This weekend, one of my daughters and I had the chance to hang out a lot and talk about a wide variety of subjects. At some point, the topic came around to what she wants to be when she grows up.
My daughter has big dreams. She wants to marry a rich man and live in a nice house. She will have two children, she says (so it doesn’t get too overwhelming), and she will make them well-balanced and attractive meals everyday, along with a plate of chocolate chip cookies for an after-school snack (so fresh from the oven the steam will be rising up, to be sure). All the laundry will be done in orderly fashion, the socks hanging straight and nice like in the photo, no doubt. And nary a mismatched one, either.
“Oh, so you want to be the kind of mother I’m not?” I ask her.
“Yeah, sort of like that,” she answers.
Should I be hurt? Some mothers would, perhaps, but I see wide, so it doesn’t bother me that she’s pitting her utopian vision of motherhood against the reality.
First off, full disclosure, what she says is mostly true. I’m not the kind of mother who gets up at dawn to begin grinding the flour to make homemade bread, and sadly, chocolate-chip cookies mostly come from a bag around here these days. Oh, I used to create wonderful desserts and meals prepared with utmost care on a regular basis, but somewhere around mile-marker Dirty Diaper 1,314, it all came to a crashing halt. I still remember the moment, at 2 a.m., flour and dough splattered across the table and in my hair, that I decided my pie-making days were coming to an end. For a while, anyway.
I started making pies back in high school because my mother didn’t make them and I love pie. I decided then that I would be the kind of mother who makes pie so I decided to get a jump on my future skill. I became very good at it, receiving an exorbitant amount of praise from my father who especially enjoyed my pecan and apple. His mother had been a phenomenal cook and he was missing the good old days of homemade fare. He loved seeing me following in the footsteps of Grandma “Dot,” a grandmother I never had a chance to meet but love all the same because of the stories he’s told. I truly enjoyed my time in the kitchen back then.
But that one, revealing night…I will never forget it. The pie-crust-infused Night of Surrender. It was then that I realized I could not be the mother I’d envisioned in my head all those years earlier. Because in order to be a balanced mother, I knew I had to make space somewhere for things like keeping up with relationships, exercise and writing, and something had to give. It was the homemade pie.
Someday, when preparing food for my family feels less assembly-line endeavor again, I might go back to the old way. But for now, it’s enough to make sure there’s enough food in the fridge and cupboards and that everyone has their fair share (no small matter in a family of food thieves). Having a larger family has taken some of the fun out of the cooking I used to enjoy. It’s made mealtime very practical. But that’s okay.
In order to turn into the mother my daughter imagines, I would have to stay in the kitchen all day long, either cleaning up from the last meal or preparing the next…from scratch…and with no preservatives. Since I can’t quite live up, she’s going to have to take it on herself when it’s her turn.
I’m tickled my daughter is thinking about being a mother and a wife. Helping nourish and nurture the next generation can be immeasurably fulfilling. It’s good she’s throwing it into the equation of possibilities. She’ll make a wonderful mother and wife when the time comes, of that I am certain. I don’t scoff at her dreams, even if from my adult eyes I see them as a bit on the unrealistic side.
So last night, as she shared more details, I told her I hoped it would work out as she’s planned. (She’s a planner, after all.) I encouraged her to seek an education, though, as backup and because it’s good to have the perspective that comes with higher education if you’re fortunate to have the chance. But I also applaud her for seeing, right here and now, what she ultimately wants. Many women don’t consider the stirrings of their heart when planning their future. And even if she changes courses, at least she’s beginning to form her ideas of not just what society might want but what she wants for herself most of all.
I hope to be here through all of it, to see her dreams unfold, even if Plans B, C and D must go into effect. Someday I might just be in her nice home sitting on her lovely dining-room table eating pie. And if not, that’s okay. I will still be loving her when she looks at me through wiser adult eyes. I hope that when that times comes, she’ll think back on the mom she’d sort of wished I had been and conclude that she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
For now, I’m not upset that I’m not living up to her vision, and I’m okay with her utopian mommy dream. Each generation needs to feel empowered to improve upon the previous. We can learn from one another.
And by the way, Dad, if you’re reading this, you still haven’t come over and put your feet up on my coffee table like you said you would someday, not to mention turned on all the lights in my house just to get me back. You can come on over anytime. Just don’t expect pie.
Q4U: Are you the parent you had envisioned? If not, what compromises have you made?