Friday, March 25, 2011
The "I Don't Know How You Do It" Mother
Moms who go out in public with all their little ones are bound to get some comments. Most often I hear people say that I "Really have my hands full!" or things to that end. But the comment I get most often from other young mothers is this:
"Oh, I don't know how you do it! I can't handle my one child!"
For some reason this comment bothers me the most. It doesn't hurt my feelings but it makes me feel really sad for this mother. Why? Because it shows some serious lack of confidence in her own ability to mother. I just want to grab these mothers and shake them and say, "YES you could! You are stronger than you realize!"
Why Don't We Think We CAN?
Ladies- what has happened to us? Why don't we believe that we can handle one of life's most basic and decidedly feminine functions: mothering?
(I am not saying everybody should have five kids or even any kids. Obviously there are lots of factors and desire is a big one. What I am talking about are women who are good mothers but really just don't think they can "do it" well.)
One reason this line of thinking is so prevalent is that we as a culture don't really value motherhood. We don't see the point in spending 25 years of your life devoted to raising children. This alone is kind of depressing. Mothering isn't perfect or easy or well paid. It is however something that matters. It matters that children are raised and it matters that they are raised well and with love.
Another is that because we don't value motherhood we don't support it. It can be incredibly difficult and even lonely and depressing to be a mother when you feel isolated and have no support network on top of the fact that your value seems to diminish in society the less you "contribute" monetarily.
As if this isn't enough we have also convinced ourselves that children are much more complicated than they really are. Walk into any baby store or toy store and you will come away thinking that to be a good mother you need educational toys for every age, color coordinated rooms, beds, gadgets, clothes, perfect schools, organic everything, AND a house huge enough to fit it all in. (Not to mention all the thousands of parenting theories and advice books on how to do it perfectly so that the children end up half functional.)
The truth is that children mostly need love and food. They need some clothes but they don't have to be brand new and they don't have to be perfect. Toys are highly overrated, expensive and can be an incredible waste of space. And the perfect baby room with sheets that match the wall paper- well- do it for yourself if you want too, but the six month old is not likely to notice or care.
When we step back and think of what we have done to motherhood, namely:
- devalued it
-under supported it, and then
-expected perfection from all those who are fool enough to partake in it.
Well, it is no wonder women don't think they can handle this job. It doesn't pay, people think you are crazy for doing it, and if you choose to do it you must do it perfectly.
Yes, You Can
My response to the oft expressed sentiment I hear from young mothers who are sure that they "could never handle more children" is this:
Yes, you can. I am not saying you should. I don't know your situation. But you are almost definitely able to handle more than you realize. People survive war, disaster, and abuse. Motherhood is not any of these things.
Choosing to have more children is not choosing to wake up in a pit of vipers each day. It is just choosing to mother.
Maybe people don't value motherhood but it is still important and it matters. It doesn't just matter a little either. The importance of motherhood is vast and lasts for generations.
Now I am probably scaring you right? "It lasts for generations." Yes the impact is big, but that doesn't mean it must be perfect.
Be real. If you looked at life and only got out of bed on the days where you could do X perfectly (job, marriage, hair, etc) you would NEVER get out of bed. Nobody does everything perfect on any given day.
Let me tell you a story. I am a terrible driver. Really. I am BAD at it. I think I got in about 10 car accidents the first year I was driving. I totaled my first car a few months after I bought it. For some reason this required life skill just doesn't come easily to me. But guess what? I still drive! I try harder, I am more careful, I go the speed limit and I don't let fear get in the way of LIVING.
We all do this with things in our lives. We all have things that are hard for us and we still get up and go do them because we HAVE and we NEED to and because and important part of life and adulthood is pushing ourselves past our comfort zone.
Motherhood is like life. You don't know what you can really handle until you try to do it. Nobody really knows what they are capable of.
I am rarely a great mother. Some days I am good at it. Many days I am mediocre. There are days that I am REALLY and truly bad at mothering. But you just keep going. You try harder. You forgive yourself and you remember that children have the most amazing ability to forgive you also. Then, you get up and you go and do it again. Amazingly enough, as time goes on, you figure some things out.
Then, just as you think you have figured it out there is a new challenge and a new experience and then you learn from that one. Life just keeps going and you do your best. And on the days you don't do your best, you try harder then next day.
Men don't sit home unemployed because the just "can't imagine handling a job" and people can't just opt out of life because some days are imperfect.
You can do this. You can handle this. You can mother and your best really will be good enough.