I recently stumbled upon a video from "The Mompetition." By the way, her blog is hysterical. I am going to add a link on my side bar soon. I checked out a few of these videos, and while some are a little crass, they really are not far from the truth in many ways. I particularly find this one and this one to be entertaining. But these little clips got my wheels turning about modern mommyhood. The modern mom has somehow become the competitor in the on-going reality series "mom vs mom." I am not sure why the modern mom is so competitive. Maybe it has always been this way but I never noticed because I was not a mom until now. Not sure. I am blessed to have a core group of 3 or 4 "mom friends" that I can confide in, be honest with, and simply enjoy without the pressures of "playing" these games. But the random encounters, the play groups, the acquaintances, and the cyber world are filled with moms who want to compete...and judge at the same time. I confess that I occasionally engage in the mom game, but as you will see below, I could not possibly hold a candle to these super moms, so I this is my official withdrawal from the games.
I think we are currently in an era where there is a backlash to the feminist progressive agenda in the 70s and 80s, and at the same time a resurgence of feminism from the children of those feminists. We are in a era where people are expected to "be green" and enjoy simplicity and nature while also have purchased and mastered every new tech gadget available. We are in an era where people are critiquing and blaming public schools for all of society's ills, but at the same time wanting their children in every possible AP class, extra curricular, sport, and debate club. These contradictions make it hard to be the perfect mom in this era. How can you do all of these things at the same time, anyway? What characteristics define this perfect mommy? I would love to hear your ideas. I did my own "investigating" and came to the following conclusions:
The modern mom is an ever evolving stereotype for each generation. Think of TV mom icons like June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver), Carol Brady (The Brady Bunch), Clair Huxtable (Cosby Show), Jill Taylor (Home Improvement) and Bree Van de Camp (Desperate Housewives) . My oh my, has the modern mom evolved over the ages! The descriptions below (laden with sarcasm, of course) are the 8 points of perfection of what I have gathered our society , umm scratch that, maybe not society, but what qualities other modern moms (based on our current media, mom blogs, facebook, literature) deem necessary to earn the label of a "good" mother.
1. She must be totally green! She prepares only organic food and homemade/homegrown everything for her family. She cloth diapers her children to ensure the viability of our planet. She proudly "wears" her children, co-sleeps, and free parents (but her children are perfectly scheduled...hmmm?). She recycles everything. She has no plastic toys in her home. She does not vaccinate her children to avoid any harmful additives in medicine from ruining her children's bodies. Finally, she must breastfeed her children until they are at least one year old. She certainly would never give them *gasp* formula. She should not even have a bottle in her home.
2. She stays at home. She certainly does not let other people care for her children. Moreover, she home schools her children to ensure they are not corrupted by "the system."
3. She must be a size 6 or smaller. Oh yes, we have not strayed from pop media here, have we ladies? The modern mom must be able to sport skinny jeans to show off that cute baby bump. It should not be an issue because the modern mom should only consume organic food and certainly works out everyday to keep her perfect figure.
4. She is dressed to impress. She has make up on...always, but not too much. She sports super trendy clothes that are designed to look like they don't cost a dime, but are really from some up scale boutique and cost a fortune.
5. Her children are the image of perfection. She has invested everything in her children and they are her trophy. Thus, she has perfectly behaved children (at least she thinks she does) dressed in perfectly preppy name brand or homemade clothes. They are the stars of the soccer team and also play in a band, have a black belt in karate, and are on their way to earning a full scholarship to Yale.
6. She has mastered the cyber world (Blog, Facebook, etc). Her cute mommy blog is well designed and has at least 300 "followers." She posts all of her children's accomplishments on her facebook wall, such as the "potty" success of her perfectly potty trained 10 month old, just to make sure all of her other "friends" know what failures they are at parenting since their three year olds are still not fully potty trained.
7. Her children NEVER watch TV. It rots their brains.
8. Her house is perfectly neat, perfectly clean, and perfectly organized.
Wow, fellow moms, the bar sure has been set high! If you have achieved all of the above, congratulations.
But I , for one, have not. And after two years of putting myself under the mommy microscope, I am deciding to let it go. I am not my generations version of June Cleaver and never will be... EVER! And I have decided that it does not make me a bad mom! My kids are HAPPY. My kids are learning. My kids are thriving. And as long as I am doing the best I can for my children, it is enough.
