An Underachieving Mom?

My cousin, a new mom, just emailed me last week, fed up with Mommy blogs and the expectations that come with them.  She’d been reading them for years before H was born, and suddenly all the perfection was making her feel bad:

It’s everywhere. I just read an Instagram for one where the mom already worked out and then later in the day dressed the baby up (he’s maybe a month or so older than H?) for playgroup in a Fourth of July themed outfit that’s pure white and looks like a sailor costume. With a straw hat tied around his head. On pure white sheets.

Oh, and she claims to be breastfeeding.

Do these people really exist? I’m sitting here holding H, who is now sleeping but was fussy all morning to the point where I haven’t eaten yet, and really just want to go back to bed and take a nap. The other day I literally held him for 5 hours in the afternoon and evening while he fussed over everything.  I hadn’t showered all day, was delirious by the end of it, and didn’t do any of the 5 loads of laundry waiting for me that day. H’s clothes have been in the hamper – clean – for a couple days. Don’t have hands free to fold them and my husband’s busy.

Am I the underachieving mom? I just think it’s insane that someone could accomplish all that in a day with a baby. And do 3 or 4 month olds need playgroup time??? Am I missing something??

Of course I stopped trying to peel My Little Pony stickers off my kitchen floor and called her right away for a full-on Everything to Someone pep talk.  You are the most important person in the world to your brand new baby!  That is a good thing!  You have kept him alive and thriving for 9 months in utero and two months out here.  Just feeding him is a full-time job at this point–and judging by his adorably chubby cheeks, you are rocking it in the feeding department.  Keeping a baby alive, healthy, and happy is an intense, all-in experience.  There is no “just” about what you’re doing right now.  Let perfection go with a new baby–I was in a newborn haze for a good 2-3 months with each of mine.  I reiterated that it’s ridiculous to think babies need peer socialization.  I also sent her Auntie Leila’s post on managing our postpartum expectations.  I promised to post pictures of the disaster my house was in post-vacation.  And she told me I needed to blog about how bad those kind of Mommy blogs are about selling us a warped picture of motherhood.

Our hallway looked like this for several days after vacation.  I would have taken more pictures, but I didn't find the camera for a couple days and lost the card reader for several more.

Our hallway looked like this for several days after vacation. We had to step over half-unpacked suitcases to get to the bathroom.  I would have taken more pictures, but I didn’t find the camera for a couple days and lost the card reader for several more.

Absolutely, by presenting pinterest-perfect pictures of the lives, sahm mommy bloggers have contributed to a general cultural misapprehension of what moms can and should do.  I certainly feel the temptation to sanitize my life on social media to make myself more together.  Looking at the pictures of my kids on this blog, you’d assume that my kids always have their pants on and their hair brushed, and that’s not accurate even as I type.  (I’m not going to post pictures of them unclothed, though, for privacy reasons.  Just know that I currently have one running around in just a diaper.)  Fellow bloggers, we need to make sure we’re not building up our ego in a way that’s going to devastate our friends who can’t keep up with the unrealistic life we’re portraying.  But we mom bloggers are only part of the problem.  One of the effects of full-time working mothers and daycare is to shift the general societal expectation of what a new mom can/should accomplish and to make moms who are being full-time caregivers feel guilty that they’re not “doing more.”  When we’re being told that our income-earning counterparts are doing everything we are, plus a paying job, we try to come up with evidence that we’re being productive, too, thank you very much.  The problem with the something-to-show-for-my-time mindset is that it belittles the value of relationship formation (and the time that process takes).  I’m not saying that working moms can’t have good relationships with their kids, of course, but rather that building emotional bonds and developing loving, trusting relationships are not easily checked off a to-do list or showcased on instagram.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: all of us are limited by 24 hour days.  You can’t do it all.  Sure, there are women who claim to be doing everything in career AND motherhood, but even articles which claim to show supermoms who make it work admit that “women with big jobs earn enough to buy balance, in obvious and less obvious ways” (such as paying for grocery delivery, cleaning ladies, and household help to do the cooking).  A parent is just as capable as a non-parent of working hard for pay, and some believe that we make better employees.  But someone somewhere always has to be caring for the baby, unless you’re propping up a bottle in the bouncy seat and sticking him in front of the tv for hours, which I’ve always found especially tragic.  If you are the one caring for that new baby, you have nothing to prove to anyone–you’re doing a full-time job “just” nursing, cuddling your baby, and recovering from pregnancy and delivery.  If you can manage to work out, shower, make gourmet meals, dress your child in freshly-ironed, white outfits and take artsy pictures while he takes reliable three-hour naps, good for you!  If you can’t, the rest of us would like to welcome you to a world where not doing all that on a daily basis does not make you an underachiever; it makes you a normal mom.

