I would not be considered by the world to be a “good mommy.” My two girls mean the world to me and I love them deeply but they aren’t my world. They will never be my best friends, and I don’t want them to be. First of all, I believe I should be their mother, not their friend (at least not until they’re older). Second, and more importantly, I want my friends to be able to discuss politics and art and social issues in the world, not hold my conversations to My Little Ponies, Transformers, and the latest thing built from Legos. I want to be a person, not an extension of them – an attitude that is shared by many, but seemingly stated by few.
If I were a “good mommy” I would feed them homemade food every night, the house would always be spotless, and I would live for them. Forget your homework? There’s nothing that I could be doing that’s more important than bringing it to you. Don’t like what I cooked for dinner? Nothing would give me more pleasure than to cook you an entirely separate meal. Those dirty dishes are certainly worth it to make sure your dietary wants are met. And, I’d do all this while making sure I was magazine ready because my husband deserves a made-up wife greeting him at the door when he’s done with work.
Instead, I realized that if I were to decide that nothing I could do would be more important than what they want, I allow myself to become nothing. If he always has a made-up wife greeting him (not because I want to but because I should), I would be a made up person. It wouldn’t be me. I would have allowed myself to be sacrificed on the altar of mommydom.
Too many women I know have laid down their unique selves on that altar to become something else. They watch the commercials and hear the warning about ever leaving your child alone with anyone else and just can’t bring themselves to do it. They hear that if they let their kids play alone in a fenced in backyard they will be personally responsible for the inevitable kidnapping. Even if their children don’t get kidnapped, they will likely fall and get hurt and be psychologically scarred for life if mommy isn’t immediately there to comfort them. That minute that it would take to get from the kitchen to the child will be responsible for later drug use. Forget leaving the children with a babysitter unless they’ve been screened, vetted, had at least 2 references, and undergone a background check. Even then you need a nannycam because you never know what that person will do behind closed doors. On second thought, just take the kid with you everywhere.
Mothers today live in a state of constant panic. It’s no wonder that most of the women in my mommy Facebook groups are on anti-anxiety meds of some sort. We’re constantly bombarded with images of kidnapped children, dead children, drug-addicted children – and if you don’t mommy right, those will be your children. It’s not a sustainable model. Women have to be able to be something other than mothers. They have to be allowed, both by the media and (most importantly) themselves, to let go. We don’t need to do more for our kids, we need to do less. We need to allow that not being with them every nanosecond of the day is good, both for them and for us.
As I write this, one of my daughters is playing Angry Birds (also known as my sanity game) and the other is throwing a plastic Easter egg to see if she can break it on the floor. For me, this is being a good mother. It’s showing them that the world doesn’t exist for them, but rather they’re just a part of it. The adults are going to do adult things and the kids are going to figure out how to entertain themselves for a while. That doesn’t mean neglect them or make them achieve total independence by age four. It means making them see that I am not nothing. I am a person who is worthy of doing something of my own. I am not just an extension of my family but an actual part of it.
I am a stay-at-home-mother. As such, I do the housework and the child rearing while my husband is also a work. We both work, and he understand that. When the house is a wreck (as it regrettably is now), he understands that it’s because I’ve been going for too long. I’m in need of a break and as a result my work is suffering. So, he takes up the slack. He cleans and takes care of the children giving me a day to read and write and eat hot food without anyone else trying to steal a bite. I am as worthy of a vacation as anyone else. I am as worthy of validation as anyone else. I am as worthy of respect and appreciation as anyone else.
Motherhood is hard. You will never do it right according to at least 90 percent of the people who see you with your kids. You don’t spank enough; you spank too much. You dress your kids too warmly; you don’t dress them warmly enough. Your children have too much independence, they don’t have enough. On it goes. The trick, and it is tricky, is to let it all go. Stop listening to the advice and naysayers and just be you. If the kids are clean, well-fed, and loved, it is enough. That’s what they need. As long as you instill some sense of right and wrong and how to act as part of society, I don’t care how you do it. That doesn’t mean I agree with everyone’s choice, but they aren’t raising my children and I’m not raising theirs.
Women need to stop being bombarded with images of what they should look like, clean like, parent like. Yes, a celebrity’s home is going to be immaculate even with a 3-year-old and she is going to be slim and fit 5 months after delivering the baby. Of course, the team of house cleaners (who should really be given some credit in these articles), the fitness trainer, and the personal chef all make that much easier. I’d like to see a profile on the household staffs of these women and men who make parenthood look so very easy. Parenthood is exhausting and we should be supporting anyone who does it well. Not well according to a should of society, but well based on what that parent thinks that child needs as part of that family to be taken care of and grow to be a productive member of society. We need to start shouting “ENOUGH” at constantly being told that we aren’t enough. Nobody can ever be enough if we’re trying to live up to the ideal. Raising my girls outside of the ideal is my way of being the best mommy I can. That’s all that ultimately matters.