So here is how I rank on the perfect mom standards
1. Totally green: Negative
Now there is nothing wrong with being green at all. If more people receycled our planet would be healthier. We try to pull our green weight around here, but we are far from perfection.
-I buy organic milk and pasta, but my kids still eat easy mac and pbjs at least once a week, and we eat out... a lot. After working all day the very last thing on my mind is cooking for my family. We are trying out emealz soon to add variety to our dinners and see if this helps us eat home more often. I have heard great things from people who use it.
- I cloth diapered for three months... then I went to work and realized I don't have time to do laundry every day. So disposable it is! I donated the cloth diapers to an orphanage in Ethiopia where they will definitely be used.
-Baby wearing. Now this might be my one shining star in modern parenting. I have the sling, the bjorn, the mai tai, the ergo... you name it, I've worn it. And I still wear my two year old. As an AP (adoptive parent) I have found it great for attachment parenting , blah blah blah, but honestly, the reason I do it is because I find it easier than dealing with a stroller!
- We recycle our cans, plastics, cardboard...but we still use at least one roll of paper towels every two days. It is just faster and easier. And quite honestly, sponges gross me out. I just think of them as festering petri dishes.
-My kids favorite toys are made from plastic... in China. Sure we have Melissa and Doug this and that and they do enjoy them. But they really want the plastic stuff that beeps and blinks!
- My kids are 100% vaccinated! And yes, that includes the *gasp* MMR shot! I have one child with a relatively week immune system. The last thing I need is some preventable disease landing us in the hospital. I could go into an entire rant on this one, but suffice it to say, I think getting kids the proper immunizations is important.
-As far as the breastfeeding is concerned, I get a big fat F. My youngest was bottle fed and my oldest did not come home until he was 4 (so certainly not breast fed by me!). If I had a dollar for every mom who told me, "You know, you could breast feed him (Payton, my younger child) if you want to. Just because he is adopted doesn't mean you can't." Okay, first of all I would have had to pump my body full of hormones to do that. Ick. Second of all, research suggests that adoptive mom's who do that are usually not able to provide enough milk and still need to supplement. And you know what, I think my formula fed baby is right on track developmentally. Now, he was NOT able to write his name at 6 months of age, but he has met every milestone pretty much on time. And in his Mama's eyes, he is perfectly perfect.
2. Stays at home: Negative.
- I work. I love being at home with my kids! I mean, LOVE it. And if we could swing it, I would stay home until both of my kids are in school. Those of you that can are very privileged! Enjoy it! We have a sitters that watch our kids. This working mama (and daddy too) fly thru the house like a whirlwind each morning. Then I spend 730 am to 4 or 5 pm working with other peoples children before returning to my own. I piece together a quick meal, enjoy 1-2 hours of playtime with the kids before starting the bedtime routine, then I crash for an 30 minutes or so in front of the TV to decompress before spending the rest of the evening working on lesson plans and grading papers. Teachers cannot leave their work when they leave the building. If I did, my students would NEVER have any of their work graded. I have a new prep (AP US History) this year so I am hoping next year will be a tad less time consuming. Oh, did I mention that I am public school teacher. So, home schooling my kids, not going to happen. I believe in *gasp* the public system and the idea of equal opportunity. It is, after all, why I entered education. On principle. The idea that a free nation must have an educated citizenry. Yes, it is idealistic. But I am passionate about it. Ok... I just need to stop here! I am about to go into a crazy teacher rant and expose my *gasp* liberal roots.
3. Skinny: Negative.
-Pretty sure I have gained at least 15 lbs since I became a mom. I once found time to train for a marathon, pre-kids. Now I *maybe* run three miles once or twice a week.
4. Dressed to impress: DOUBLE NEGATIVE.
- I don't wear make up. I don't have time. I get my hair cut once a year. It is still wet when I arrive at work because I don't even style it when I get out of the shower in the mornings. 15 minuts of sleep Vs. 15 minutes of hair styling. Ummm... sleep is going to win every time. High school students think teachers are old and boring anyway, so I doubt they even notice my unkempt self.
-Trendy clothes, HA! I hate to shop. I don't think I have ever even been to a boutique. If I am home, I wear a hoodie, workout pants, and my running shoes. If I am at work, I wear black pants, my ugly teacher shoes, and a plain colored top. Boring, yes! But I am always comfortable! Comfort before beauty is my motto.
5. Perfectly behaved, perfectly dressed children: NEGATIVE.
-Have you met my firecracker of a two year old that likes to shout the word "poop?" Particularly when everyone else is quiet.
