It’s not a new book, but A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen ranks as one of my all-time favorites. During my recent bedroom cleaning spree, I picked it up again and scanned through its fifty pages for the first time in a few years.
Quindlen, who I admire for her success in combining motherhood and a career, speaks about how we can’t let our work dictate our lives. That while she’s proud of her accomplishments as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, that her “resume” is not her professional bio. In fact, she recounts that the resume she likes to think of says
I am a good mother to three good children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself to be the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.
I needed those words when I found them this weekend. I”m a bit lonely right now. Adventure Guy left Friday night to fly to Boston to prepare for the marathon tomorrow. I’m so proud of him and his fundraising efforts for Homes For Our Troops, but I never relish handling all the weekend activities on my own. That said, Quindlen’s words reflect the way I feel about my children and my parenting. I do have three good children. I am a good mother.
And why is it that I find those last words so hard to type? Why do we questions our mothering skills, judge them so harshly? And I know both from talking to my friends and reading many of the mommy blogs that populate the Internet that I am not alone in my insecurities. Those insecurities, in fact, cut right across the mommy divide between those who stay at home and those who work outside the home.
Show up. Listen. Try to laugh. Both simple and profound all at once. And just today, I’ve both succeeded and failed in my efforts to follow that advice. Showing up? I’m pretty good at it. I know what’s important to my kids, and I show up. I’ve got the sunburned arms to show for it after this weekend’s soccer game. I also took Gym Girl to the dance studio’s open house this afternoon to register for her new classes for next year–the ones I’d rather her not take since I had hoped she’d change her mind about quitting gymnastics.
And I used that trip as an excuse to spend some extra time with my middle child, the one I fear may at times get overlooked. We finished up at the studio and then ran by the book store for a book she’s been angling for before heading for the grocery store. I had time to listen to her talk about why she wanted to change course with her extracurricular activities and about her hopes for middle school and beyond. I listened.
And, yes, I even had time to laugh a bit. During our grocery store trip, Gym Girl talked me into buying cake mix and icing for some cupcakes. She loves to cook, so she started the cupcake preparations while I was on the phone with my parents. As I busily chatted with my mom, I saw Gym Girl come in with the cake mix. She pointed to the top of the box where it gave instructions for making the mix with whole eggs or with egg whites. I mouthed, “Use whole eggs.” And she said, “Okay, but I still crack them, right?”
Fortunately, we won’t be eating cupcakes accompanied by egg shells! And, fortunately, I’ve been reminded, in the midst of an incredibly busy season at work, of what’s really important.
Show up. Listen. Try to laugh.