Measuring sticks should never be beating sticks

Wednesday , April 30, 2014 - 3:52 PM

D. Louise Brown

A young friend astonished me the other day by describing what she thinks is her lack of ability as a mom. “I never get anything done. I get up in the morning and by the end of the day, I’m further behind than ever,” she lamented.

I pointed out, “Look. You’re the mom of three young kids under the age of five. They’re happy, they’re healthy, they’re alive. Everything else in your life has to take back seat to that. So stop beating yourself up over it.”

“Yeah, but I’m embarrassed when someone comes over because my house is such a wreck,” she said, sweeping her hand around the room to indicate the tower of toddler toys.

“People come to visit you, not your house. If anyone comes to visit your house—don’t let them in. You don’t want to be their friend anyway,” I countered.

Our conversation drifted on to other topics, but her self-imposed condemnation stayed on my mind. I hear a lot of young moms echoing those same sentiments, and I wonder, why are we that harsh on ourselves? Are we really unable to feel fulfilled being a mom unless all other areas in our lives are in perfect order too? Does this unrealistic expectation come from too much Facebook dialogue? Parenting blogs? Play group conversations? Pinterest???

Momhood is never easy to measure. How do you gauge progress in raising little human beings to be big human beings? Twenty years seem SO long. How do you measure something that far ahead? (Though just for the record, if you blink twice, it’s gone). Cutting progress into bite-size pieces and asking random questions every now and then helps.

Like how are you teaching your kids about consequences? When your child is 2 you teach him to stay away from a hot stove, don’t play in the street, and don’t pull the dog’s tail because those things lead to bad consequences. You keep preaching the gospel of consequence as they grow older, and then one day you step back and let them try it out. Sometimes they swim, sometimes they sink. But they never change behavior unless a bad choice causes pain. And that pain is hard to watch. Only moms with a real desire to let their kids learn can stand it.

And are you friends with your kid? Does she know you love her, even when she’s being horribly unlovable? Have you figured out yet how to detect the difference between when what she says means she’s mad at you, and what she says means she’s mad at herself? Or the whole entire world?

And how’s the discipline going? If your 3-year-old’s only interaction with her doll is to spank it and set it in the corner, you probably want to rethink your discipline techniques. On the other hand, if you tell her, “No” and she knows you still love her, you’re doing alright.

Have you helped him build a foundation that is not grounded on you? If you make him dependent on you, you produce a needy next generation. So have you realized that a parent isn’t so much someone to lean on as someone who eventually makes leaning unnecessary? Has he built his own solid roots?

And while we’re on the topic, does he have wings? The day comes all too soon when you take him to the edge of the nest, say something profound about the whole big wonderful world out there just waiting, and then say, “Fly.” And hold back the tears until he’s gone.

Are you fun or boring? You need to be both. Sometimes the dishes and laundry have to wait because the wind is just right for the kite, or a colt is being born in the back pasture, or someone needs a shoulder to cry on. And sometimes you have to be boring when homework has to be done, or an unsavory date needs to be turned away at the door, or someone needs yet another lecture on how to play nicely with others. Have you figured out they need you to be a parent more than they need you to be a friend?

It goes on and on. But never, ever look at that fact with a weary sigh. Just dig in, relish these fleeting days, and stop using that measuring stick to beat yourself. Only in hindsight will you realize these really are the best days of your life.

You can contact D. Louise Brown at

Here's the recipe related to the last column:

Lunch Room Peanut Butter Bars

1 stick margarine ½ tsp soda

¾ C sugar ¼ tsp salt

¼ C brown sugar 1 tsp vanilla

1 egg 1 ¼ C flour

1/3 lb. Peanut butter ¾ C rolled oats

(abt. 2/3 cup)

Mix first 8 ingredients. Add flour and oats. Mix well. Grease 13 x 9 pan. Pat mixture into pan until smooth and even. Bake 10-15 minutes at 325. Remove from oven, sprinkle chocolate chips over top, let melt, then spread. OR, cool bars and frost with canned frosting. OR, for authentic chocolate topping, cream together 1 1/3 C powdered sugar, 1/6 stick butter, and 1/6 C unsweetened cocoa. Add enough water to make mixture spreadable.

This recipe doubled will fill a large cookie sheet…just like school lunch.

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