Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Honor of Mother's Day: Lowering the Bar

Did any of you read Julia Baird's piece in Newsweek this week? It was titled "Lowering the Bar: When Bad Mothers give us hope". Wow. What an interesting article on many levels.

The "Good Mother". What is your definition of a good mother? Are you a good mother? I think the first two years of Seren's life, I was plagued by this ridiculous definition of what a 'good mother' was. And according to my own standards, I was falling short.

On most days, I'm still plagued by this. "Good mothers would get their children to bed earlier. Good mothers would know how to bake a good cake. Good mothers would have more fun and have more energy. Good mothers would spend more one on one time with their children."

And so it goes. On and on and on. My own internal critic. Which was always there but spoke REALLY loudly the first two years of Seren's life. Then I had Wyeth. And realized, ya know what critic, "I AM a good mother! I screw up. I yell. I have my own tantrums. I say things I shouldn't say. I still can't bake. But whatever, I'm redefining my roles."

So there!


So while I gained confidence from the time that has passed and the addition of a second child, it still is tough. Mothering (and fathering) IS tough. Are we doing this right? Are we doing it right for this child? Why is it so hard? Do we make enough time for ourselves? If not, at whose expense? If we do make a lot of time for ourselves, is that being a 'bad' mother? And then somehow if we do get bold and say, "I'm a good mom" that sounds wrong too.

And on and on and on.

Motherhood is just so defining because it can be all consuming! The energy and emotion that goes into raising little people is exhausting and exhilarating!
So when I read the following, I cheered a little. From my own personal experience, she is right on.

"Today women no longer need to escape their families to work or be happy- now they need to escape their own unrealistic expectations of what a good mother is."

She goes on to say, "Guilt, judgement, and a distrust of female ambition are a hallmark of modern parenting, along with the literature about female fretting...has turned into a symphony of self-loathing." She then states, "If you love your kids and are doing your best, if they are alive, safe, and sane, then your mind should simply be at ease."

I think the last sentence may overstate her point a bit but her point is valid! She concludes, "Let's make 2010 the year of Lowering the Bar. Or, perhaps, Going to the Bar."

What are your thoughts? I know I'm not the only one who thinks about the topic of the 'Good mother' at least once a day.


Beth said...

Great post, Megan. Before I had kids, I just assumed mothering would come naturally to me. I had been babysitting my whole life and thought I'd be so laid back and would have it all together. Boy was I wrong! Mothering has definitely brought out my anxieties and insecurities. But that said, I don't really think about whether or not I'm a "good" mom. I am the mom I am. There's always room for improvement, there are always things I can do better. But I do the important stuff--I love them, I discipline them, I feed them and take them to the doctor. I read to them. And I talk to them. I expose them to new things and I teach them that it's important to consider and respect others. It's the big things that matter. We are all the product of imperfect parents. That's just life. Striving for improvement is good. But beating yourself up for not being perfect, or even for not being "better" is just self-defeating. You are doing an awesome job raising two kids. Whatever "perfection" you think is out there simply doesn't exist.

LauraC said...

I agree with Beth! You are an amazing mom! If you would like to see what "the rest" of parents are like, you should come visit my house sometime when my sister or Jon's brother is visiting with their kids. ha ha.

The problem is that you read the blogs of a lot of awesome moms and you only see certain parts of their lives. This whole mommyblogging culture brings with it these false expectations. Maybe I should do a series of keeping it real posts.

* If Jon travels on a Tuesday, there is a 99% chance I am at Chick-fil-A family night with the kids, giving them $0.99 meals and playing on my iphone while they play in the play area.

* I told Nate I would make him sleep on the bathroom floor with no blanket if he didn't leave Alex alone. On Mother's Day.

* The boys were jumping on their beds one night two weeks ago so I went in and took the bed frames out of their rooms while they screamed and cried.

Julie said...

I really like this post Megan. I am with you--with Lana I always have (and continue) to question my choices and just when I think I am doing a good job, my insecurities pop right up. Now that I have Lacey, I feel so much more confidence in what I am doing! I know I am not perfect (far from) and like you, I yell, I have tantrums, sometimes I even say things that are inappropriate.

I think that being mindful of the things that could use improving, will actually lead to real improvement. I also think it is difficult for overachievers to be parents. You know in your heart you are a good mother. Your kids are thriving and they know they are loved.

I also cannot bake a cake and for some reason that bugs me.

Whitney said...

I feel like I go above and beyond what other mothers do just because of Noah's intense and sensitive temperament. He demands it! He is the kind of child that needs extra care to go to sleep, transition to new situations, etc., etc., etc. I have put in so much time, energy and effort, that it is sometimes overwhelming. My main challenge is to have the patience it takes to get through the rough spots. I have to admit to never second-guessing myself or feeling like I'm not good enough, because I know I'm doing the very best I can.

As far as baking a cake, we can all throw a box cake together, right? Presto. I've made homemade cakes (not since Noah was born), and they're not necessarily better. They're just fattening anyway. :)

Whitney said...

On the other hand, there is one area in which I feel woefully inadequate as a mother -- meal preparation!! I am a horrible planner, and so is my spouse, when it comes to meals. I go to friend's houses where they have whipped up some meal, and I feel like a failure as a mom. We only cook the really quick stuff, and resort to take out from time to time. Oh well, I guess I have definitely lowered the bar in that area, but still feel guilty about it.

Jessica said...

I think this is one of the reasons why playdates with moms whose kids are close in age to mine end up exhausting me, mentally and emotionally. I spend half the time watching what they do and thinking about what I do and whether it's good enough or wishing I could - as Whitney said above - throw together meals or come up with great crafts, etc. My mom is always telling me that parents really just need to be "good enough" and the beauty of that is that it's based on some research! I need to find that research and put it on my site so all parents can give themselves a break.
One way I can tell you're a great mom is that you spend the time to chronicle what you love about your children, which tells me that you cherish them even more in real life. And writing about your frustrations or struggles is helpful to all the rest of us here in cyberspace, which makes you great as well.
Happy belated Mother's Day!