Learning to Mother
On a recent Friday, my 9-year-old stepson was home from school while both my husband and I were working in the home office. Between running reports and sending emails, I made toast and baked potatoes, refilling his water bottle with Sprite.
“I thought you were supposed to be working,” he said, as I made his second baked potato of the afternoon. After the morning of lying on the couch watching cartoons, he had started to feel better.
“I was working this morning, but I only work until noon on Fridays,” I told him. It was partly true. My primary job with a time clock and set hours ended at noon. The freelance editing and writing work I do usually fills my afternoons. My laptop sat open next to him on the table as he watched me pull his potato out of the microwave and begin mashing it with a fork. I reached for the butter.
“Am I supposed to have butter?” he asked. Earlier in the morning when I had made him toast, I gave it to him plain because I thought butter or peanut butter might upset his already-queasy stomach. My butter theory also had saved me a few seconds so that I could get back to work more quickly.
“I’m just putting on a little,” I told him. “And you’re feeling better now.” Actually, I wasn’t sure if he should have butter. I could probably have done an internet search on it, but instead, I was relying on maternal instinct. Even though I’d been a stepmom for only three months, I was hoping that inner sense of mothering was kicking in.
Returning to my laptop and the article I was writing, I sat with him as he ate. When he finished, he lay back down on the couch for a while.
Sick days really are the easy part of being a new mom. They are occasional and usually affect only one boy at a time. The harder part is all of the homework and the practices and the meal times for a family of five, squeezed in on evenings and weekends around the work my husband and I do each day. On the days I drive an hour to and from the office, I get home just in time to get dinner started before my husband and the boys arrive hungry. If my day runs long because of a conference or phone call, the evening routine is shot.
I was always busy as a single person; now, my busyness is not my own. Adjusting to a family schedule has been harder than I expected. How have other moms done this so successfully and with such grace? I keep going, praying that Jesus will give me wisdom along the way.
“I’m hungry,” my step-son told me, just after I walked the appliance repairman to the door. “What are we having for dinner?”
He was obviously feeling better, not only growing hungrier, but also growing bored with the couch and television. He had been up and playing for more than an hour.
“We’re going out for dinner,” I told him. “Probably Arni’s,” a local restaurant where we all could find something we liked. Exhausted from the week, Fridays often find us eating out rather than cooking at home. At least that is similar to my single life. My weeks have always ended with me feeling tired.
“Will there be anything there I can eat?” he asked. “I really was feeling bad this morning.”
“I know you were,” I told him. “Maybe you can have some chicken strips.” I should probably have Googled that, too. I was hoping for the best.
"I'd rather have tacos," he said, no longer as concerned about his stomach. After convincing him that tacos would be far worse than chicken strips, he said, "ok," with a smile, and ran back upstairs to his room before I made him lay on the couch a little longer.
Yes, chicken strips would definitely be better than tacos, I thought to myself as I returned to my laptop. I had just a few minutes before the rest of the family would arrive home.
Editorial Note: At the High Calling, we value the work of mothering and stand beside all who are touched by its presence and its absence, its successes and its struggles. As the United States prepares to celebrate Mother's Day this Sunday, we have been pondering motherhood and mothering in its various forms. Happy Mother's Day.
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