There is a commercial running right now that makes me want to spit my gum at the T.V. It is for some disinfectant and it features a scene with a little girl closing the lid on a shining white garbage can to a voice of a woman saying "It makes me feel like a good mother..." Such powerful words! Currently our kitchen garbage can is sporting a dried-on wad of chewed up gum and I'm certain that it is not a reflection of my parenting skills. But those advertising people are on to something when they put those two words together, and I have been noticing what context they are used in ever since I first heard them when directed at me when Timmy was 3 years old and I sewed him his bumble-bee Halloween costume. I had taken him to his preschool Halloween Party and all the moms whose kids were dressed in very nice store-bought costumes kept repeating "Oh you sewed that yourself? You are a good mother!" I was agog. THAT is what makes a good mother? What about all of the sacrifice, love, anguish, care and effort that got me no attention at all? It was this costume sewing that did it. And I really hadn't set out to sew a costume. We had gone into the fabric store because I knew they also sold pre-made costumes but Timmy figured out what the place was all about and found a bolt of yellow and black striped fabric and begged me to make him a bumble bee. So we found a pattern and got all of the materials. It wasn't until much later that I noticed the pattern package was marked "for the advanced sewer." So as I sat hunched over my Junior High sewing machine trying to put together the many complicated pieces that required stitching through this puffy batting that kept getting jammed into a wad around the needle I was swearing up a storm in a most un-goodmotherly way, probably fueled by the sleepless delirium that came after a full day caring for a newborn and a toddler and then having to stay up late sewing. It eventually came out ok but I hadn't expected it to define me as a parent.
I'll never forget the time when I was little and my mother attempted to sew a princess costume for me. Except that instead of the golden material that was on the package picture she ended up buying stuff that tended more towards orange. And then she made me wear it over my puffy winter coat so that at every door I got comments on my PUMPKIN costume. If you'd asked me then I would NOT have used that as an example of what made my mother a good one.
One time at a scrapbooking workshop we were having a conversation along these lines and my friend Betty was making a point about how hard she tried to "do it all" while she worked, and she summed it up with: "And I'll tell you one thing for sure, I NEVER put one of those pre-made frozen pizzas on the table for my family's dinner." So now that I've been going to grocery stores I glide past the whole section that they have of these pre-made frozen pizzas, seeing through the corner of my eye that they sure do look tasty and convenient. And there I am with all the separate pizza ingredients in my cart, just waiting for someone to take note of my Good Motherliness. They wouldn't know that the reason I'm not buying those frozen pizzas is because of our food allergies.
I even had some neighbors shout across the street at me "You are a Good Mother!" as I walked Jeffrey to school past their kids getting on the bus. But I was doing it because I had the time and I like walking outside with my son. So maybe what compels other moms to make that statement is a sudden feeling of "oh, look what she's doing...maybe I should be doing that...but I'm not..." Ah, guilt!
As I've said before I think every mother out there is probably trying to do the very best she can and the closest anyone can get to "good" parenting is trying to figure out what a child needs in any situation and then attempt to address that need. Which is not always easy. And is definitely not discernible to the casual observer. But if it's compliments you're after, I do have the answer to that: sew something!