Anna and I will be talking more about this topic next month, when we’ll be starting a series on identity and motherhood.  But in the meantime, when you first were home with your kid(s), did you struggle to compare yourself to overachieving mommy bloggers?  What would you say to a new mom who is feeling like a slacker “just” doing the basics?

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Importance of Mothers, Philosophy of Motherhood | 4 Comments

Hidden Art Friday

blueberry pickingpot pie and blueberry crisp

Earlier this week, when I should have been folding laundry and packing, I edited pictures from our annual blueberry picking trip, instead.  Because just surfing the web = unproductive laziness, but editing pictures for an E2S blog post = productivity.  My friend Sarah and I picked the perfect day to visit the blueberry farm–an overcast morning, with enough June gloom to keep things cool.  My kids picked about three pounds, we ate quite a few, and I used the rest in a blueberry crisp to go with a clear-out-the-fridge turkey pot pie.  I’ve made both so frequently that I totally made up the proportions of fillings and crusts as I went along, with the result that my pot pie crust was too thick and crumbly (note the gravy coming up and over it…sigh) and our crisp was a bit on the tart side.  Another half cup of sugar would not have gone amiss.  But vanilla ice cream has a way of fixing any fruit dessert mishaps.

I meant to do a post on summer reading programs again this year, but I ran out of time.  I’ll just mention that Barnes and Noble has a great one where 1-6 graders read 8 books, fill out a little journal entry on each, and get a free book when they bring their completed journal into any store!  T has his sights on Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, a book I discovered and enjoyed last summer.

And No Time For Flashcards has fun summer reading printable calendars, if you’re looking for some inspiration.

Remember, if you want to get our reading recommendations while we’re on vacation, like us on facebook, where we’ll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the archives all summer long!

Posted in Hidden Art Fridays, Reading | Leave a comment

Summer on the Blog

It’s June, dear readers, and that means that Anna and I are heading out of town for summer vacation!  We’ll be spending the next couple months investing in our families rather than blogging here.  And we are really excited about a new blog series we’ll be starting in August.  We may occasionally pop in here for a Hidden Art Friday post, but otherwise, the best way to keep up with us is on our facebook page, where we’ll be posting popular posts from our archives all summer long!  Be sure to “like” us there to get our notifications (and if you already like us but don’t see us in your feed, try going to our page and liking one of the posts–this will tell facebook that you want to interact with us).

Have a wonderful summer!

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Homeschooling Retrospective

homeschool retrospective

Anna and I started the school year by sharing some of the reasons we homeschool.  While the main focus of this blog is not to discuss homeschooling, some of our readers want to hear more about it.  Anna recently shared about how she’s simplified things in her house this year, and I thought I’d end the school year by telling you what worked and what flopped at our house.  So here goes!

Bible: T and I have daily homework for CBS.  We also are working through memorizing the Gospel of Mark, and we accomplished about a chapter and a half this year.  This worked well and will be our plan for next year, as well.

