Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Myth of Motherhood

Wow. There is a whole lot out there written about moms, isn't there?  Mom's are crazy,  mom's are mean, mom's are the best, mom's have it the hardest, being a mom is so rewarding, being a mom is beautiful, being a mom is dumb, working moms neglect their kids, stay-at-home moms are lazy. The range of things written about mom is absolutely no surprise,  because everyone in the world has a mom, and everyone in the world has an opinion.

And so do I!  Time to dust off the old soapbox again, methinks...



This video about how motherhood is the toughest job in the world has gone viral over the past week or so. Matt Walsh beat me to the punch and pointed out some of the flaws with the thoughts behind it.  He pointed out that being a dad is tough as well, that neither job is as tough as that ad for employment made it out to be, and that beyond these things, there is actual damage to portraying motherhood in this way (or, parenthood in general if we're being honest):
I’m all for being real with people, but all we accomplish is making otherwise fine young men and women utterly petrified of starting a family. They constantly hear that you’ll never sleep, your life is over, and you’ll never have fun again, unless you learn to define ‘fun’ as ‘poopy diapers and bankruptcy.’ And then we wonder why birthrates are plummeting? (--Matt Walsh)
So, what's the deal?

There are two extremes of the concept of "mother" being played out in today's society. On the one hand, being a mom is the super-hardest-toughest-most-overlooked position in society; mothers are trampled on, neglected, un-showered and lonely.

Exhibit A
source

On the other end of the spectrum is SuperMom.  A woman so perfect, it's hard to look at her. She has 2.3 to 3.7 children, works part-time, or has a small home business, her house is immaculate, her children are well-behaved, her clothes are fashionable, and she never has a bad hair day. Ever.

Exhibit B.
source

The problem with the two extremes is that nobody wants either one!  Who would vote to be a frumpy frazzled lady for life?  And who wants to try to meet Everest-ian expectations for everything? Nope. 


Not nobody. Not nohow.
source
Now, nobody's kidding anyone here. Being a mom (a parent in general, of course!), is hard.  It is simply not a breeze all of the time. It is actual work. Motherhood is one of the most important jobs on the planet (despite what they say over there @The Guardian--srsly?! Srsly? :P), because you have the immense responsibility of introducing other persons to everything. It's your job to make sure they know how to react and interact and put on pants. All of that.

But motherhood is normal. Let's all say that again. Being a mom is normal. "Mom" is the job description for more people on the planet than anything else.  Seriously.

I once had a friend* ask me how I knew what to do with the boys, like, did I read books or something?  I had to stop and think about it.  I absorbed a lot of mothering information and style by growing up around a bunch of kids. My family isn't humongous by reality TV show standards, but there were always some cousins to babysit.  So, changing diapers, making lunches, and playing made-up games for hours were all, well, normal.  My family gave me the background to assume a lot of the responsibilities of mothering, and, most importantly, the attitude that I could be a mom: normal people are moms, I can do that.

Some of my former charges ;)

Now, I don't think you had to have been an all-star babysitter to be a mom, or even a great mom, but the situation has definitely been made more difficult by the attitude of many people today that I've illustrated above.  When people perceive motherhood (and fatherhood) as either slave-work or heroic, they are repelled from it, because most people are neither slavish nor think themselves heroes.  Add to this is the perception that children are a burden, and that multiple children is an undertaking bordering on insanity, and all of the sudden motherhood is a mystical enigma of epic proportions.

{side bar soapbox: why is it OK to judge other people's family size? Really?}

So, if you didn't grow up in a large family, or weren't babysitting cousins often, it's ok, really.  There are books to read, and blogs, and websites, and medical people, and Google--not to mention that your own mom and friends are a wealth of information.  And if you're ever really starving for advice, just show up at the grocery store with at least one child in tow. There are always experts in the grocery store line. ;)

source

Folks, listen. There are several billion ways in this world to be a mom. Most of them are just fine. You can be employed a lot, or a little, or not at all.  You can breastfeed or bottlefeed, cloth diaper or use disposables.  You can obsess about the ingredients in the Kool Aid, or make your kids boxed Kraft mac n' cheese until they turn orange.  Go for it.

Being a mom is everything they say it is, and you can do it. The trials of toddlers and laundry, budgets and babies, the wondrous monotony of motherhood is normal, and it is good. Somewhere between the Frumpy-Frazz and the Super-Queen lies the truth of motherhood: you.  And lady, you've got this one.

Leo & Mama c. April 2011

*Special thanks to my dear friend for getting me to think about this stuff :)

16 comments:

  1. Katherine - this was great! And thank you for the shout out!

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    1. Yes! Your piece was great the other day. I'm looking forward to reading your post @Carrots too!

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  2. "Being a mom is normal." So good! I loved this.

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  3. You are all doing a great job of being MOMS!! :)

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  4. I love that we are Moms together :)

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  5. love you and you are a great MOM

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  6. Thanks for this post, its easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to these extremes of motherhood and I for one have wasted too much time trying to be another mom than the one I truly am. The internet can be such a resource and be so supportive but it can also cause moms to second guess themselves and posts like this remind us that we are perfect just the way we are.

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  7. Well said. We need more posts like this. I'm not a mother, but it is impossible not to notice the "mommy wars" playing out on social media and the like.

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    1. Side note, I've been trying to comment on this for days. I guess Google Chrome just doesn't want me to comment, ever. But my other browser does.

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    2. Yes! The "Mommy Wars". Bleh. It's pretty silly, but it's easy to get caught up in the thinking every little thing is a hill to die on fight with parenting topics. That's another post though, maybe ;).

      {I had that happen to me a couple of weeks ago with the comments! (It's a sad thing not to comment on one's own blog!). Turns out I had cookies disabled, when I enabled cookies (which sounds a lot more delicious than reality), commenting worked again (on Chrome too).}

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  8. Yes, I guess this is right. I say "guess" because I did really enjoy that video about motherhood being the toughest job. It made me feel like I was doing something hard: and that someone was actually acknowledging that it was hard, instead of brushing it off like, "whatever."

    And so maybe that's my take on it: maybe we're all called to do something HARD, to give of ourselves in some way... but that's too often lost in our self-driven, self-obssesed culture. Baby crying gotta run...

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    1. I think that you're right, Laura. Our calling does get lost in the selfish culture. Motherhood *is* really hard, and perhaps I shouldn't downplay the effort by that video to recognize it as such, but I think it's telling that the job description had to be way over the top to make its point. If more people recognized the normalcy/universality of motherhood, maybe we'd have more support in it, instead of the brush-off.

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing your post at the "Let's Talk Motherhood" link-up!! I have a love/hate relationship with the internet and social media, and one reason is because it becomes this visual source of stress for moms, as you said, we're either sloth or super-mom. Seemingly perfect images of others can trigger feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, while not so positive images of motherhood can fuel judgement rather than support or encouragement to moms who make different choices than we do. The moment I step away from all of it, I feel free to be the mom God wants me to be - and to know that, whatever that looks like - pleasing him and enjoying the journey along the way is what will make every moment of motherhood rewarding.

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    1. Oopsy - um, a little Google account log-in confusion - the comment should be posted from Susan Husband, and not her spouse, sorry!! :)

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    2. You're so right about the benefits of stepping away from social media! "Whatever that looks like" = exactly. Thanks for hosting!

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  10. This makes me smile ......

    So glad to have stopped by from Sole Searching Mama! ;)

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