We all get caught up in comparison and have illusions we chase. One of these for me has been the idea of the “normal mom.” From our parenting beginnings of being on bed rest with identical twins to the crises following their birth, the normal mom thing has never been an option for me. Whether in laughter or jealousy, I have held it up as this ideal that perhaps I can someday, somehow achieve.
There is a whole list in my head of things these “normal moms” do and, by comparison, that I do not do (or rarely do):
-Planning and participating in regular play dates (without getting completely overwhelmed at the thought of putting the kids in the car only to take them out and then put them back in again). Some moms are so on top of it, they can pull off a play date at a park with lunch ready for their kids and are equipped with any needed accessories, wipes, hand sanitizer, riding toys from home, etc.
-Taking all your kids with you to pick up another child (or two!) from school. And doing this every day.
-Or, having enough flexibility and wherewithal to arrange and implement a carpooling schedule with a friend or neighbor in such a way that you are adding to the equation and not just the one receiving the benefit.
-Volunteering for things like teaching Sunday school or helping in the nursery. (I judge myself, thinking, I AM a full time mom after all, and the working moms somehow do it… it’s the least I should be able to do.)
-Letting your kids play on sports teams, maybe even multiple teams for multiple kids during the same season.
-Regularly dressing your kids in coordinating outfits for things like church, parties, holiday events, and school programs. And you get super mom status if you can achieve this AND be on time.
-Sitting down to family dinners, at the same time, in which everyone eats the same thing. (And everyone has the ability to eat the same thing. And sit independently. And… okay, I’ll stop there.)
-Taking your kids WITH you to the gym or to a women’s Bible study…and using the provided, onsite childcare.
-Venting about “normal mom” issues such as diaper blow outs, feeling inconvenienced by having to take your kid to his one annual doctor’s check up, dealing with picky eaters, potty training woes, the difficulty of traveling with kids, sibling rivalry, less than ideal school situations, etc. (Okay, okay— I’ve given myself permission to engage in some of this over the years, but I also remind myself to be grateful when these are the “hardest” parts of my day. I am not perfect, but I don’t want to waste the perspective we’ve been given! One thing I do NOT do is complain when my kids reach regular milestones early or earlier than most would like, such as crawling, walking, or getting into things. These achievements will always be absolute miracles to us.)
-Not feeling completely overwhelmed when your husband has to work late or even mentions a potential getaway with his guys. Super mom points for encouraging this and handling it all with ease. (However, I DO recommend breaks for you and your spouse, because these moments are what keep us sane, help us remember who we are simply as individuals, and make us better when we get back to our roles of wife, mom, employee, friend, etc.)
-Running errands and grocery shopping with your children. (Instead, we know the Instacart grocery delivery folks and are friends with our UPS guy, Simeon, due to our daily shipments from Amazon.)
I laugh at most of the things on this list or, by now, know they aren’t all that important. However, this list can make me sad or angry at times. I am not proud of it, but I can judge or speak harshly about those “normal moms” I envy. Those moms who haven’t lost what I have lost or weren’t cheated out of the normal parenting experience I have desired.
Well this fall, more of the things on the “normal mom” list have started coming together for me… I have had all four children in my car after picking up the older two from school (at least a few times!). I occasionally take a child (notice the singular article) to CVS with me. Meade and I have each managed a weekend trip here and there. I am making my youngest three eat what we are eating at dinner. Sometimes. John and Daniel are even on their first ever baseball teams. John is on a great buddy league for children with special needs. And Daniel is playing T-Ball to assuage my mom guilt and fear that he would have been the very last kid to play baseball if we had waited until the spring.
However, the biggest “normal mom” thing I was doing this fall was undoubtedly taking Andrew and Michael to Bible Study Fellowship with me and stashing them in the on site nursery while I studied the Gospel of John. I was determined it was going to happen, and I was pumped! Maybe I’m becoming a normal mom? Maybe I am arriving?!
I have participated in a few moms’ groups or Bible studies over the past eight years, but it has gone like this: I was not about to leave John in a nursery when he was still having seizures as a baby. Then, as he stabilized, I still didn’t think it was fair to put him in the church nursery since he requires one on one care. I might have been a wee bit overprotective as well. In fact, we never left John in the church nursery until we deposited Daniel for the first time when he was six months old. Yep, John was in the church service with us for three years.
