Not a Power Mom

I Wanted to Have the Best Party. But the Reality is, I Have the Best Trash.

This year, tired of the isolation of the pandemic and deeply inspired by the Target dollar spot, I threw an outdoor Valentine’s Party for my children and three girls next door. We filled a table with paint pens and glitter glue and tote bags and zipped pouches for the children to decorate. We had themed snacks and even some decorations. The kids sat for an hour, talking and laughing and making beautiful art. The next day, my neighbor sent me a picture of a puppet her daughter had created with the marker box, a scrap of ribbon, and glitter. I had not even noticed her doing this. When she proudly showed her creation to her mom, the eight-year-old neighbor said, “Mrs. Grizzle has the best trash.” Her girls love coming to our house because they always find large Amazon boxes or an old PVC pipe or our entire recycling bin and go to town. I wanted to have the best party. But the reality is, I have the best trash.

I always wanted to be the celebratory mom, the mom who has festive holiday hand towels in the bathroom, who has special plates for different holidays and creates unique traditions throughout the calendar: love notes at Valentine’s Day, baskets and bunnies around the house for Easter, shelves of meaningful Christmas books taken out only during Advent and read each night of December.

Maybe this is because few people would ever describe me as fun. Smart? Maybe. Thoughtful? Sure. Consistent? Yes. Despite this, I view most holidays as an opportunity to rewire all of my natural tendencies and become the really fun mom. I buy the plates, the signs, the stationery, the books. Won’t they be lovely to have at Easter? This has of course led to confused looks from friends and family when we serve an everyday meal on a carefully curated combination of Easter egg plates, Christmas tree cups, and the odd Valentine napkin, in July. I do this every holiday, and while it has occasionally happened that we use the Easter plate on Easter, mostly our dinner table reminds me of my striving to be a really fun mom and my abject failure to follow through.

My oldest is nine, and over the past nine years, I have developed quite an idea of what a perfect mom should look like. I’ve created her out of everyone else’s strengths. She is, quite honestly, a superhero. She joyfully plays with her children for hours; she always makes eye contact and is never distracted by her phone. She is celebratory and organized and would never forget what day school library books are due. She definitely does not sigh when her children walk right by their father to ask her for a snack. As CJ Green mentioned in his weekly round-up post a few weeks ago, there is a new book out about Power Moms, mothers who succeed professionally and raise a lot of kids. I cannot imagine why we need this book. Reading it sounds miserable. And besides, my idea of a perfect mom puts those Top Moms to shame.

Case in point — snow days. As I write this, it is snowing in Houston. I was not prepared for this (and as I edit this, I should point out, no one was prepared for this). I have beautiful dreams of my children playing in the snow, visions of us building a snowman together (yes, there is that much snow!) and having hot chocolate afterward. But, if our seven years in Switzerland taught me anything, it is that I do not enjoy playing in the snow. I possess many pictures of my children exploring the snow, taken through a windowpane because I chose not to go outside with them. Photographic evidence may not exist but, if memory serves, I spend snow days yelling at my children for tracking snow into the house, forgetting to close the door, and wanting to get dressed and redressed every five minutes.

Recently, my sister-in-law had her first baby, a sweet little boy with a head of dark hair and bright blue eyes. In a conversation, I told her that having children is the most spiritually formative process I can think of. And I told her that my four-year-old daughter is my spiritual director. Who else has guided me so well through my own great litany of failure? Who else has shown me the areas where I am trying so hard to make it on my own? Who else reminds me daily of who I am and whose I am? If I ever entertained the idea of self-attained success, my children remind me that I am far from my ideal.

If you’re actually a Power Mom, then more power to you. But if you’re like me, the mythical ideal of parenthood can be both crushing and counterproductive. Trying to be the parent I feel I need to be, I pretend to be someone else. Our children don’t need Power Moms; they need us.

My children continually remind me that, for some reason, I am their mom. That despite all my failings, both silly and real, I am still their mom, and that’s somehow enough for them. When my daughter, after inadvertently revealing all my faults, climbs into my lap to tell me I’m the best mom ever, I remember that, despite all of our striving, all of our abject awfulness, we are still deeply loved. We are still children of God; we are still His. Sometimes, our children need us to show them grace. They need us to show them what it means to be loved in spite of ourselves. Other times, we are the recipients of their mercy, of their love, even if it’s just for having the best trash.