I was tagged by Unhappy Mommy with an interesting request. To answer one of the questions she posted at the end of her post. I am flattered that she wanted to hear what I had to say in response.
So, of course, being ME, my mind immediately grabbed #8.
- If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
The only challenge there is- ONE thing!? How could I pick just ONE thing? I started thinking of all the ways I feel I don’t measure up. And then I realized what I REALLY needed to change is my overly-ciritcal nature. I DESPERATELY want to change that. So…in that spirit, I’m not going to write any more on what I would change about myself.
As much as I’d like to talk about #5
- What is your favorite song? Why?
Thunder Road, baby! LOOOOOOVE IT! But I don’t think I’d be much good at explaining why.
So, instead I’m going to write about # 1.
- What is the one truth that you know, without a doubt, that you wish you could share?
Well, I don’t know about THE ONE truth, but certainly I have A truth that I really want to share: There is not enough honesty about motherhood.
It has become clear to me that too few people are REALLY honest about motherhood, particularly the early years, and that there is WAY too much glossing-over, leaving-out of the bad stuff, and sometimes outright dishonesty. A LOT of it is perpetrated by the mothers themselves, which is especially problematic.
I will not forget walking by a coworker one day when I was pregnant with Lola. She had recently returned from maternity leave and of course was being asked about the baby all the time, and of course new moms are EAGER to share! 🙂 This girl is one of those people who always wears the right thing (in a tiny size of course), says the right thing, and gains only the recommended 25 lbs of pregnancy weight (if that). You know. The kind that eats the appropriate 1800 calories every day and then just stops, and if she wants something else, she just doesn’t have it, because that would be MORE than the 1800 calories.
So, I’m standing nearby overhearing, and she’s telling a group of people that no matter how many times the baby wakes her up, she doesn’t mind at all. She just smiles and smiles about it because she loves him so much.
Bullshit. I didn’t even have a baby yet and I clearly recognized this as bullshit.
And this kind of bullshit? It is actually DESTRUCTIVE. When some average woman has given birth, and her hormones are all out of whack, and every bit of the life that was once hers is now devoted to the care of someone else, and she hasn’t slept in 2 months, and now in the middle of the night she can totally understand how people wind up shaking their babies- she doesn’t need her mind going back to “I ENJOY waking up 75 times a night because I LOVE my baby.” Because that’s bullshit. And no regular mother can measure up to this false perfection. But that’s what she heard. That is what the perfect tiny blonde in the halllway said.
It’s everywhere. I mean, the culture has been obsessed with babies for quite some time now. And all the rich celebrities are doing it, and as far as you can tell, they’re doing it better than you! They’re all skinny and their children all wear custom, handmade, fair-trade ensembles (or tiny designer duds) and play only with educational toys handmade from sustainable materials. It seems, at least, that a greater number of us is able to see through the media’s depiction of motherhood. What’s more damaging are the mother-to-mother interactions.
“I never want to take a date night with my husband, because I would never want to be away from my children.”
“I fed my child only nutritious, organic food from the beginning, so she doesn’t even LIKE anything processed or anything containing sugar.”
“I would never even CONSIDER turning my kid’s carseat around to forward face before his third birthday because I CARE too much for his SAFETY!”
etc. etc. etc.
It is easy to get the message that, if you can’t say all the same things, it’s simply because you don’t LOVE your child enough, or care enough about his or her health and safety. (I’m 0 for 3 on that list, if you’re wondering).
And sometimes these perfect moms are just flat out dishonest. Some of them are putting cloth diapers on their kid when they’re with people who will notice and telling you their kid is cloth diapered while they’re going through Pampers by the boxfull the rest of the time. Some of them are telling you their kid has NEVER had a drop of anything but breastmilk (which, of course, they produce so prolifically they could feed small villages), while at home their kid is munching on Gerber puffs and has been getting occasional bottles of formula since 6 weeks out. And there’s nothing wrong with Pampers, or puffs, or formula. My kids have both made use of all 3 on many occasions. But you can FEEL like there is, when it LOOKS like others are doing so much better.
These ideal things are true for some moms, I’m sure. But when they’re constantly touted, with no mention of the other side, it is disingenuous, and it can make other moms feel like crap. I’m sure I’m guilty of it too. I try not to be. But it’s hard, when everyone seems to be competing to do the BEST job of motherhood, to not just want to put your good stuff out there too, and keep the other things to yourself. The ones that it seems only YOU are failing at.
Well, let me tell you: I struggle to pump enough milk for Corbin and I have to supplement with some formula on the days I work. I have screamed at both of my children (yup, even as babies) so intensely that I’ve made them cry with fear. Once in a while Lola lives whole days on less-than-nutritious snacks and no “real” meals. I fight with my husband in front of the kids. I am so unable to reel in my trucker’s mouth that a little while back my 3 yr old daughter got mad and called me “fucking mommy!” I guzzle Crystal Light and Diet Pepsi during both pregnancy and breastfeeding. I gained 55 lbs while pregnant with Lola. And I have actually GAINED weight postpartum with Corbin. Lola watches WAY too much TV. Not like, “oh dear, she watches 3 hours a week when I’d really be more comfortable with one or 2.” No, we’re talking WAAYYY too much TV. (I’m wracked with guilt about it most of the time.) I compare my children much too often, to each other and to other kids. Sometimes I desperately wish I could go back to the days before kids when my body was desirable and my time was my own.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But you know what? I’m a good mom. Sadly, it’s only very recently that I’ve been able to say that and actually believe it.
I had a type of Post Partum Depression after Lola was born. I didn’t really recognize it for a while, because I didn’t feel DEPRESSED, per se. I didn’t feel really sad or apathetic or detached from my baby or any of those things PPD makes you think of. What I had was anxiety. Debilitating, crushing anxiety. I just felt an overwhelming sense of failure. And what made it really bad was that I felt like everyone was doing well at it but me. I was ashamed of myself.
I was coming out of that around the time that Lola turned 1. But my self-criticism runs deep. And by the time she was a two year old, and was starting to exhibit defiance and behavior problems, I was back to beating myself up on a regular basis about what I did wrong and how I must be failing my kid.
But recently, it’s slowly been seeping into my brain- I’m a good mom! It only took 3+ years and 2 kids for me to start feeling this way. And it’s fragile still. I can’t be sure that I won’t be easily sent back to anxious feelings of failure as the next difficult stage arises. But right now? Right now I think my kids are fiercely loved and they are happy and they have yet to land themselves in prison. And I put a LOT of effort and thought into that! Into this whole child-rearing business. And thus, I’m a good mom. And I want to tell all the mothers out there, new and otherwise, who are questioning themselves. Who are feeling imperfect and overwhelmed and are being bombarded with the idea that everyone ELSE is doing a good job. I want to convince them: YOU ARE A GOOD MOMMA!!! Do you care for your child to the best of your ability? Do you make their needs a priority over your own selfishness at least a LOT of the time? Then you’re a good mom!
It’s a beautiful and a terrifying thing to be a parent. Suffocating too. Sometimes you are overwhelmed with so much love it pours out of your tear ducts. And sometimes you wind up feeling so drained that you just want to give up. And when you wander wearily through the endlessness of motherhood without a map, please know that you’re not alone. That I’m doing those same things wrong. And a bunch of other things too! And so are all those other women who are too insecure right now to admit it. And it doesn’t make any of us bad people or bad moms. There is no yardstick to measure up against. Let’s stop trying to create one.
(this one was for Danielle. my first ever blog follower.)