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By Cheryl Gochnauer
Copyright 1999

Lying at the bottom of my chest of drawers, hidden away from inquisitive husbands and kids who just wouldn't understand, is a size 2 Toddler Easter dress. Let me be truthful and rephrase that. There are pieces of a size 2 Toddler Easter dress.

These various pieces look especially impressive, because I cut them out using a pair of those zig-zaggedly scissors that make you look like you know what you're doing. Unfortunately, my sewing expertise sputtered out soon after, as I started trying to decipher the inscrutable pattern directions.

Before I could intersect with the interfacing, I found I was unable to salvage the selvage. Spools spun off the top of the machine, needles broke, and the only thing I wanted to know about naps was when I could take one.

Are you lost? Me, too.

So I stuffed my $40 worth of material, lace and shiny buttons in that bottom drawer and headed for Wal-Mart. Thirty minutes later, Carrie was spinning around the living room in a fabulous new Easter dress that cost half of what I'd spent on my ill-fated frock.

That was several years ago. Since I don't have any more daughters and there's no way to recut a size 2 Toddler into a size 10 Preteen, I guess I've missed my window of opportunity. But I just can't seem to make myself toss that pile of pretty piecework.

When I first came home, I decided it was my duty to do everything from scratch. This is a ridiculous concept, of course. I don't remember walking into my first job and demanding a boulder and chisel instead of a typewriter. So why did I think I had to sew my own clothes, bake my own bread and quilt my own bedspreads?

Don't worry that you'll slide off the Suzie Homemaker scale if you attempt the same activities, with disastrous results. Decide on a few new tasks you'd like to master, not because of some perfect mother mental image, but because you really want to learn this particular skill and you have an affinity for it.

It's not time for a crash course in Home Ec 101. Leave fretting over which detergent gets whites the brightest to those fictional ladies on TV. The love you have for your children is your most important tool is raising them.

As I finger the zigzagged pieces of my unfinished toddler dress, I know I'm not really looking at failure. A lot of affection went into this little frock, even if the project didn't turn out exactly as planned.

I start to put it in the Goodwill bag, then inspiration strikes.

I've got it! I'll save it for my first grandchild. Surely I will have figured out fasteners by then.

Nah. Showing some self-control, I wrap up the pattern and pieces to give to charity. Let's see if some other mother is gifted in that area. Meanwhile, I'm going to go play with my kids. That's something I'm good at!

This article is excerpted from Cheryl Gochnauer's book, "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom" (InterVarsity Press, 1999). Comments? Email [email protected] or visit, where you can interact with other moms on the lively messageboards.

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