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Let me tell you something I’ve learned in my years. There are victims of fires. There are victims of car accidents. This kind of thing, there are no victims, just volunteers.
— CJ Cregg, West Wing
The latest article to make the rounds about easing up on moms is this one, in The New York Times. It’s a good piece, especially the first half about how grating it is when an adult calls another adult who did not give birth to them “Mom” or “Mommy.”
But then it veered in a direction that’s become all too familiar lately:
The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time. My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kid’s elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of “I want the same thing!” Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, “Yes, O.K., we can do that, sure, I’ll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. We’ll do it tonight.”
And the only reasonable response I have to this story is, who the fuck are these people? These people who are substituting their kids’ or other parents’ thoughts and needs for their own?
I don’t blame the author for including that story, because it set the stage for her to spend the next few paragraphs explaining how crazy that is. But my big question is, who decided that this is the current culture?
It sure as hell isn’t my current culture. I do know moms who could bead the shit out of a shirt, and there’s nothing wrong with that – I wish I had that skill, because I have a lot of boring t-shirts sitting in my closet not getting worn.
But what the hell makes a mom say to her child “Yes, of course I’ll learn how to do that for you, even though I don’t want to?”
If you actually want to learn something like that, great! If you want to make your own baby food and turn each of your child’s drawings into a special craft and made your child’s old clothes into adorable quilts, wonderful! If you want to be the mom who bakes all of her family’s bread, go ahead and be that mom. I’m that mom, because I want to be that mom – I like baking bread. I’m not doing it because other moms pressured me to stop buying grocery store bread, or because my next-door neighbor bakes bread and I’d be embarrassed for her to know that I don’t also. I do it because I LIKE to do it. And I sure as hell don’t care if YOU do it.
The thing that sucked the most about middle and high school was peer pressure and wanting to fit in. But the awesome thing about growing up is that we’re supposed to grow out of the peer pressure thing. Getting older for me meant gray hair, sagging skin, and the wonderful ability to say to the world, “I don’t give a fuck. I’ll be over here doing what works for me.”
So here’s the thing: If you’re staying up until two in the morning crafting or baking or making doll clothes or whatever, and you’re fulfilled and happy, good for you – I’m not talking to you in this post and I don’t want to hear from you about why you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s working, great. I’ll be over here smelling my fresh-baked bread.
But if you’re doing stuff and you can’t figure out why, if you’re doing stuff out of fear – fear that your kids won’t fit in, fear that you won’t fit in, fear that not doing that stuff will make you look bad to other mothers – then for the love of God, stop it. Just stop it. It really is that easy, once you realize that you don’t have to care so much about what other people think.
We have a responsibility to our kids to make sure that they are healthy and safe and relatively happy. But we have a bigger responsibility to ourselves: To make sure that we achieve those other things without losing ourselves.