Replaced

For Better or for Worse, 1-27-11, Lynn Johnston

My husband and I both went back to work full time when Little Miss was six months old.  Our first full-time babysitting situation left quite a bit to be desired, but after four months God intervened and saved us the worry of how to dismiss the sitter by encouraging her to quit.  While the timing wasn’t the greatest (it was the day I was scheduled to leave for Europe for a week), everything worked out for the best because we found a phenomenal daycare that Little Miss has loved since her second day there – which was eight months ago.

While I have absolutely no regrets about the way things are right now, there were a few mornings when I felt like the mother in the comic strip above.  When I dropped Little Miss off at daycare she would run to her Daycare Mom squealing and grinning, without a second thought for Mom and Dad behind her.  Occasionally when I arrived to pick her up in the evening she would reach for Daycare Mom while still in my arms.

Initially I thought, “Hey, that’s not cool!  I’m your mommy, you’re supposed to be excited to see ME!”  But quickly on the heels of that thought came a more positive reassurance: The fact that she was so excited to be at daycare and be with the daycare providers meant she was happy and thriving there.  And that is what we want more than anything else.

The author of the comic strip above (For Better or For Worse, by Canadian Lynn Johnston) is currently re-running her strip from beginning to end (something never before attempted in newspaper comics), which means that although I only started following the strip actively six years ago, I’m now getting the chance to start the story from the beginning and watch the characters develop and grow.  (By the end of the strip, the children are grown and married, living their own lives with children of their own.)  The coolest thing, though, is that at the bottom of each daily strip online, Johnston adds her own personal thoughts on the strip above – the story behind her inspiration, an extension of the thoughts expressed by the characters, etc.  I find this a delightful insight into the life of someone whose face we rarely see but of whose life we are a regular part.

Underneath this strip, she writes:

No matter how open-minded you are, no matter how cooperative the relationship, there is always a sort of competition between mom and caregiver. Ruth’s parenting style was something I admired and respected, but it was different! When I came home, I wanted to resume my role as the alpha female!

After two weeks in her care, Aaron and Katie were now doing things Ruth’s way and it took some time before they returned to the nest I had built. Ruth had given them a new routine and some new rules. I felt as though I could be replaced and I voiced this thought in FBorFW. Seeing this in pen and ink was like writing a letter to myself. It cleared my head. It made things better. Sometimes the strip provided an outlet that was healing and healthy for all of us!

I have an ongoing joke with a Martha-Stewart-type friend of mine that when my daughter is old enough to realize how much cooler a mom she is than I am, we can’t be friends anymore.  “I just can’t live up to such high standards!” I tell her, only half sarcastically.  The truth is that I’m not the perfect mom.  Though I realize no one is, there sure seem to be an awful lot of moms out there who are a lot closer to perfection than I am.

I don’t bake.  I can make cookies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, biscuits, roasts, casseroles and bakes…and even the occasional loaf of bread.  But I regularly overbake at least one batch of cookies, and always drip batter outside of the cupcake cups.  I also rarely make homemade frosting (thank you, Betty Crocker, for your convenient tubs on the grocer’s shelf).

I clean my house, but not on a schedule.  My mother vacuums her house at least once a day.  We struggle to get it done once a week.

And, probably the most shocking of all: I have two hours to myself every evening, with which to do whatever I please.  Sometimes I leave the dishes stacked by the sink, dust piling up on top of the bookshelves and the entertainment center; sometimes I ignore the muddy pawprints the dog tracked in after playing in the rain all day and the woodchips scattered about the living room after having flaked off the logs carried in for our wood stove.   Sometimes I shove the unopened bills underneath the laptop on the end table by the couch, and pretend I don’t see the stack of filing that needs to be done over on the desk.

Instead, I watch a TV show, read a book, play a game with Husband, sip a hot drink, write a blog or upload videos of Little Miss to YouTube so Grandma and Grandpa can see them.  For two hours.  And while it’s true that sometimes those two hours are spent straightening up the living room, figuring out our budget, scrubbing 3-day-old jelly from the table or writing checks to the dozens of companies that seem to want my money…a lot of times I save those things for Sunday and spend my evening relaxing on the couch.

Go ahead, call me a lazy mom.  You’re probably right.  But I’d also say I’m a much happier mom without hours of complaining to do at the church’s women’s tea or lunch with my mom friends.  Sure, there are plenty of things to complain about, but let’s be honest – how can a mother with two free hours each day justify complaining about anything?

So I sit back and sigh when my daughter seems to prefer others over me; I know it will happen in earnest when she’s in high school – other girls’ moms are always cooler than your own at that point.  It happened to me and I’m sure it will happen to Little Miss.  But I smile, too, knowing that those moms she’s preferring these days to her own are just as capable – if not moreso! – of playing the Mommy Role as I am.

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