Math: We use Saxon math.  There are many good curricula out there, but Saxon works for us.  But when my son started complaining that math was boring, I recently added Beast Academy to our line-up as an extra supplement.  It’s a total math curriculum with a very different approach.  The lessons are taught through comics, and the practice problems are more like brain teasers and problem solving.  T LOVES it and willingly does pages every day.  We’ll be using both next year

Language Arts: I am a big fan of Peace Hill Press materials because they are well-scripted, easy to teach, and straightforward.  We use First Language Lessons for oral grammar, and I recommend it to all.  We use Writing With Ease for writing (composition).  I firmly believe in Susan Wise Bauer’s breakdown of the steps of the writing process.  It makes sense to me, and I’ve seen it build confidence in both my kids as we’ve used it.  I could find passages and dictation sentences myself, but buying the workbooks saves me that step for now.  We added in All About Spelling this year for my son because a friend passed it on to us, but he flew through the first two books in a few weeks.  There are lots of moving pieces, and new levels are expensive.  AAS is fine, but if I had to pay for it, I’d go for something cheaper and simpler.  We got the Veritas Press Classically Cursive books, and that was fine, though I don’t see the need for going through more than one book if you’re going to have your child use cursive in the rest of his schoolwork.  I did like that photo copying was allowed for reuse within the family.

History: I’ve been looking forward to using Veritas Press history since before T was born, and this year did not disappoint.  We loved it!  I did a bit of supplementing with Story of the World and the SOTW activity guides since I had them on hand, and it was a pretty good balance.  The kids love the timeline, the memory song, the activities (I did less and less as the year progressed), and our big map over the kitchen table.  I just bought the CD with PDFs of all the files, and that was a good call since I print off just what I need. T got a 100% on his end-of-year exam, so I think there was a lot of retention.  Since the program is not scripted, I did have to devote some time over the summer to planning out the schedule and making a list of what books we needed to get from the library when, but I love that sort of thing, so it was no big deal.  Living books are the best way to learn history, and I plan on us using Veritas history (with SOTW supplements) for the forseeable future.

Latin: I bought Song School Latin sight-unseen, because it was supposedly a fun and gentle intro to Latin, but it was basically a waste of time.  He learned a very little vocab, but no conjugations or declensions.  The worksheets were fine, but never challenging.  And I lost the CD at some point this year, so we can’t even listen to the songs in the car to review.  Total Flop!  We did get Getting Started With Latin out from the library and started working through that together orally, and it was much better.

We did the core subjects above four days a week, and we rotated the “specials” below one day a week.

Science: We loved watching the Way Things Work physics videos, but I totally dropped the ball on actually doing the experiments I’d found on pinterest.  I’m using a textbook as a spine next year for better accountability.

Geography: I bought Legends and Leagues from Veritas Press, and even with the workbook, it was blah.  The kids learned more actual geography from some Evan Moore workbook we inherited from our babysitters.

French: I tried using the Bonjour Les Amis videos from the library along with Duolingo online, but we were hampered in the latter because they kids weren’t typing well for most of the year.  Though I’m confident in my French (I used to teach it!), we’re going to use a textbook next year to keep us accountable.

Typing: BBC Dance Mat Typing is free and fun.  Why does anyone pay for typing programs?

Fine Arts: The goal was to rotate a month of study of an artist with a month on a composer.  I made the rookie mistake of only planning out the first half of the year last summer, thinking I’d plan the second half of the year over Christmas break.  Silly me!  It never happened.  In the fall, however, we enjoyed listening to First Discovery and Introduction to the Classics CDs, getting biographies out from the library, and watching Mike Venezia’s famous artist videos.

 

Today is our last day of school, so I think I can officially start lesson planning for next year tomorrow…  Of course, we set up our house to learn, strewing interesting books and games and toys, and talking about things all the time, so learning will not stop over summer break!

 

If you homeschooled this year, I’d love to hear about your hits and misses.  If you have any questions about what I used or did, I would be happy to go into much more detail in the comments or an email discussion.  Several of the links above are to amazon products, using our amazon affiliates code.  When you buy items through our links, we get a tiny percentage back that we use to support hosting this blog.

Posted in Homeschooling | Leave a comment
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