Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No matter how hard you try.

I met a girl in yoga class. She's really nice and even though she's way more bendy than I am, I didn't feel competitive with her, which I have to admit is extremely rare for me. She showed me where the water is. She is nice. I like her. I think we could be friends. Maybe we already are friends. That's kind of cool.

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but one of the reasons I liked her so much is that she's not a mom. She asked me if I had children and I told her yes, and how old they were. She said she didn't have any yet, but someday maybe she would. I told her my two were really nice kids, nerds really, and they were excited about making caramel apples for Halloween. She told me how much she liked caramel. It was refreshing to both hear someone admit they like candy and also to not hear someone immediately say, "We already made caramel apples last week! We put nuts on them! Next week we're making candy apples!"

I'm tired of the mom competition. I'm just worn out with all of it.

I read an article recently on Michelle Duggar. I don't know why I did it, because there is almost nothing in this world that gets me angrier than the Duggar family, but for some reason I found myself learning that Michelle Duggar relegated the responsibility of keeping up with everyones birthday to one of her daughters. This really didn't surprise me, as it seems every single responsibility other than "firing them out" as my husband would so crudely put it (complete with equally crude leg motion which even I have to admit is hilarious) is relegated to one of her daughters, but when I really thought about it I got extremely angry and also extremely sad.

I don't think she knows the birth dates of all of her children.

I think she has so many children that she cannot even remember the days they were born. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. But this is what I think.

I forget where I read this but I do remember the comments. A lot of them were the standard, "It's a vagina, not a clown car" (and yes, that one has been around for a while, so okay. Thanks) but there were an alarming number of comments which said things like, "She's Mom of the Year!" "She's the best mom EVER!" "I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE MICHELLE DUGGAR!"

I don't know. I generally don't judge family size. If you want to have kids and you can reasonably afford them (by yourself) and give them the time, love, and attention they all need then I say go for it and God bless you on your way. I don't think the Duggar family is doing that. How good of a mother you are really should not be based on number of children you have and frankly? I think it's kind of alarming when people such as this are praised just based on numbers. If that was the case I guess we should base hotness on how many pounds someone weighs, right? Then I would be a freaking supermodel.

(I won't even get into how disgusting I find their politics or religious views or the tremendous strain they put on the environment or how they treat their daughters like fecking slaves, because my son isn't here to tell me to calm down before I have a stroke. Ahem.)

My point is, the older daughter who is responsible for remembering every birthday because her mom can't or won't? Not cool. The fact that she has to change the diapers and wipe the poopy of her siblings because her mom can't or won't? Also not cool. The fact that she's not allowed to be a young woman or have her own life because she's too busy raising her siblings? Yeah. Not okay. Not okay at all.

That girl, who is acting as a mother even though she isn't even allowed to look at a boy or get a sideways hug, still needs a mom. Still deserves to have a mom who is interested in her life. Who picks her up every single day from play practice and listens to endless stories about it. Who buys her daughter the blue sweater even though she looks better in the red one because her daughter really loved the blue one and surprise! Her daughter should get to have some choices.  Not because any of this is important to the mom. But because it's important to the daughter. Because her daughter should be allowed to have her own life and her own dreams, even if they don't include having forty-eleven babies and living with a man who treats women like they are subservient. It is Michelle's job to be the mother and, quite frankly, shame on her for treating these young ladies like they owe her something. Motherhood, while awesome, is not something that should be worshiped. Mothers are people too, and we make mistakes. Tons of them. Yet somehow, this woman is the model that we are all supposed to hold ourselves up to, as a great/perfect/wonderful mother, because she's been able to repeatedly get pregnant and give birth successfully. I just...don't get it.

It's not just the Duggar family. It's people on Pinterest who say things like, "I make Milk, what's your SuperPower?" I never had milk come in. So...that makes me less of a mom somehow? Many of my closest friends adopted and I dare you to tell them they aren't the most amazing, powerful women I've ever met. It is also these women who talk endlessly about their natural childbirth and how they'd never, ever, EVER in a million years have a c-section. I openly admit today that I think my c-section was great  and if I ever had another baby I'd probably want to do it that way again and  frankly I think these ladies would probably change their tune if it meant their child was born alive instead of, you know, dead. It's the lady in my neighborhood who said to me, just the other day, "Well, I didn't do daycare. I mean, I think it's okay for women to work. It's your choice. I don't judge women who work. I just didn't want someone else raising my children" because 1) How, exactly, are you not judging the Hell out of me right now and 2) YOUR CHILDREN ARE FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. Get over it for the love of God and find something else to talk about.

Women are so freaking mean to each other.

This will sound really insane coming from me, the most competitive person alive, the person who cannot stand to hear the word "can't" the person who won't give up on things even long, long, LONG after she should have, the person who would literally contort her body into an excruciatingly painful position, until it felt like blood would come out of her eyes in yoga class because YOU CAN'T TELL ME I CAN'T DO IT but...

Motherhood is not a competition.

