Why mom overachievers need to knock it off!
I don’t want to compete with other mothers. Really.
Motherhood isn’t a competition. It may be a weird, surprising, twisted and hopefully joyful journey, but certainly not a contest.
However the antics of some mothers make me feel like I’m falling down on the job. It’s as though they’ve commandeered the definition of what constitutes being a “good mom” and radically overhauled it without consulting me. I just can’t keep up. I’m not sure why some of the things parents are doing these days bug me so much, but I concur with blogger Jen Singer when she says to over-achiever moms: Knock it off, will ya? You’re making things impossible for the rest of us mothers with our feet of clay.
It started the other day when I was reading the New York Times and spotted a front page article about middle school girls whose mothers shell out hard-earned cash to bling-up their daughters’ school lockers. I’m not talking about the garden variety stuff I bought for my middle schoolers like a plain magnetic pen holder, mirror and utilitarian foldable stand. (Even though buying those items felt like a splurge to me.)
The mothers in this New York Times story bought – hold onto your coffee mugs – shag carpeting, wallpaper, decorative flowers, motion-sensor lights and (I still can’t even believe this is a real thing) locker chandeliers among other decorative items.
“If middle school had an emblem, it would be the locker, the first taste of privacy at school at a moment in life when that means a lot,” Elissa Gootman wrote in the Times. “At the same time, lockers are public, visible to anyone walking down the hallway, and therefore an ideal platform to convey one’s image. After all, your bedroom may be worthy of the PBteen catalog, but if the popular girls never see it, they will never know.”
Because apparently it’s important for mothers to stoke the flames of tween and teen competition, reinforce the notion that a locker reflects a student’s personality (an unadorned locker full of books = smart?) and promote parental over-involvement with a girl’s “first taste of privacy” by wasting money on something as insipid as locker chandeliers. Did I somehow miss the news story about the scourge of dimly lit school hallways and lockers that damage students’ vision thereby necessitating locker chandeliers?
Then one of my writer pals, Kristin Brandt, blogged about another parental “trend,” that of wildly over-the-top, motivational, sparkly, educational lunchbox notes that mothers are apparently writing, and the businesses that have sprung up to meet this so-called “need.” (World hunger = a need. Motivational lunchbox notes . . . not so much.)
“Last week, I learned my husband and I were slacking on the lunch making front,” Brandt wrote on her Real Simple blog. “Or, more specifically, the lunch note making front.” She directed readers to a Wall Street Journal story, “To Pack an A-Plus Lunchbox” (because to do anything less would presumably result in your kids living in your basement and sponging off you for the next three decades).
According to the article, not only is the practice of sticking a note in a child’s lunchbox a regular thing among parents, but those who usually do this have been upping the ante, causing other children in the lunchroom to protest when their parents lazily scrawl a pithy saying on a slip of paper. These kids are expecting their mommies to step it up with motivational notes, custom illustrations, colorful stickers or to buy special lunchbox notes from Pottery Barn Kids, Target or Toys R Us which bear messages like, “I love you unconditionally” and “I can’t believe how creative you are,” the Journal reported. Disney has also gotten into the act by offering parents the option of downloading lunchbox notes including one that has Cars’ Lightning McQueen urging the student, “Don’t eat too fast!” The article said some parents also literally gift-wrap kids’ sandwiches and decorate pieces of fruit.
The Journal quoted one mother who said she routinely puts notes in her third grader’s lunch. “Lunchbox notes are fun way for me to encourage my daughter and let her know I am thinking about her,” she said. So when my three kids – 13, 13 and 10 – pack their own lunches, does that mean that I’m somehow not thinking about my kids, not motivating them and that as a result, they’ll fall behind their peers who get A-plus lunches from their mommies?
The last straw was the story about the “Marathon Mom.” Amber Miller finished the Chicago Marathon and then hours later gave birth to a baby. She was 39 weeks pregnant when she ran the race, which took her 6.5 hours to complete while she dealt with contractions. (Miller told reporters that her marathon normal time is roughly 3.5 hours, that’s when she’s not pregnant.) Good God, I thought to myself. Are nearly-due pregnant women going to be expected to run marathons now?
After reading Jen Singer’s post, “Woman Runs Marathon, Gives Birth Same Day. Moms Everywhere Give Up,” I wanted to give her a big hug. “As much as I’d like to thank Amber Miller for giving me field-tested proof that labor is harder than running a marathon [Miller later said the labor was harder than the race], I also wanted to shout at her, ‘You’re ruining this for the rest of us!’” Singer wrote. “. . . After running the race in 6 ½ hours . . . and then giving birth, [Miller] said, ‘I don’t feel tired.’”
“Knock it off, Amber Miller,” Singer joked.
I’d like to second Singer’s request for these over-achieving moms to stop making it look like all the rest of us can or should run a marathon and deliver a baby on the same day when most pregnant women want to catch a nap before the baby comes and robs us of all our shut-eye.
I’d like to further request that the moms who are complicit in buying locker chandeliers and concocting Renoir-level/Dale Carnegie-esque lunchbox notes to please, for God’s sake, dial it back a little . . . okay, a lot.
We mere mortals just cannot keep up.