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Monday, September 14, 2009

A mother seeking that ever-elusive sign of success

Written by Lee
Am I succeeding at this mom thing?

Am I?

When will I see a clue, or catch a glimpse, just anything to tell me that I'm doing okay?

When I worked it was
easy. Producing television programs, starting something, and then finishing it. Working hard, being stressed, using my brain, interacting with the world, getting a pat on the back once in a while, working late, working long, but then done. A finished project. A feather in my hat. A line on my resume. Done.

And done.

As a mom, I am never done. And it's taken me a while to figure that out. And daily I work on getting peaceful about that fact - that I will
never be done.

And I need to jump into that undone feeling and embrace it. Wrap my soul around it and squeeze it tightly. Make it a part of me. Wear it like a favorite t-shirt. Let it seep into my skin and settle into my bloodstream. It's me. The new me. A mother. And I will
never be done.

But why is it so damn hard sometimes?

Why do I snap inside when the demands seem never-ending and the rewards are elusive? I wake up each morning and slowly surrender again and again and again to my job as a mother to three young kids....but more often than not, I find my mind seeking validation - that clue, that glimpse, to show me, to tell me, that I may be succeeding at this being-a-mom thing.

In the midst of the usual chaos of a day, it's hard to see any sign of success. My kids are normal kids. If they clean up their room, they talk back. If they behave nicely in public, they hit each other in private. If they do their homework without me reminding them, they drag their feet getting ready for school. They listen once out of a million times it seems, and one moment, I swear I see genuinely loving, kind little people, and the next, I see overindulged, manipulative kids.

But once in a while, a ray of success sunshine peeks through and it's always when I least expect it. All of a sudden I get smacked in the head from an unexpected place. A clue jumps out from the shadows to remind me that actually, all is okay in my mama world.

We spent a week in August at a house on a lake a couple hours east of LA with my in-laws and extended family. In the middle of a late summer afternoon with a houseful of family scattered about busy with a variety of summer activities, I walked into the kitchen one day to get some water. At the far corner of the long dining room table sat my Phoebe, just a couple weeks past her fifth birthday.

This is what I saw:

And in a flash of a moment when I least expected it, I was flooded with a feeling of fulfillment and the rewards of being a mother came rushing in. As she sat quietly with the summer lake sun streaming through the large windows, she played. With her hands. With shadows. With her bursting brain of imagination and story. And I felt totally and completely at peace. With all that had ever happened up to that point in time. All of the questioning and doubting of myself as a mother and yearning for validation was gone. And all that was left in its place was the present feeling of joy and the simple satisfaction of watching my daughter explore her world.

I am doing okay, I thought. I really think I am.

I stood and watched for a few minutes without her knowing before I rushed to get my camera so I could remember this moment. For myself. So when I forget the feeling, I could look back at these photographs and hopefully feel it again.

I am a slow learner I guess. Maybe I'm hard on myself. I don't know. But I do know that being a mom is
damn hard.

But a pair of five-year-old hands playing shadow puppets transported me to a place where everything suddenly seemed very clear. Where all of the stress and questioning and yelling and needing to control and seeking validation didn't matter one damn bit.

A pair of shadowy bunny ears on a silent summer afternoon. A gift to me.

I think I'm doing okay at this mama thing. I really think I am.


To our readers new and old alike:

As we kick off getting back into the groove this Fall, I am reminded again and again of why I started this creative space. Moms Without Blogs was begun with one simple message - "Being a supermom is simply a state of mind." But it blows my mind how easy it is to forget that one fact in the midst of the storm that can be modern-day mommying. I hope your visits here will renew your mama soul as you encounter like-minded women who desire nothing more than community, expression, and raw, fresh honesty.

We are beginning a new feature here called "Affiliate Friday" where we will feature one of our affiliates as a guest blogger for the day. I think it's important to get to know the other voices that support the mission of MWOB. As we continue to grow our community, I hope you will consider joining forces with us and we look forward to getting to know you.

For today, I hope you gain a second of clarity in the middle of a hectic Monday to gaze at your own little sign of mama success.

'Cause we are all doing okay at this mommy thing. I really think so.


  1. You are so wise Lee! I love reading about your tidbits of wisdom and insight here and there!

    Yes, you are doing all right in the Motherhood gig and you are doing MORE than all right in the blogging gig!

    You are awesome, my friend!

  2. God, this is gorgeous.

    You're doing fine, Mom. Cherish these moments . . .

  3. I'm searching the recesses of my addled brain for any sign I may have missed yesterday that I'm doing okay with this motherhood thing.... 3 yr old FILLING the toilet to the brim after going potty ("I wiped ALL BY MYSELF mom!") teenager mopping the kitchen floor for me TWICE yesterday because it was so dirty (the 2nd time was without prompting) 9 yr old heading over the school yard by herself yesterday to "exercise and work on being healthier" (even though she insisted on wearing crocs instead of exercise-friendly tennis shoes) bravery in protecting my daughters by covering not one, but TWO HUGE spiders with water glasses to leave for my hubby to deal with when he got home first attempt at beef stroganoff only turned off my middle child - two out of three liked it!

