Forget Mother’s Day – when it comes to holidays, I’m with Jen Singer. The blogger behind Momma Said created “Please Take My Children to Work Day” six years ago as a way to give stay-at-home moms a real day off. This year the holiday falls on June 30th – a perfect excuse to rook your mother-in-law into watching your tot while you read a novel. Singer is also celebrating the release of her book You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either), in which she offers fourteen ways to avoid being either the super mom or slacker mom. (Singer hilariously recounts the time she tried to be super mom and sew a ghost costume for her son; he ended up looking like a pint-sized Klansman.)
The book is also filled with lists and quizzes, some of which first appeared in Parenting magazine. Normally, these can be kind of lame, but in the margin of the book I wrote HA HA HA by the list titled “Mommy Was A Good Girl Today. She Deserves a Sticker. #1: I managed to find a G-rated word to shout after dropping a bottle of apple juice on my bare foot.”
I so deserve that freakin’ sticker.
Singer, who lives in New Jersey with her husband Pete and sons, Nicholas, eleven, and Christopher, nine, also blogs about tweens and is at work on a series of books for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Babble talked to her about what she’ll be doing on June 30th, about how to be a “mom from the middle,” and about – yikes – her recent battle with cancer. – Jennifer V. Hughes
How did you come up with the idea for “Please Take My Children to Work Day?”
I was a full-time stay-at-home mom spending a hundred hours a week with my kids and I went to a parenting seminar. A woman raised her hand and asked, “How can I get time off because my husband thinks this is time off?” I couldn’t help myself and said, “This is a work-related seminar.” Everyone deserves time off : a lot of stay-at-home moms feel like this is their job, so they need to do it 24/7. When you’re a stay-at-home mom, a sick day means you’re just doing what you always do except you also feel miserable.
What are you going to be doing on June 30th?
Usually my mother-in-law takes my kids and my mom and I go out, but we’re going out a week early to a spa. Maybe my mom will take the kids and I can go see a movie that is not animated with talking animals.
When it comes to your book, sometimes I wonder whether we really all think we’re terrible moms or if it’s not a little like that skinny model-type at the cocktail party who insists she’s so fat. Are we just looking for reassurance?
Oh yeah, I think every mom wants to be told they’re a good mom. When I do radio shows and they say, “You’re a Good Mom : ” and for a moment I feel so reassured and then I remember, “Oh, they’re just reading the title of my book,” and I’m a little disappointed. I think everyone needs to hear it because so often moms are judged in ways that fathers are not. Every little thing is a reflection on us, so we need to be told we’re good moms because deep down we’re not always so sure we are. It takes the littlest things to knock our self-confidence down.
In your new book you talk about being a mom from the middle: neither a super mom, who makes 3D pilgrim cakes for the school Thanksgiving party, nor a slacker mom whose kids know she’s a pushover. How do you mom from the middle? Examples, please!
I basically do triage. I do what I really need to do and I do what I really like to do. I love soccer : so I’ll be the crazy mom who is coaching two soccer teams, but you won’t catch me at a Cub Scout meeting. I have no interest in that whatsoever. You have to pick the things you are good at, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure.
What’s the worst example of a super mom you’ve ever seen?
Oh my God, she’s going to know who she is, but that’s all right. I was coaching kids’ soccer and this is the first day and we had finished a drill called sharks and minnows. Some of the kids were laying down and she says, “You know, in third grade, we never let our children sit down. They should be up kicking the ball.” I said, “They’re five. They’re going to sit down now.” She never came back. She realized I was immune to her super mom power.
In the afterword to your book you say that you’ve recently gone into remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. How are you doing?
I’m still in remission. It’s an aggressive cancer so I have to have a PET scan every three months and blood tests in between. It may look like I was super mom, but I was barely hanging on. So, I’m basically living my life in three-month increments. I found out I had cancer a year ago; June 6th, which ironically is D-Day, so this time of year I’m soaking up everything because I missed it all last summer. Hanging out with my kids at the lake is the best thing I’ve been able to do in a long time.
Okay, maybe this is narcissistic, but when I read about your cancer, one of my first thoughts was “Holy crap, I’m pretty pathetic – this woman is raising two boys, running a household, writing a book and battling cancer. My biggest victory of the week was getting double coupons on juice boxes.” I guess that’s kind of contrary to the whole point of your book about being a good mom, huh?
[Laughs] While I was going through chemo, the entire neighborhood was cooking for me, my friend Kim set up a schedule every week of who was watching our kids. I wasn’t being the mom I had been in the past – I couldn’t. My husband did all the laundry and dusting. It may look like I was super mom, but I was barely hanging on.
Do you think there’s a lesson in here for the rest of us about not having to be the super mom?
The advice I give in my book, I’ve lived ten times over. I had to give up going to swim team, but at the same time, I made time to play a board game or watch HGTV with my kids. I could still find the middle of motherhood even when I was at the lowest point in my life.