Monday, November 13, 2017

I'm not the "Room Mom"

As it turns out, I’m not the “Room Mom” or the “PTSA Mom” or the “Classroom Party Planner Mom” or the “Art Docent Mom” or “Volunteer Mom.” Shocker, I know.

In fact, you will rarely find me on the grounds of the elementary school outside of the regular drop off and pick up hours. I don’t do the “extras” like Multi-Cultural Night or Bingo Night. And the two times the kids managed to convince me to take them to a “Family Movie Night” in the school gym, someone probably should have drugged me first. I mean, sometimes I wonder if it would be easiest to just slap a “Doesn’t-Contribute-To-Anything-School-Related Mom” sticker across my chest and call it a day.

At least, this is what the voices in my head try to tell me. They are constantly informing me I’m not doing enough, not giving enough, not participating enough, that, plain and simple I’m just not enough. I frequently wrestle with a high level of guilt over the, ahem, minimal enjoyment I find in spending time in the kids’ classrooms. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my kids and I LOVE LOVE LOVE their teachers and I also LOVE IT when those two groups can be together in the same room without me.

Ugh. I feel icky all over just typing that. I mean, shouldn’t I enjoy volunteering at school? Shouldn’t I be on the PTSA? The fact that I’m not makes me feel like a low mom on the totem pole.  

Especially when I see “That Mom,” the one who is always, always at in the walking the halls. The front office staff know her by first name. She is running an activity table at every class party. She is present on every field trip. She volunteers in the classroom not once but twice every week (and I thought twice a year sounded overwhelming…) That Mom, she makes me feel utterly inadequate. She puts me to shame. She always seems so genuinely happy to be there at school. Maybe she is putting up a front – I will probably never know for sure - or maybe, could it be, that being in the classroom really is her jam?

Can you relate? Do you also find yourself threatened by That Mom? Maybe she isn’t the one who is heavily involved at school. Maybe instead she’s the Super Organized One, or the Well-Dressed One, or the One-Who-Makes-Everything-From-Scratch. She may look different to each of us from the outside, but the common theme she carries is this: That Mom is strongest where you are most vulnerable. She’s the one that causes you to question your contribution.

A couple weeks ago, I let my insecurities get the best of me; I decided I wasn’t going to let That Mom show me up at school anymore. I resolved to attend all three of my kids’ Halloween celebrations…IN THE SAME DAY. All in the span of 2 ½ hours. The voices in my head told me I would be a bad mom if I didn’t.

“It will be fun,” I charged.

“You’re just being ridiculous.”

“Class parties are great!”

As it turned out, my first assessment was correct: being around fifty-some sugar-high and costumed 4 to 8-year-olds actually wasn’t my idea of a good time. By the day’s end, I was exhausted, cranky and twitching with anxiety and had exactly nothing left to give to my kiddos during family time at home later that night.

It ended up being a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. I was no help to the teachers in the classrooms (I had to arrive late to each party to make it to all three), I found myself annoyed at my kids for wanting me there, annoyed at myself that I didn’t want to be there and then annoyed even further at myself for showing up when I knew I didn’t want to be there. This was NOT the sense of accomplishment I had expected to feel after checking an item off my list of “shoulds.”

Thanks to my overactive guilt complex, I had “saved face” and looked good (though that latter part is questionable as I was quite harried at the end of it) by making an appearance in my kids’ classrooms, but all at the expense of my sanity. And my mothering for the rest of the day.

My only obvious conclusion was this:


By no means am I trying to diatribe and encourage parents to abandon their volunteer roles in herds. Absolutely not. (Goodness knows teachers sure need those of you for whom volunteering in class is your gifting!!) Rather, my purpose is to encourage those mamas to think twice who, like me, say “yes” due to a myriad of reasons - guilt, external appearances or simply because they felt they “should.”

So maybe you aren’t the Room Mom, the PTSA Mom, the Classroom Party Planner Mom, the Art Docent Mom or the Volunteer Mom. Those roles may not be your God-given jam. But you know what? I’m willing to bet there are a whole heck of a lot of mom hats that you DO wear.

Maybe you are the Appointment Mom, the one who shuttles a struggling child to professional after professional in search of both answers and then later, solutions.

Maybe you are the Empathetic Mom, the one who “gets it” because she’s been there too and so patiently snuggles the child wrought with anxiety into the wee morning hours.

Maybe you are the Mama Bear Mom, the mom who calls the school office, makes appointments to speak with the principal, meets with the teachers, and isn’t afraid to speak bold, hard truth to fight for and protect her offspring. 

Maybe you are the Perceptive Mom, the one in tune with nuances others around might overlook, the one who can see what’s happening beneath the surface.

Maybe you are the Homemade Mom, the one who makes most meals from scratch because it’s what you love to do.

Maybe you are the Crazy Tradition Mom who loves to celebrate everything, the mom who loves to create thematic meals or crafts to accompany each holiday.

Maybe you are the Working Mom, in a paid position, bringing home the paycheck to make ends meet. Or maybe you are the Working Mom because you are good at what you do and it’s where you come alive.

Maybe you are the Stay-At-Home Mom, working harder than you’ve ever worked, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Maybe you are the Kids in the Kitchen Mom who encourages her offspring to chop and mix and dice and “help” even if it makes things take twice as long and the kitchen twice as messy because cooking is a life skill you are passionate about passing on.

Maybe you are the Sports Mom, the one at every practice, every try-out and every game. You are your kids’ biggest fan and always the one screaming the loudest.

Maybe you are the Play-Pretend Mom who dresses up and reenacts fairytales all the live long day.

Maybe you are the Homeschool Mom, the one who toils late into the evening writing lesson plans and researching curriculum options to give your children an education tailored just to them.

Whatever kind of mom you are, not one of us is the same. It can be so very tempting to look over at the mom next door and immediately feel inadequate because your list of strengths doesn’t match hers. It is easy to fall victim to a list of “shoulds” or allow oneself to feel threatened by the talents of another. But I am convinced that when our amazing and unique mothering skill sets and giftings are lived into and used to their fullest, the patchwork masterpiece that comes together as a result is absolutely beautiful the eyes of our Creator.

So let’s stop measuring ourselves against “That Mom.” Let’s stop allowing her to influence our paths and the way we spend our time. What she excels at is what she excels at. You have your own set of amazing gifts. Do not say yes to keep up with her or because you feel guilt or shame. Your “yeses” and “nos” are not what determines your worth. Your worth comes from than the one seated above on the heavenly throne. He made us all infinitely unique and you are just the mom for your squad.

Be encouraged. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this one. : )
    I only enjoy volunteering when its doing art projects or something easy where I can mostly just chat with the kids. And most definitely NOT with my kid primarily. And we HATE school movies, gatherings, etc. after school . I hear ya. Oh, and PTSA is crazy!!! Why do parents do that to themselves, work so hard and plan all these crazy nights that hate??? ha ha ha


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