Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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Definition of a Momma

This morning, Bubbe was reading a blog post by Alysia over at Try Defying Gravity . She was so impressed by it, she told me that she started to comment on it, and it turned into a blog post of her own. So, even though Bubbe is way sick and up to her eyeballs in work today, she took the time to write for us.

I would consider it a personal favor if any of you would be inclined to email her a get well wish. She's feeling mighty poorly. And, as ALWAYS, whenever we have a guest, show the love in the comment section, too! Thanks! ~the Momma

Alysia at Try Defying Gravity wrote a beautiful, thought-provoking piece on what being a mother means to her, much to her surprise.

Reading it brought about an epiphany for Bubbe. It occurred to me as I read this that the media often discusses how models and the fashion industry skew young girls' images of what a healthy body looks like. Size 4 is the new 8; anything over a 12 is downright fat. Thank God, media attention has begun to alert us to this fact, and although change back to healthy body images is slow, it's happening.

However, there's another skewed expectation placed upon young girls that has, to my knowledge, not been discussed openly. And that is what it means to be a good mother. We are socialized from childhood to think that if we're not sitting on the sofa, book open upon our lap, arms wrapped around our two or three kids, smiles on everyone's faces, then we're bad moms. If we don't do all those crafting activities that come home from school with kids and pop up in every single child/parenting-related magazine or publication, we're bad moms.

Is that what our kids really need from us?

Merriam Webster says that a mother is a female parent, and a parent is someone who brings up and cares for another. I notice an absence of commentary like "shares jokes and big laughs many times a day" or "does crafting projects daily" or "manages to juggle multiple schedules without batting an eyelid".

And yet most of us strive to accomplish all those unwritten "necessary" mothering tasks and feel bad when we don't achieve our goals, simply because we are constantly being slapped in the face with imagery saying we're failing at mothering if we don't do it all.

Living with a special needs child means that so many other things take priority over that ideal. Researching interventions, advocating for your child, cooking from scratch all the time to ensure they're not eating things that make them sicker, coordinating your treatment team, doing therapies at home, etc. And of course, there are all the regular must-do's: keep your child fed, clean, healthy, educated. And the other must-do's: keeping the rest of your household fed, clean, healthy, and educated (or employed). And the other must-do that is so often renamed "must-do-when-there's-time": keep yourself in balance with enough "me" time to stay grounded.

Living with a child or children without special needs is only marginally less stressful. Emotionally, there's less stress and worry. Research is easier; it generally involves calls that start with, "Mom, when I was a kid, did I…" But often, parents replace therapy schedules with extracurricular activity schedules, advocating with arranging play dates. And "me time" with extra work hours.

And what you're left with is no time to create those perfect vignettes we see in every parenting magazine, every ad for healthcare, every article featuring famous-people-we-wish-we-could-be.

But those vignettes are simply artificially created photos, excerpts from life that simply serve to make us feel bad. Maybe that's not the intention; maybe the intention is to give us something to strive for. But feel bad is what really comes out of it. We feel like we're not doing enough. If so-and-so can do it, so can I, right? So why can't I??

Bubbelehs, I offer you challenge. Find one seemingly perfect mother. Maybe it's someone whose blog you read. Maybe it's a friend or relative. Maybe it's even your own mother. And ask that mom, "What's a regular day really like?" Do you have time every day to supervise homework? Do you cook hot meals every day? Do you craft or play with your kid every day? Do your kids really get along all the time? Are you always positive and upbeat and happy?

Bubbe's willing to bet you'll hear a resounding "no". You'll hear that there are fights, tears, stand-offs, threats to finish chores, etc., and crafting is, at best, a once-a-week activity.

And if you actually hear "yes", there are only three possibilities: they've given up a lot to achieve it (e.g., sleep, time to shower, etc.), they have a team of paramommies (the cleaning lady, the homework tutor, the cook), or they're lying.

So the next time you see a picture or "news" story that shows what motherhood supposedly is, ask yourself, is this real? Or is it nothing more than one more skinny model designed to make you feel bad?

If I have no time for crafting, yet find/make the time to help my daughter with her homework, isn't that what's important? If I feed her cold cereal for breakfast and cold leftovers for lunch, but make time to give her pep talks when she feels unable to do something or put a plaster on a barely-there scratch, isn't that what "bringing up and caring for" means? And if it's been three weeks since I've found time to sit and color with my kid, but in that same three weeks, I've been up in the middle of the night soothing, retucking, cleaning up vomit, and/or drying tears after a nightmare on at least nine different occasions, isn't that what mothering really is?
Rejoice, mammalehs, in your achievements. You are the best mom for your kid. You are who your child needs and wants. You are the momma!


Anonymous said...

WHAT? I'm not really SUPERMOM?... hmmm... I'll have to ponder this one. :-)

My kids BICKER all the time... crafting does happen daily but often because the kids drag the supplies out all by themselves and this Mama cringes over the mess I know is coming. There are days when lunch is bagged salad with cheese and boiled eggs... cuz I was so busy I forgot to prep...

Life happens... My kids still tell me, "you're the best Mom in the whole world"... and my daycare kids say, "you're the best babysitter in the world"... and I respond with, "even when I have to yell or punish you?". Some days that feels like all I do!

Alysia - Try Defying Gravity said... goodness. She said it much better than I did. And I feel like a much better mother now after reading this.
Thank you Bubbe, for the reminder of what a true good parent is. And thank you for sharing it here - appropriate place, since this blog is written by an amazing mom.
Now, back to playing with monster trucks for me.

Life as the mother of 4 said...

That was lovely!

Patty O. said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear today! So often, I am so busy getting chores done that I don't have a whole lot of time to play with the kids, but the chores do need to get done. I mean, I can't send my kids out into the world with no clean clothes, right? My mom says the same thing to me. She says she rarely had time to play with us--we played with each other, but she listened to me and took care of us. That's what I remember!

Ashley said...

I might just print this out and tape it to my mirror so I can read it every day. Bubbe, you are so wise. I hope you feel better soon!!

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