-However, my kids do look cute in their thrift store clothes. My Aunt Linda and Char find the most adorable outfits for my kids. I am glad someone else has a sense of style... because I sure don't.
-Well I blog. And I Facebook. But not well. I don't have any theme to my blog and I rarely even proofread before I publish a post. And I am lucky to post once a week. As for Facebook, I am an addict. But I am not a good f-book friend and I rarely even wish people happy birthday even though facebook so kindly reminds me every day. Ugh. What a terrible person I am.
7.Never, Ever, lets their children watch TV: Negative.
-My kids watch at least 30 minutes of TV while we get ready in the mornings. Moreover, when I am desperate, I whip out the old faithful *gasp* D*sney movies. The current favorite is CARS. How can I corrupt my kids so! Um, it is called sanity. And sometimes I just need it!
8. Clean House: Nope.
-My house is cleaner and more organized than say, the homes of people of the TV series Hoarders. But lets be real. I have three dogs, two boys, and we live on a farmette. My floors always have a few globs of hair and manure on them. That's just how it is on a farm. If I obsessed over keeping my house perfectly clean, I would never have time to play with my children. Instead, we try our best to pick up here there, scrub the floors before the social worker visits for a post placement, and stuff everything in closets when we have guests.
So I am officially a failure at the mom games if I am judged by the 8 points of perfection in the mom games. However, as a working mom I rarely have time to compete anyway. Most competitions occur on playgrounds, in preschool pickup lines, and play dates. Working moms don't really attend these events... because we are working. But I am officially forfeiting on my last competition ground: the cyber world. I am throwing in the towel. Tapping out. The only team I am going to play for from here on out is my kids' team. Allowing myself to feel like a don't hold a candle to all you fab June Cleavers out there makes me less of a parent. It is time for me to embrace the "just doing what it takes to get thru each day and keep my kids happy and healthy" me. And it is time for me to accept His Grace in all areas of my life, including motherhood. After all, my kids opinions matter much more than some random mother at the park or someone I don't really even know out there in cyber world. And my kids, they think I am pretty awesome. Just last nite, my little man told me I was his favorite friend. My heart was in a puddle beside his bed.
And finally, as a Christian, I believe that I am not really deserving of the Grace that has been so generously offered to me. After all, that is what makes grace unique. You don't earn it or win it or deserve it. It just is. It is time for me to bask in His Grace. The Grace that looks past all of my ugliness and competitiveness and my not-so-great parenting moments (ummmm... like letting the kids watch CARS for the third time this week). This place is such a better to place to be. My mommy games are over. If you are a mom that has been competing and quite frankly have grown weary from playing, please know there are some of us out there who promise not to judge if you are using disposable diapers, letting your kids watch Sesame Street in the mornings, and are ready to scream and die of embarrassment after your three year old says "oh, sh*t" as loud as possible... at church. I've been there. Heck, I live in that mommy-hood, not the perfect one. Moreover, there is a loving God that offers peace and grace in the midst of this crazy season of life. Maybe you know Him, maybe you don't. I am not here to judge that either.
Below are some pictures one of my favorite (safe and non-judging) mommy friends snapped of me and the kids at the park. I love it because she caught the real us on camera: me in my preferred attire (sweats), Payton eating a fruit snack that he just dropped on the ground, and Bunte being his goofy self. But most of all, I love that they are happy. My kids are filled with JOY. There joy does not come from my parenting alone. It comes from a Source much greater. The Spirit moves in my children. I wish I could be more like them and see joy in everything, everyday. But goodness knows I see Joy in my kids. They make me smile... a lot :). Especially when they yell poop as loud as possible at the grocery store :).
The same day that these pictures were taken there was young Black woman at the park. I noticed her watching my boys for quite some time. As we were about to leave, she looked at me and said, "You are so lucky!" I just smiled and said, "You are so right! Thank you for reminding me!" As APs, Wes and I often hear stuff like, "what you are doing is so great....blah blah blah." But the reality is we did not do anything special. We are parents like so many other people out there. We are the ones who are blessed. Very blessed to have these beautiful boys. To hear this young woman says this was such a breath of fresh air. She gets it. She sees the Joy in my boys. She knows that we have, indeed, been blessed.
So the Mom Games can continue on.... without me. Whatever way you parent is your business, not mine. I am just going to enjoy my kids. Any thoughts from other moms out there about their experiences playing in the mommy games?