    I don't know, Lee - I can't decide which is the sign I need - I'm just so proud of them all! :)
    Thanks for making me think, as always. It's all worth it, right?

  4. I often complain to my mother that she did not stress enough the endless job being a mother is - not as in a long day, but as in there's no expiration date, there's no promotion around the corner, there's no neat to do list.

    That's a good thing. Most days.

    I think the fact that you (me) question whether you're doing a good job is proof that we are - validation comes in crumb-sized morsels - you savored this moment well. You recognized it. You slowed down.

    You're doing just fine.

  5. Goodness. You are Your words are my own thoughts on this journey of motherhood that doesn't seem to have an end and doesn't necessarily provide tangible rewards.

    And then, a moment. Like the one with sweet Phoebes...a single moment that validates it all. Those are the rewards of this "mama" job. It's much too easy to miss them. We've got to open our minds and hearts and look for them. Because they are there.

    Post that beautiful pic on your refrig....let it help bring clarity to the moments of madness.

    Beautifully written, my friend. :-)

  6. Lee,
    Great Post! We spoke (email) this morning- I often use a different last name because I'm almost as scandalous or finicky as Elizabeth Taylor or Madonna. Like Cher, I could just be Amanda. Say it Ya'll-AMANDA///Much like the Jennifer's or Melissa's of the world; We all do have a story to tell.

    When my twins were little, they thought that the swirly lines left on a branch after you peel the bark off was some form of doggie hyeroglyphics left by teething mutts!!! Little ones are a constancy of amazement. That's why, despite gritted teeth and a failing gallbladder due to my bad temper, I continue to keep the company of children. I read once that if you want a Zen lesson; hang out with a toddler all day. Speaking of toddler: I'm playing hooky from Community College since I was up all night nursing a teething baby. Ain't that a poem.....skipping school at my age.....
    I find your posts both helpful AND poetic.
    Keep 'em coming...

  7. okay, i am glad i went back and read the post... i started to panic on my first skim through... i saw the photo and assumed that it was your house and that you use place mats. i was going to have to break up.

    anyway, we will never be done. ever. and we just have to look for the successes in the little things. the teeny, tiny things, sometimes. but they are there. as you saw for yourself.

    i had a little moment yesterday in one quick, knowing glance between moody and i, as we both remembered a private joke between the two of us. we both laughed and we were both happy, and there was none of the chores or homework or responsibilities cluttering the air between us. only love, humor and happiness.

  8. this is such a beautiful post. It truly speaks volumes!

  9. Amazing post, Lee. Damn you for making me cry at my desk at work.

  10. Your doubts are shared by others, surely we all have had similiar feelings about parenthood....
    Great post.

  11. Lovely photos; beautiful post. Thanks a lot for reminding us what's important about this crazy mom job. I knew I was doing ok when I stopped (obsessively TiVo-ing and) watching the Supernanny because I finally came to the realization that I wasn't going to need her intervention.

  12. Oh Lee ... so well done. The photo is absolutely precious and yes, my friend you are WAY TOO HARD on yourself. You are one of the best mothers I know. For sure.

    I, on the other hand, unlike Karen, cannot come up with ANY examples of my recent good mothering. There seems to be lots of yelling going on in my house currently. BTW, Karen, those examples you gave were stellar!

    Thank you for opening my eyes to start paying attention to the little things. I need to be better about that.

  13. Lee, you must be a fantastic mother. Children just don't become imaginative, it takes a creative minded parent to show them the ropes :D
    My first thought on reading the title and seeing the photo, I thought she might be making peace signs. After reading the post, i concluded it was a peace offering for you on this whole motherhood thing. I only hope it is as apperant for the rest of us mama's! Thanks for sharing :)

  14. LOVE this post. and you rank up there as one of the best moms i know.

    erin m

  15. Oh! Oh! I can finally contribute to the class!!

    Last night, Youngest holds up a Hot Wheels and shouts "Oh! My! Go......odness!"

    "Mama. Goodness." Big smile. The little stinker. He listens.

    No THAT's a moment.

  16. I love glimpses like that. They truly make my heart happy as a mom.

  17. Uh huh. Those moments are really all that get me through. LOVE this post, lady.

  18. Gosh without those moments I think I would loose my mind.

  19. i am commenting some 10 days late...and here is why:

    The posts on this blog tug at me so much that I need to be prepared to spend a lot of time just thinking. I love reading about people who share so many of the same thoughts I have. Being a mom is the best and the hardest job at the same time.

    By the way; This is a wonderful blog.


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