It's just not.

I know a lot of these things are said in a light-hearted manner and not intended to hurt anyone. I know, believe me do I know, that women are overworked and extremely under-appreciated. Not just moms. Women in general do a crapton of the work and don't get a crapton of the praise. I remember being a single mom with two babies when my brother was a single dad with one three year-old and how people continually praised him and fawned over him for being a single dad. No one praised me or fawned over me and I'm pretty sure people charmingly said things like I should have "kept my legs closed". Because it's okay to slut-shame girls, but we praise boys for doing the right thing instead of just expecting it. Right? Ugh.

It's not fair to treat women that way and you know what? It's not fair to treat men that way either. It's not okay to act like they are doing something special when they are raising their own children. It's what we, all of us, are supposed to do. Without expectation of praise.

I adore both my son and daughter. I can say without hesitation that they are the best things in my entire life. The best decision I ever made. I genuinely like them and enjoy their company.

They are not perfect. I am not perfect. We respect each others imperfections.

They are not here on this Earth to make me happy.

They are not here to validate me and my existence.  They do sometimes, when they say things that are so brilliant and wise and kind. They make me feel like I'm doing something right among a sea of so very much wrong but that is not their purpose here. They are not here to do everything for me or praise me or make me feel good about my life.

There are also times they don't wish me a Happy Birthday, days when they are self-absorbed, moments when they don't follow the rules and take way too long to accomplish tasks that they should have already accomplished. They are human. They are teenagers. They are going to screw up sometimes. So am I. And that's okay. They are not here to make me happy. I am not a better mom than you because they are mostly nice kids. I am not a worse mom than you because sometimes they screw up.

I got pregnant with them for the wrong reasons. I've admitted that before and I'll say it again today: I got pregnant in order to feel like someone loved me. I was in a terrible marriage to someone who told me, frequently, that no one would ever love me. That my own parents didn't even love me. That he would never love me.

The problem was I didn't love myself. I didn't see it then, but I do now. I'm still working on that, but it's better.

My job as a mother will never be over. My role will evolve and change, as it has over the past fifteen and 1/2 years, but it will never be over. The only way I will ever "win" at this mothering thing is if my children grow up to be responsible, happy, kind and loving human beings. That's the only, only way.

I doubt when they are in their thirties they will be angry at me for not packing them a bento box every day. They don't mind that I had a c-section. Now that they are almost sixteen you can't even tell them apart from a normal kid (said with a sideways wink). I don't even think they are mad at me for getting pregnant with them so I'd have someone to love me, even though I totally wouldn't blame them if they were mad about that because it's kind of ridiculous. They just love me. I just love them. They are not in any way obligated to make me happy and I am extremely pleased when they do.

They even think it's great that I maybe made a friend in her 20's with no children. I think it's great too.

It's okay if you don't have friends in their 20's who aren't moms. It's okay if you breastfeed or don't breastfeed. It's totally okay by me if you want to attachment parent or never give your kid Cheetos. If you are raising your child to be polite, respectful, and a good citizen then my hat is off to you and as long as your child is not subject to the abuse of your poor choices (which goes well beyond someone being physically beaten, by the way), then you just go on with your bad self. Seriously.

Just stop judging me and stop judging other women. You aren't better than that mom because her kid is having a tantrum in the store. You aren't worse than that mom because YOUR kid is the one having a tantrum in the store. I am not a bad mom because I could only have two kids and God isn't punishing me either (that's ridiculous). You aren't a better mom because you have three kids and your friend only has just maybe have more practice. Maybe.

Also? Stop judging yourself and for the love of God and all that is holy, stop looking at Pinterest and thinking that it's real life. Your children really don't care if you take the perfect picture for the Christmas card. They don't care if they have matching hairbows. They remember things like the one time you snuck outside early and built a snowman with them. They remember you teaching them that life isn't always fair but you should always be kind. They remember you treating your spouse with love and respect, even when you aren't getting along. They remember when you don't do all these things too. Believe me.

The only people, the only, only people, who need to win the Mommy wars? Are those children that you are raising.  Those children you are responsible for bringing up in this difficult world. Those blessings you were entrusted with. Screw your neighbor and what she thinks about how you brought your children into this world. Screw that lady who tries to one-up you every time you talk about your child's report card. Check yourself; are your children happy? Kind? Loving? Respectful? Whatever you are doing is probably okay then (and don't beat yourself up if your kid has some challenges. It's not because you aren't doing the best you can and don't let anyone make you feel that way). Screw Pinterest too and just make real life count you guys (although I love Pinterest, especially the recipes, so I'm going to keep on looking at it). The eighteen piece reindeer band that you spend every single day in December putting together really doesn't freaking matter when all your kid wants is for you to sit down and watch the 25 Days of Christmas with them on ABC Family.  YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN AND BY GOD THAT'S ALL YOU CAN DO. The days are long but the years are short. So, so short.  You don't get a do-over on all of this.

It isn't a competition. Don't make it into one.

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