A few years ago, a neighbor brought my 3-year-old daughter home after a play date and asked me a funny question: “Zoey says she’s never eaten a chocolate chip cookie before. Is that true?”
“Well, that’s weird,” I responded. “Because we have cookie ”
I stopped before I finished my sentence. My family knows when I say, “Let’s make cookies,” what I really mean is “Let’s make cookie dough!” The truth is that we hardly ever make it to the baking part. Once the mixing is done, I eagerly hand out spoons, and we all indulge in a delicious, sugary feast. Cookie dough was how I should have finished that sentence but I was scared to say it. Guilt began to drizzle through my veins as I worried what this woman would think if she knew the truth: that I willingly give my kids raw dough.
But then something miraculous happened. The older-than-40 side of my brain took over, and instead of continuing to second-guess myself, as we mothers so often do, I swallowed a spoonful of pride and heartily confessed that I had never made cookies using flaxseed, tofu, or wheat berries, and that, yes, my children did eat raw cookie dough, and that although broccoli was best, I believed that cookie dough wouldn’t kill you. My quick reaction stunned my neighbor and surprised me a little, too. Seconds later, we both toppled over in hardy laughter at the hilarious thought that, to my little daughter, a cookie was a gooey blob on a spoon.
That incident turned out to be a needed moment of clarity. You see, mothers too often compare and contrast, evaluate and estimate their mothering capabilities, failing to celebrate and delight in their uniqueness. They heap on spoonfuls of guilt for what they are not instead of celebrating who they are. It would do every mother good to constantly remember what author Jill Churchill said: “There’s no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.” Good advice, especially for new moms.
After my first baby was born, I flew back East to visit my parents. I had put my baby to bed and found my mother in the kitchen washing and drying dishes. The routine of it entranced me and flooded my mind with memories of all the things my mother had done for me as a child — sewing me a dress for the school play, driving me and my friends to get shakes, making me sack lunches and being sure to include one of her famous napkin notes inside, and a myriad of things that would take all night to list. My mother was there for me. And good mothering boils down to that one basic ingredient. Motherhood is the art of being there.
Standing on my porch, fiercely defending my cookie dough stance helped me to realize that I hoped for one thing: That someday my children would see me in the way I saw my mother. That they would say, “When I was little, my mother used to gather us around the kitchen counter and hand us each a spoon ” I hope they remember that I was there, freshly baked cookies or not.
So, whenever you start to feel those drizzles of doubt, remember to be present in the moment as you are mothering your children. Whether you’re helping them with homework, watching their dance moves, coaxing them to clip their fingernails, or cheering them on from the bleachers, remember that you are there. And that’s all your children really need.
Jodi Marie Robinson is a wife, a mother of four and an inspirational speaker. She teaches motivational and life-skills classes to women recovering from drug addiction at a treatment center in Salt Lake City.