My daughter carefully folded her clean shirt in half once, then folded it in half again. “Now I’m just like a momma” and proudly showed me the neatly folded shirt. Great. I have modeled for my daughter that the epitome of motherhood is the ability to fold laundry.
I stumble through my days like a never-ending wash cycle: wake up, make chocolate milk, get kids dressed, turn on cartoons, take a shower, put on make up, clothes, make my lunch and dig up something creative for breakfast for the kids, go to work, pick up kids, go home, turn on cartoons, make dinner, clean up, turn off TV, play a game, get ready for bed, read a book, brush teeth, say prayers and go to bed. Hearing Callie say, “Now I’m just like a momma” while folding a shirt makes me think about how their tiny developing minds perceive me in action every day. What is a momma?
Sometimes I see Callie cuddling with her stuffed animals and murmuring to them, telling them that she is their momma. One evening when a friend of Caleb’s was over and the boys were busily playing with legos, Caleb’s friend asked him if his daddy had built one of the structures in the lego set. “No, my momma built it. I don’t have a daddy. My momma hates daddies.” (Okay, so that last part is NOT true and I jumped in quickly to reassure Caleb’s friend, who has a super cool daddy, that I do not in fact hate daddies). Sometimes when drop-offs go awry at daycare and I’m forced into lecture mode between the parking lot and the door of his classroom, Caleb hears how momma has to work so that he can go to a good school, have clothes to wear and toys to play with and he better pull it together fast, or else…Momma is nurturing, Momma is handy with Legos, and Momma provides for her family.
I know sometimes I focus too much on obliterating gender role barriers and trying to shape my kids’ mentalities around the fact that there are many different kinds of families (I love Todd Parr books). Father’s Day is coming up and I had a heart-to-heart with each of my kids about what they were making at school and who they were making it for. I suggested several options, knowing that the school they attend might not be as inclusive as I would like them to be about “who is a father.” In the end, they had already made up their minds about who they were making their gifts for, on their own, even before I broached the subject with them.
So what is a momma? What does she do? What is she capable of? And am I putting too much pressure on myself to try and provide a clearcut answer for my kids around that question?