In response to this morning’s inquiry, I’m going to share more article links throughout the week instead of saving them all for Friday. I hope this will inspire deeper discussions and introduce new topics and ideas. Anyway, I liked this essay, “I am the Best Damn Mother on the Planet,” particularly this part:
The whole territory of “parenting” today feels like a fucking scam, like we’re setting ourselves up to feel constant agony and blame from day one. That, or we’re being set up from the outside. The potent myth persists that “having it all” somehow means more than “I have a job and a family with children.” I do, voila! All hath been acquired. But the myth part comes in the pretending that others who also have it — this “all” — are better at it than we are, their lives more balanced, their jobs higher-paying and more fulfilling, their bosses more understanding of the kid puking every third week, the late mornings and early duck-outs. Others have better marriages and more sex. Other women never used formula, not even fucking once; other women lost their baby weight faster. Other babies sleep through the night, and they did it on their own without any effort; or they don’t, because they sleep in bed with their mothers where they belong. Other mothers didn’t WANT to go back to work, they WANTED to stay home. Other mothers didn’t need drugs in delivery. Other mother’s babies have never seen a television. Other babies eat only organic. Other mothers don’t compare themselves to other mothers, of course. Everyone else’s “all” can look pretty superior, from the outside gaping in, and many days, a mother might just be inclined toward envy or yes, to self-judgment.
I was just thinking about this the other day when I was talking with Drew about how much easier parenting Baby Joanie has been compared to parenting Baby Jackson. Part of its being easier is that I am more experienced and less anxious, part of it relates to the different temperaments of my kids (so far, Joanie is incredibly easy-going while Jackson, at least as a baby and toddler, was so full of piss and vinegar), and part of it is that I am around fewer moms of babies to compare myself to. Remember how I started a moms’ group when Jackson was born? And I loved it for the most part and have even remained friends with some of those women. But I realize now that being around so many new moms when I was a brand new mom myself brought with it the unexpected pressure (self-induced) to conform. And when I didn’t or couldn’t conform, I questioned whether my decisions and lifestyle and behaviors were directly responsible for the challenges my baby presented (you know, like endless goddamn crying 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which didn’t stop for months and months and then only gave way to the kind of tantrums that made me wonder if we had a Serious Problem on our hands). (Short answer: no.) (Longer answer: In the last few months, the tantrums have stopped, we have what feels like a new kid, I’ve stopped punishing myself for the challenges my baby and then toddler presented, I’ve stopped questioning whether we have a Serious Problem, and I’ve mostly stopped comparing myself to other mothers whose lives, at least on the outside, look more aspirational.)
None of this is limited to motherhood or parenthood. We all, whether we have kids or not, have been guilty of the comparison game. And if you’ve never compared what you have or what you do to what someone else seems to have or do, God bless you and please share your secret. I’m definitely not “cured” of this affliction. Probably on a daily basis, I find myself comparing, but more and more lately I practice letting it go. I think about what it is that I’m dissatisfied with about myself or my life — IF I’m even dissatisfied — and whether I can change it, and, if I can’t, I try to accept that and move on. If I’m dissatisfied with something I can change, then I ask myself why I haven’t yet and what positive steps I can take to make the change happen. And like the author of the article, I’m also giving myself kudos for what I do well and right. Like, I make a great margarita and I’m a really good mom. Jackson even told me the other day that I’m one of the top three moms he knows. I’m sure what he meant is that I’m the best mom of the damn planet.