mommy madness

Have you read the Feb 21st Newsweek? The one titled "The Myth of the Perfect Mother"? Yikes. I think it may be the saddest thing I have read in a while.
It's about a book a woman wrote. She writes about mothers who are exhausted, over-worked, women who have given up. Surrendered to parenthood. There are common threads. They all seem to want everything to be perfect. They all hint at unhelpful spouses. And, if you read really closely, none of them have control of their children.
A few women say that career is the one thing they have for themselves. That seems a little backwards to me. There are a few things that these mothers said that floored me:
  • They not only have no sex drive, they don't feel like sexual beings anymore.
  • They feel judged and threatened by other mothers.
  • They feel out of control.
  • They feel stuck, or trapped.
  • They find the joy of motherhood comparable to that of housekeeping. They find watch TV more fun.

What? A few quotes. "it's stressful, lonely and tiring." "How do you find time to put yourself first?" The article talks about how we were the generation of "Girls Who Could Have Done Anything". We didn't have to fight for our place in the world anymore. By the time we hit school, we were being taught on the same level as the boys, and encouraged to surpass them. We were "bred...To compete". To climb as high as we wanted to. I guess the collective "We" assumed family would fit in there somewhere. Evidently, something doesn't fit.

There was a quote I found particularly disturbing: "...As mothers many women face "choices" on the order of: You can continue to pursue your professional dreams at the cost of abandoning your children to long hours of inadequate child care. Or: You can stay at home with your baby and live in a state of virtual, crazy-making isolation because you can't afford a nanny, because there is no such thing as part-time day care, and because your husband doesn't come home until 8:30 at night."

There's a lot more. It ends discussing that we need real, "politically palatable, economically feasible" solutions. You should read it. It's long. Here's the link.

Ok, my retort. I had terrible parents. Really, they were beyond bad. I didn't have the super great life with the super great mom that made me want to be a super great mom too. I had no example to follow going into motherhood. I never went to college. I make no secret of that. I have an I.Q. of over 150, and I imagine I could have pursued a great career in something. Well, I didn't. I married my second boyfriend and had kids. That's that. I look around at these women who have college educations, who waited until they were in their 30's to have kids so they could experience life first, have some added knowledge, or something like that, and it shocks me how little they seem to know. If I could gather all these tired, depressed, bitter women together this is what I would tell them:

  • Stop reading parenting books. Your mother winged it. So did her mother. You are unique, and so is your child. No one has written a book for the two of you. Stop looking for it.
  • Stop pushing. Yourself, your child, your spouse. Your child is not an empty box that you are supposed to pound full of information. Cooing at your baby is sufficient. Your spouse would like to be treated like your partner, not your galley crew. No one has a list of things they expect you to do for/with your child. Do what is fun or medically necessary. Skip the rest.
  • Have you ever heard of a babysitter co-op? You invite other moms at the playground you go to, or at the grocery, or on the soccer team to join. Moms you know and trust. Everyone has 2, don't say you don't. You make coupons for x amount of babysitting time. Jan calls you and schedules a time to leave her kid with you. She adheres to the time on the coupon. She gives it to you. You call Sue and schedule a time to leave your kid with her. You get a manicure or see a movie. You give Sue the coupon. Sue calls Jan....That's free, trustworthy, part-time day care. Better yet, hire the girl scout who comes to your door to sell you cookies to babysit. Most girl scouts are certified babysitters, and know more CPR than you.
  • Remember that whole "it takes a village" thing? It's true. You cannot do it alone, so stop trying. Involve your family. Involve your friends. Cultivate your village.
  • If you are not having fun, something is very wrong.
  • If your child hits you, yells at your, bosses you around, or treats you in a way you would not let your spouse or co-workers, something is very, very wrong. It must be changed. Now. You are not a waitress. No one hired you to do this. Do not let anyone in your home treat you as if you were, no matter how small or cute they are.

I don't claim to the the world's best mom. I certainly make my share of mistakes. But I know a few things. I know that my job is the most important job in the whole, entire world. I am making men, lovers, husbands, fathers. I would not rather be doing anything else. (It would be super if I got paid for it, but...) I know my name is not mom. I am a person with dreams and interests. I believe that my kids have to see that. I think it makes them appreciate me more. I know that my job is not to bend over backwards to keep everyone appeased, but rather to teach them how to be men. It is, finally and most importantly, to love them more than I love air or sunlight or my freedom or my youth. If I successfully let them know that they are loved, and respected, they will grow up to love and respect. They will find love and respect...And so on. That's a cycle I'd like to see continue.