The Politics of Parenthood

I hate politics. I teach Social Studies, and I really do want my students to have interesting discussions about relevant current topics, but when seventh graders start talking politics, I’m done. It’s too depressing to hear twelve and thirteen-year-olds, who most likely lack the maturity to formulate their own political beliefs, make bold declarations, repeating with absolute conviction what they read on Facebook or heard at the dinner table. If you’re going to argue about politics, I tell them, check your sources. Make sure you have credible information. Don’t believe everything you hear.

I hate politics because it is a source of division and anger; I seek cohesion and avoid conflict. I hate politics because so many people are so fanatical about it, whereas my nature is to find the kernel of truth and reason on both sides of an issue rather than to claim categorically that my side is “right”. Most of all, I hate it because it has turned me cynical. Who can feel good about showing up at the polls to vote for what they see as the lesser of two evils? There’s something terribly wrong with the position in which the current political system has placed moderate voters like me.

But what does any of this have to do with parenting?

As a mother, I think frequently about the type of world I want my daughters to inhabit, the types of experiences I want them to have, the type of people I want them to be. Since becoming a parent, my politics have changed. What I want for my children doesn’t fit onto one side of a political T-chart.

I hope they will be compassionate and without judgment toward others who need assistance with food, shelter, or employment.  I hope that they will tread softly on our earth and seek ways to protect it. As Christians, I hope that they will show kindness and acceptance to all people. I hope that they will spend their money responsibly, never taking on debt that they will have to struggle to repay. I pray that, whoever my precious girls become, their country will continue to protect their pursuit of happiness.

I am trying my hardest to teach my children to listen more than they talk and value compromise over being “right”. I want them to know that changing their position on an issue is not a sign of weakness, provided that their change of heart is genuine and based on careful examination of different points of view. I want them to speak up in the face of injustice, even if it makes them unpopular. In short, I want them to be the kind of people who I could vote for with a little bit of idealism in my heart that maybe, just maybe, the future really is going to be brighter.

Where Have All the Supermoms Gone?

When it comes to being a mom, the loving and being there for my kids is definitely the easiest part of the deal. It’s all the other stuff, the “extracurriculars”, if you will, that make me feel like I suck.

I grew up in a generation when moms were superheroes. At least mine was. She sewed Halloween costumes and torn pants, made ridiculously good (but not at all good for you) meat loaf and apple pie. She volunteered to be class parent and leader of the Girl Scout troop. She would French braid my hair, even though I complained the entire time about how much it hurt. My mom made homemade play dough and served my friends and I Kool-Aid and popsicles as we lounged on the lawn next to our bicycles. In my house, the cookie jar was always full. Breakfast was almost always a sit-down meal, and cooked to order. She worked the evening shift at the hospital, but when my sisters and I got home after school there was almost always a note with some important detail she needed to impart to us, Love MOM.

Then there’s my husband’s mom, special ed teacher, gardener, expert quilter and scrapbooker, crafter extraordinaire, queen of the casserole, home decorator for all holidays. If I need a pair of pants hemmed I take them to her house. There is very little this woman cannot do.

And then there’s me.

Sewing skills: Maybe a button. Maybe.

Cooking skills: I can follow the recipe on the side of the Barilla lasagna box. Baking generally leaves me disappointed and close to tears. I have recently decided that making my own whipped cream is about as fancy as I will ever get, and I think I only do it to give myself a confidence boost- at least something is homemade!

Volunteering: I’ll leave that to the moms who don’t work full-time, thank you very much.

Crafting: Rare.

Hair Braiding: Every time I try, Maggie rips it out screaming, “It’s not good!” So that doesn’t help my self-esteem.

Home Decorating: My home is “decorated” with random items strewn throughout the house. Currently my bedroom is “decorated” with singing animals, bath toys, a battery-operated guitar shaped like a dog, and a handful of cotton balls.

I want to be a multi-talented, old-timey mom – and I hope the two fantastic women I’ve mentioned don’t take that term personally. It would be awesome if I could throw my daughter a birthday party that looked like it came straight out of Pinterest, or if I didn’t have to troll the picked-over aisles of every store in town for an Elsa Halloween costume, or if I could have an edible dinner on the table each evening when my husband gets home from work. I’m sure, if I could do those things, I would feel very accomplished- and probably even more exhausted and overwhelmed than I already am.

Matt and I grew up with moms that made it look effortless, which gave moms of my generation the unrealistic impression that it should be. So you know what I have to say about your mouthwatering recipes, your sewing machines, and your cute holiday decor? You can keep them… for about fifteen or twenty years, until I have enough time to become a super-woman too. Then you can send them on along my way.