When I mention this blog–usually in the context of answering the question “what are you up to these days?”–I tend to call it a “mommy blog.” It never really feels like a totally accurate descriptor, but I am a mommy and this is a blog so it’s technically not false, per se. I obviously talk about motherhood constantly as it is a massive part of my identity now and my inspiration behind this site. So again, many things to back up this title. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the term “mommy blog” (eyeroll-inducing as it may be) seems to imply to some (who have clearly not read this site!) that I have (or claim to have) some kind of parenting expertise. That would definitely be a sensible reason to have a mama-focused site, absolutely. I totally wish I could claim to be an expert because maybe then I would know what the hell I was doing (and you know, maybe I could help people or something).
But um no, I am definitely not an expert on parenting, although I’m sure you don’t need me to point that out for you. In fact, I’ve never felt like such a complete novice!
I read this amazing quote Scary Mommy posted on Instagram, “Once upon a time, I was a perfect parent and then I had children. The end.” Isn’t it just everything? It all seemed so black and white before my little peanut made her debut. Looking back I see what a judgemental know-it-all mama I could be, pre-motherhood. Every day since, however, I’m reminded just how very little I actually know.
No experience in my life has been so damn humbling.
And while I no longer judge other mums (eh hem…or at least I work very hard not to), I still have ridiculous expectations for myself. This really hit home recently when I stumbled upon The Good Mother Myth, a book of collected essays. In the intro, the editor describes the exact mother I’ve been setting the bar against since April 6, 2014 (and quite possibly my entire life). Behold! My role model:
“Her kids have always slept through the night, and even if they don’t, she still manages to look like she has had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. There is always a well-balanced, home-cooked meal on her dinner table. She holds down a fulfilling job while still finding time to join the PTA, run the school’s book fair, and attend every soccer game. Her house is absolutely spotless, and if it’s not, she can effortlessly laugh it off. She has the energy and desire for a happy and adventurous sex life, and her partner is always satisfied. She is crafty, creative, and embodies the perfect blend of modern woman and hipster housewife.”
Even knowing the title of the book, I still read this and thought, “yes I know her and I would very much like to be her, thank you. Now tell me how, damnit! ” This is unlikely to come as a shock to many of you being the logical thinkers you are, but this magical woman is indeed the embodiment of the “good mother.” The unicorn among horses. So why oh why do we all still perpetuate this as healthy and achievable?
I mean, social media probably doesn’t help much. We edit our experiences to showcase all the good stuff and (understandably) rarely any of the less-than-interesting or shitty stuff. I am pretty much convinced you all lead quite glamorous lives.
I was chatting with my dear friend about it–a mother herself–and we both realized we secretly saw the other as a pretty close facsimile of this fantastical being. This is someone I’ve known for nearly 20 years. She’s been privy to most of the messy details of my life and yet somehow she sees aspects of this woman in me as a mama. This came as a real surprise because I’ve often found myself wishing I could be a fraction of the mother I see in her. Was I flattered? Well, yes, of course. Like I said, I’ve been conditioned to think this is the woman I need to be (or appear to be). What I find most interesting (ok, more sad than interesting) is that while I certainly see what amazing mothers my friends are, I seriously struggle to acknowledge my own strengths. Hell, I am more likely to notice aspects of the “good” mother in total strangers in the grocery store and neighbours with whom I’ve exchanged no more than a friendly greeting, than the person I see in the mirror everyday.
I’m perfectly aware that all my friends (and all these women I don’t know, but who I somehow credit with super-human parenting skills) are actually made of flesh and bone. With my close friends, I simply see their flaws and gifts as a beautiful concoction that make them the women I so admire. When it comes to myself, however, I feel this need to constantly apologize for all my shortcomings and it’s bloody exhausting.
So I’m here to acknowledge that I am a good mother, but not because I fall into some cookie cutter mold. I’m a good mother because I love my daughter and I’m trying my darnedest to do a good job. Some days I don’t feel like trying and that’s ok too. I know that’s what I’d tell my best friend and it wouldn’t be a line. I’m a good mother even if it doesn’t always look that way, because I keep trying to do a little better when I fall short. I’m a good mother even if it doesn’t fit into your definition of what a good mother should be. I can only do me.
And you know what? The evidence is right in front of me. My little one is healthy and happy and I can take a little credit for that, right? And let’s be real. No matter how many parenting books I read or how many vegetables I convince my kid to eat, I’m still going to mess her up on some level. So why waste all this time agonizing over how to avoid the inevitable? My whole point is that flaws are totally cool and that does not exclude my little one (and the woman she will one day become).
I think it’s awesome to be inspired by other mamas and learn from them (even an imperative) and I’m all for setting some (realistic) goals as a parent. A willingness to change and grow with your child is a very good thing, indeedy. It’s just…maybe we need to cut ourselves a little more slack, hm?
It’s pretty darn apparent I do!