “this
    woman here,” he said to the boys, “is your mother, not mine. Sunday is mother’s
    day. I’ll be getting something for my mother, and it’s your job to do something
    for yours.” My heart sank. I understand where he is coming from, and he is
    right. But, seriously? They are teenage boys!!!! He’s never done this before… And
    on to the sidelines I go. My oldest has a soccer tournament this weekend, so
    that is where I will be on Mother’s Day. On the sidelines, cheering.

    As a side note, best card I ever received was from a dear
    friend that gave ME a birthday card on my son’s birthday, in honor of me giving
    birth to him and surviving however many years he was at the time. She also told
    me what a wonderful job was doing. Blessed my heart beyond measure.

    Loved your post Kimberly, I would not have read that post either.

    • http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com KimberlyCoyle

      I begged my kids to not buy me a single thing. My only request is that they get along. All day. I think I might be asking the impossible. And what an amazing friend you have there! She’s a keeper!

  • Rachel Martin

    Hey, I appreciate your words. They’re truly great. I’m the author of the post, “Why Being a Mom is Enough” and want you to know that my biggest passion is of cheering moms on. In fact, that’s the heart behind the article and also a passion of mine. The article was about not comparing one self to another, but that in realizing that it’s the little things that matter in the scheme of motherhood. I’m all about empowering women, encouraging them to be their best, and in the middle of motherhood years not forgetting about self.

    And my heart? I’m a writer, an author, and I own my own business. And I’m a mom. Because you know, it’s truly important that our kids see us thrive as well.

    So rock on supermom. I’m there with you.

    Rachel

    • http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com KimberlyCoyle

      Hi Rachel! Thanks so much for commenting. I think you are the most gracious person on the internet, truly:) I love that you are fighting back against the comparison game and cheering moms on in whatever stage they find themselves. My post was meant to share my (overly sensitive?) reaction to the feelings the title conjured up for me. I didn’t link to it because I didn’t want my words to come across as a criticism. I only wanted to write what is true for me, right now. Thank you for being so kind, and for caring enough to share the heart behind your words. Here’s to thriving together as moms. Rock on, indeed!