As the years have gone on, there has always seemed to be a baby taking a morning nap and, mostly, just too many complicated logistics making it easier to not attend such gatherings or to have my own help at home while I venture out. I have lived with double guilt – guilt over not bringing my children with me like the other moms and additional guilt over getting my own babysitter and seeming high maintenance, incompetent, or like a poor steward of money.
This fall was my time!! I was even going to let Michael forego his morning nap so we could be “normal.” I mentally prepared all summer and felt up to the challenge of bringing my two youngest with me to my new Bible study. Well, for those of you who read my last post, The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, you know how that first Bible study and nursery experience turned out. Not so hot. My normal mom dreams were once again dashed. So on that fateful Wednesday a few weeks ago, after I hiked around Atlanta for 40 minutes in the heat with my 2 and 1 year olds, I raised my white flag…
I give up! I will admit it: I am NOT a normal mom!
I took this selfie during one of our breaks sitting on the side of the road, desperately praying we would find our car!! I needed proof:
Here’s the honest truth: I do rely on my husband. A lot. I pay babysitters to watch some of my kids, so I can pick up others… or run errands by myself. I also pay babysitters at times to be home with my kids while I am also here but taking a nap. I love a monogrammed outfit but usually one boy at a time is all I can pull off. Yes, two of my kids are on sports teams this fall, but I have been to so few of their games that it’s embarrassing. Like I mentioned on my list, the thought of taking all of my kids somewhere still overwhelms me. Meade and I divide and conquer. A lot.
And what about my new Bible study? The Enemy may have gotten me down that day, but he did not win. I am still going to BSF, but as of the very second week, I began leaving my kids at home with my own babysitter. And you know what? It feels GREAT. I did get a panicked call from someone in the children’s program wondering why I pulled my kids out and if I had experienced any problems. I had to chuckle… No ma’am, the issue boils down to this—I am not a normal mom. And that is okay.
Our family does have unique challenges; therefore, we have forged paths and found ways to make life work. I have learned to be a little more laid back than a Type A normally would be. I am okay with clutter and dirt… yes, I'm referring to what is inside my house. At this time in my life, I do not throw dinner parties using my nice china nor do I prepare a homemade spread. Similarly to our UPS friend, we know our pizza and Chinese delivery guys by name. I don’t journey out to play dates with all four of my kids, but I do love having others over to our house. And my friends are sweet to accommodate us! And yeah, we have quite the army of helpers behind us.
So this whole thing about being a “normal mom” or having a “normal parenting experience”?? Does anyone really feel this way? Does anyone, mom or not, even feel “normal”? I imagine not many. And if you happen to have arrived and consider yourself to be in the normal mom club, well, I feel sorry for you. It must get lonely!
I will close with a plug for a fabulous new TV show on ABC. Speechless stars Minnie Driver and is about her family and her oldest son who is wheelchair bound and nonverbal. Not only is this show poignant and socially significant by representing those with special needs, it is also hilarious! I love how the mom is a little crazy, just like me!
I have to share this touching and empowering exchange between the father and his “neurotypical” (the word we use for developmentally “normal”) son at the end of Episode 3. This is evidence the Lord can use TV. This confirmed all that I had been pondering.
Dad: Why do you care so much what other people think?
Tween Son: Why don't you? Seriously Dad, don't you want to be normal? How can you live like this?
Dad: You want to know how? Because all this stuff— other people's opinions—
it's nothing. You know what's not nothing? When the doctor tells you there's something's wrong with your kid, all the things he is never going to do, and it's a nice long list.
But look at your brother (referring to the one with special needs). He's great, smart, funny... So now when something happens, it's like, "What else you got? Bring it on."
I get it; normal seems good. But guess what? We're not normal. We're better. We're bulletproof.
AMEN TO THAT!! So here is to NOT being normal! Let’s admit it and celebrate! Because life is a gift and too short to get bogged down by all Satan has stolen, killed and destroyed. And yeah, he has done those things. And it stinks. But we can look at the flipside of John 10:10 and live in light of the full life Jesus came to give us. My life may not be normal, but it certainly is abundant.
|Michael digging in on his 1st birthday a month ago!|
"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
Tune in to watch Speechless on Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c on ABC! And try to catch up on the previous episodes. It is so validating to have a major television network portray a glimpse into our everyday lives on primetime. I hope this show makes it! It is important for our neighbors, children, and members of our community to be exposed to the underrepresented minority of those with disabilities. Okay, I’m descending from my soapbox now. :)