I spend a lot of time on my children’s birthday cakes. I don’t make practice cakes the week before or invest in the fanciest options of icing, but I do spend a long afternoon doing the best I can. It starts when I ask, “What do you want your birthday to be?” I think about what we have on hand, what is in the store, and spend 20 minutes on Google images and Pinterest to get a little inspiration. I plan; I bake; and I do what hubby calls “surgery” on the cake, dissecting parts, stitching other pieces together with toothpicks and icing. Then I mix icing; curse under my breath; add the crumb coat; curse again; and finish the final touches.
My family is impressed for about a minute, my children for even less. I could just buy a cake from the bakery. I could even get fancy, buy a specialty cake from a specialty bakery with a specialty price tag. It would certainly cut down on the cursing.
But the truth is, I bake the cakes for me. I always liked to make cookies for my dad growing up. I tried learning to make kolaches more than once from the family recipe (still working on getting that bread buttery soft). I like to bake. These days I have little time to cover the counter in flour, knead dough, and wait for bread to rise. But come their birthdays, I have the opportunity to bring out something I love (but rarely have time) to do, and do it for them.
Now that my children are getting older and starting school I bought each a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I have each teacher write a little note each year--my children’s personalized yearbooks with insight from all the adults who invested time in them at school. I’m sure my children will each look at their book, perhaps get a little sentimental, remembering their favorite, and not so favorite, teachers. But I’ve already looked back at their preschool teachers’ comments. And I’ll scan the books to keep a copy for myself when they graduate. Because those books are largely for me, too.
Sometimes the things I do for my child are for me, not just my child. When I pick out the cute shoes for my daughter, the ones that are adorable but also functional because I want my girl to keep up with the boys on the playground? I do that for her, but it’s also in part for me and who I hope my daughter to become.
So much of my day is for them, but sometimes those things are to warm my own soul. It’s easy to forget sometimes that my life is mine. But my day is mine. It’s a form of self-care for me, in the midst of endless to-dos. I remember most of those to-dos are at least partly for me, and some of them are mostly for me.
I take my role as a mother very seriously (and not so seriously too). I am a feminist. I am a homemaker. Taking the time to decorate the home and think of all the details that make a house a home? I do that for all of us, especially me. Having them pick up their shoes and clothes the drawer after they use it? I do that for them and their future roommates, but very much for my sanity and love of a neat space.
The endless attempts to get a “good” picture and then keeping so many of the kooky outtakes? I hope my children look at the scrapbooks down the road, but those are for me too. Laying down on the bed with snuggles while I sing a getting-to-be-ridiculously-long bedtime song? Totally for them…but so, so, so much for me.
Lynette is a mom of three children from 18 months to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.