Here’s what still — 18 years into the Mommy Wars of modern American motherhood – puzzles me: are we moms hard-wired to feel badly about every single good thing we do for our children?
Why do other women feel driven to position themselves as superior by making us feel badly about all the big and small sacrifices and thoughtful extra steps we, in fact, should pat ourselves on the backs about?
Are we moms ever going to accept our own choices and stop disparaging others’ different ones?
A recent Huffington Post blog, “The Side of Motherhood We Aren’t Prepared to Discuss” made my mothering blood boil.
The author was Traci Bild, a mother who is the founder of the Get Your Girl Back “movement” and a consultant who has worked alongside other mothers for 20 years.
She opens her essay by describing one particular child she observed during a recent visit to a sixth grade classroom:
“A beautiful boy with light blonde hair so fair it was almost white…he had sparkling blue eyes and flawless skin…”
Cue the smarmy lovesick music!
Then she goes on to describe this poor boy’s heartbreak: he had a working mother.
“He looked so sad and broken… it took everything in me not to cry.”
Her advice to the boy: “Your mom is probably under so much pressure she doesn’t even realize that she’s not spending time with you. She wants to play and laugh with you, she just doesn’t know how.”
At this point, my rage started blurring Ms. Bild’s words. How on earth does Traci Bild know what this other woman’s child is feeling? Or what his mom wants?
Maybe his mom is a single mom, or the household’s primary breadwinner.
Maybe she supports a disabled spouse or a stay-at home dad.
Maybe she works because she wants to and it makes her happy!
Maybe he is broken up because his pet turtle died.
I’d like to tell Ms. Bild, and all judgmental moms, that I’m perfectly prepared to debate “this side” of motherhood. Because the facts are simple:
Working moms today spend more time with our children than stay at home moms did in the 1970s.
Fathers today spend three times as much time with their children as their own dads did.
On average, parents are far closer with their children and more involved in their lives than ever before in American history, regardless of whether we work inside or outside our homes.
This is the reality of modern motherhood. Not this drivel from Ms. Bild:
“No matter how this blog affects you, whether it makes you angry with me for speaking the truth or hits a nerve because you can relate, what I most want to do is start the conversation. No one wants to be ‘that mom,’ who works all the time, spends little time with her kids, yells at them when they try to talk because she’s in the zone checking emails, deep in thought and not even realizing what she’s doing — isolating herself from the people she loves most. But many of us are doing this exactly!”
I must confess: I am that mom. I work a lot. I yell at my kids. I love them madly and I have made huge sacrifices for them. I love my life and make exactly zero apologies for my choices.
None of this is Ms. Traci Bild’s business. In fact, it’s none of anyone’s concern, except for me and my happy, healthy, confident, well-adjusted, utterly thriving children. Who have had a working mom for their entire friggin’ lives.
Traci’s parting words:
“As the year closes out, take inventory, prioritize your life, get in charge and make small changes that move you to a better place as you enter 2015. If you’re already there, support and uplift moms who haven’t got it figured out yet.”
Good idea. Everyone, perhaps most of all Ms. Bild, should take this advice.
No parent on earth has every priority “figured out” or “inventoried.” Parenthood is far too crazy, chaotic and unpredictable for that kind of regimentation.
Parenting well means accepting that your kids, and your priorities, are zigzagging targets. Almost all of us are overwhelmed, confused, exhilarated and downright tormented by the challenges of parenting. This has nothing to do with whether we work outside the home or not.
The only vow moms should make for 2015?
Let’s all try to feel better about ourselves as mothers, and keep on parenting as best we can. Without judging ourselves or anyone else.