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The Measure of a Mom

By marylweimer |

Measuring time I used to work in an office with a door that closed. There was a desk. There were four chairs. A bookshelf. A filing cabinet, a window.

Back then I wrote grants and developed programs and came up with evaluation plans. I was trained to look for innovative methods for defining progress.

It’s nice to know how your work measures up, and it looks good on paper. But in the world of social work, it’s more than just nice: it’s critical. It’s how you defend the need for your job when the dollars are scarce.

I evaluated our work in several ways: progress notes. Feedback from clients. An annual performance review. When I gave presentations I passed out evaluation forms, little scales and fill-in-the-blanks that told me how effective I’d been. There were quality assurance teams. Committees. There were boards of directors to oversee it all.

There were surprises, good and bad. But I usually knew exactly where I stood. I made a difference every day and it felt good.

The day I gave birth to my daughter everything changed. I’d crossed the threshold, suddenly, from social worker- working mom- to stay-at-home mom. The days were long and there was no break for lunch. There was no office, no way to close that door to the world. My tiny coworkers weren’t interested in the book I was reading or my clearance-bought shoes. And perhaps the most jarring thing of all was this: there was no one to tell me if I was doing it right.

As a mom those measures of success are harder to define.

In the weeks after the birth of my daughter I struggled to quantify my time. I kept a log of soiled diapers and took notes when she slept. I was opposed to putting my newborn on any kind of schedule, believing it was best for her to lead the way. I even sent emails to my husband to prove to him that I was working hard:

7:30-7:45 Nursing (she fell asleep)

7:45-8:30 Made breakfast for the boys, cleaned

8:30-10:00 More nursing on and off, played with boys

I was searching for a supervisor, not used to being on my own. I needed his feedback like a performance review. Eventually my rational mind rose to the surface and I regained my footing, but for weeks I was out of control, all willy nilly and wild.

That’s precisely the point. Motherhood can’t be standardized. It doesn’t translate well. There are no checklists or inventories or performance reviews. So much is beyond our control. There are scraped knees and heartaches, failures and friendships betrayed. There are time-outs and messes made and candy stolen from the corner store.

But as mothers, there is also this: a lap to sit on. A storybook. A lesson from our own experience to soothe the heart.

There may not be measures for defining success like there are in the world of work, but there are guideposts along the way.

There are pats on the back. Encouraging words. Silent nods from experienced moms in the grocery store during a blow-out toddler tantrum. There is mother’s intuition. There are the stories of other women. There’s an invisible line connecting the hearts of every mother throughout time.

Working at a job and working at motherhood require different skills and lean on different parts of the brain. I may not be in an office with a door. A desk. Four chairs. A bookshelf.

But I still have a window, and I can see all the way to their futures from here.

Photo Credit: Aussiegall/Flickr

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About marylweimer



Mary Lauren Weimer is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work has appeared in such places as Spirituality & Health and The Huffington Post, and she’s known for her thoughtful and introspective writing about all aspects of motherhood and the parent-child relationship.

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0 thoughts on “The Measure of a Mom

  1. Leslie says:

    I read an essay once that compared being an at-home mother to stringing beads all day long on a thread with no knot at the end–nothing to show for all that work at the end of the day, and so much of it to do over and over again, every single day! We are all so product-oriented, and the “finished product” in this case takes years and years! That’s what’s so nice about your writing–reminding us of the little moments that make it all up, encouraging us to focus on the trees instead of the forest. :-)

  2. marylweimer says:

    I love that analogy, Leslie. We really do have to retrain our brains when we become moms.
    Thank you for your sweet words about my writing. It really means a lot.

  3. Barbara says:

    Love this, especially the last line:

    “But I still have a window, and I can see all the way to their futures from here.”

    It does feel so strange to have “nothing” to show for an entire day at home. But, then you just have to look at your safe, happy, and cared for little baby and know you are doing the most important job ever. And you may not be perfect, but you are a work in progress.

  4. Kristin @ What She Said says:

    A very good reminder in the wake of certain, ahem, media influences of late that motherhood is NOT an exact science. Lovely article!

  5. Betsy says:

    I went from being a professional athlete to being a mom. I totally relate to this. I wish I could have kept my coach, and without a finish line or my time posted on a big board where I can compare it to others, I am still trying to figure out how to tell if I’m sucking or winning. Most days it’s a bit of both.

  6. marylweimer says:

    Betsy that’s a really interesting perspective. I can see how that would be a tough transition to make! I think we could all use a coach sometimes : ) Thanks for your comment.

  7. Mamazee73 says:

    You do eventually get a performance review ( my oldest is 16 and i’m 39 weeks with #8)… But talk about a lag between action and feedback!

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