Tuesday, April 07, 2009

meditations on motherhood

A while back I got a comment from someone who thought that if I was feeling so angsty about having another baby I wasn't ready for a second child. It was one of only a few anonymous comments I've received and probably the first that wasn't completely flowery and supportive. Obviously, the commenter only wanted to offer some well-meaning advice, but I felt very defensive at the time. What do you mean I shouldn't have another child? Do you think I'm a bad mother? Am I a bad mother? I sure bitch about it a lot...

My blog is an open forum and by its very nature invites strangers to comment, but I don't make any money on this and it's principally a journal, so part of me felt that I didn't have any responsibility take (what I viewed as) criticism gracefully. Still, I tried to write a balanced response that didn't scream, "Mind your own business!" The whole episode made me realize how happy I am this blog runs under the radar and I don't have to worry about fielding less-than-glowing comments everyday.

Heather Armstrong recently wrote that she would be appearing on Oprah in a show about confessions on motherhood - a subject that is of obvious interest to me - so I recorded it. (And by the way, I would NEVER want The Wyrd Sisters to be as famous as Dooce is. The emails she receives would crumble me in 2 seconds.)

Most of the women on the show talked about how hard motherhood is, and how our expectations of what we should be able to achieve are so astronomically difficult, they're impossible really. Because we all think we should be The Perfect Mom, there is a culture of silence in which mothers put on a happy face at pre-school drop-off and never let on how overwhelmed they feel. They believe they're the only ones doing it wrong, the only ones who don't have it all together. And the fear that they will be judged for their choices keeps them from opening up to other mothers - mothers who are going through the same exact things.

Luckily the tide seems to be turning. More women are making connections with flawed, real mothers like themselves online - women who are brave enough to show the good, the bad, and the ugly face of motherhood. I feel very lucky to have found a group of women in my real life who have grown with me as a mother, whose children have grown with River, and we all find a way to express both the challenges and the delights of motherhood. Friends, family, my husband, this blog, and other blogs all give me an outlet to bitch about and celebrate it all.

I don't feel alone, but still, I often do feel inadequate. So it was fantastic to hear something that made me feel slightly less guilty about my shortcomings as a mother. This revelation was almost a toss-away comment from one of the guests at the end of the show, but to me it was a kernel of wisdom one might find after months of intense meditation or years of therapy. The woman said something to the effect of: Loving my children is easy. Loving the job of motherhood, not so much. It's such an obvious idea and not really that profound, but to me it was an entire shift in perspective. It made me realize I'm allowed to separate my (mixed) feelings about doing the work of a mother from my immense and overwhelming love for my child. Really, what woman loves cleaning up puke, waking up every hour in the night, and calming a screaming toddler in the midst of a tantrum? You'd have to be insane to say you love those parts of the job. It let me see that I don't always have to be a cheerleader for motherhood and I can still be a great mom. I may not always do a perfect job and I may not always love the job, there is never a single moment that I don't love my child.

And that will be true with one child or twenty.


Thom said...


I find it hard to believe that someone without a bit of angst about motherhood has what it takes to be a good mother. Personally, I wanted to beat that anonymous commenter senseless for disrespecting the best mom I know. That said, please tell me you're not having nineteen-uplets!



Keely said...

People who leave comments like that are the people who are not yet brave enough to accept their own flaws. Also, they're often people who don't really "get" that blogging is an OUTLET. A lot of us do it to vent, not to write perfectly or to only share the pretty parts of our lives.

It's too easy to judge someone based on words on a screen.