Monday, May 7, 2012

...

You know, there's a crazy standard for mothers. It's not really stated outright, but there's this...impossibly high mark that we're all expected to reach ALL THE TIME. And no matter what, there's going to be someone who thinks you're doing it wrong. It starts in pregnancy, when everything you eat and drink and wear is scrutinized, along with how big you are (not showing much on your small frame? - "You need to eat a cheeseburger, girl! You're eating for two now!" Look like you're due any minute when you've got half the pregnancy to go? - "Are you sure there's only one baby in there?" "You know, my friend ran ten miles every day of her pregnancy. You should try it!") and what aspects of your decadent lifestyle will soon be limited ("Just you wait!"). Then, it begins in earnest with your child's birth - medicated, or not? Natural, or c-section? Breast or bottle? Co-sleep, or crib? Cloth diapers, or disposables? Do you work outside the home, or are you with them all day? If you work, do you send your child to daycare, or do you employ a private nanny? Do you allow your toddler in the presence of a television? Have they ever had sugar? Do you feed them all organic, natural food, free of pesticides and hormones, or do you let them have an occasional Happy Meal? What about corn syrup? Food dyes? Are they in at least three enrichment activities per week, to ensure proper socialization? Can they sit quietly still for hours at a time, demanding nothing? Read fluently by the age of 4? Have you ever raised your voice to your child, or, Heaven forbid, swatted their bottom? Do you home-school, or is your child in private school? The list goes on....and on....and it's exhausting.

These questions aren't really the issue. It's an absolute privilege to be a mother, and there are massive responsibilities that go along with it, which shouldn't be taken lightly. I've got it very good, and I know it: two beautiful children who are healthy, a husband I adore, a safe home that I love. Making choices for our kids is part of parenting, and there are a TON of choices to make. I feel very fortunate that I have the freedom to make some of these choices. I think it's the tone of judgment that too often goes along with the asking that starts to grate, that starts to make us...me....feel inadequate, like a failure as a parent, whether my children are happy and thriving, or not. Why do we do that to each other? Why do we do it to ourselves? Why is there this obsession with perfection, not only as it relates to ourselves and our children, but to others as well?

I'll be honest with you: I do not meet the standard. Never mind the fact that the standard seems to change constantly. I had some occasional caffeine while pregnant. I had c-sections - not willingly, but still. I breastfed both children for about two years each. I co-slept with the J-bird, but Miss V preferred her crib. My kids watch cartoons, even some cartoons with no educational value whatsoever. I made most of their baby food, and I insist they eat fruit and veggies, but they also eat the occasional Happy Meal or bag of M&Ms (and they enjoy every bite). I've used cloth diapers extensively, but I've also used disposables. I teach both kids at home, and we schedule play dates and fun social things as well. I'm not as patient as I thought I was before I had kids. I sometimes give in to irritability and am not as kind as I could be. I don't do a fun new craft with my children in my immaculate house every day, and I happen to love the occasional "pajamas all day" day. Yeah, I know that kind of makes me a slob. I have very definitely raised my voice. Just ask my high energy five year old.

On second thought, please don't ask him.

And we have difficult days. Days where Miss V climbs the walls (quite literally) and pees her pants, even though she's long since potty trained. Where the J-bird fights me on every.single.thing. Where my house is a mess, and I haven't combed my hair, and I feel like....like a disaster. As a parent, as a "domestic engineer", as a wife. Those days are lonely. The thing is, I think we ALL HAVE THEM. We just don't acknowledge it. No matter what choices we're making, some days are just flops, and that's alright. It really is. I don't have to be perfect, and neither do my kids. YOU don't have to be perfect, and neither do YOUR kids. I think that, everything else aside, the most important questions we should ask each other are:

Are you happy? How about your kids? Your partner? Is everybody safe? Do you mostly love what you do each day? Do you feel challenged and interested and engaged? Do your kids feel that way?

And, if you happen to see ME, feel free to ask:

Have you had enough coffee today? Would you like some more? :)

I guess that, at the end of the day, there are some things I feel passionately about, and I put more energy toward those areas, in life and in my parenting. For the rest of it, I do what works. I think that's more manageable than trying to take on the whole list. Couldn't we all do that? Judge one another kindly? Lift each other up, instead of tearing each other down? For instance, are you a natural birth advocate? I think that is so awesome! Please advocate kindly. Are you a lactivist? Fantastic. Please educate gently, and heed the signals when someone needs you to MYOB. Passionate about cloth diapers or co-sleeping or women in the workplace or eating locally or free range kids? That is wonderful. Just don't assume that everyone who doesn't feel as passionately as you do about your issue is a moron or a bad parent. Please. I know that I make a lot of mistakes, and that is humbling enough without having others point it out in a condescending way. Motherhood has revealed personal flaws I never knew I had. It has also stripped away a lot of artifice and unnecessary obsession with how I appear to others, along with any ideas I had, pre-children that I was some sort of expert at this. I love my children more than I love my own life though, and I work every day to be a better mother to them, a better wife to my darling husband, a better daughter, sister, friend. And when I see other mothers out and about, I kind of assume they're doing the same thing, whether their child is snacking on organic kale chips and wearing a hemp diaper, or mowing down on some McNuggets and sporting a Huggies. So if you see me out in public and I flash you a smile over the head of a tantrum-pitching kid (yours or mine), you'll know it's a smile of solidarity, because, as far as I'm concerned, we're in this together.

3 comments:

Jaimey said...

Have you had enough coffee? Do you need some more? :) I hate that woman usually turn to the negative before the positive. I LOVE that I have so many friends who are not those woman. :) Hugs lady, you are doing GREAT and in ALL HONESTLY there isn't a day that goes by when I don't try to channel you in my parenting. You are a mom some of us hope to be one day. :) <3

Michelle Huslig-Lowrance said...

Oh Sweets,
I love reading your posts. I dont have kids and never will by my choice but your posts are so reflective and inspiring that they apply to all facets of life. Keep up the good work and if you ever need a coffee drinking companion just drop me a line, you have your coffee and I will have my pepsi cause no matter how bad they say it is for you I still need that first pepsi of the day, or two or three.............kind of depends on how the day is going. :D

Tara said...

Oh my gosh, I love this!!! You should find a way to get it published.