Monday, March 16, 2009
Last week I wrote about the Elle magazine article "Die Mommy Die" , which deals with the issue of the culture of incessant child-based chatter, especially at the workplace. I was amazed at the amount of discussion and commentary the post brought on, both on the blog and off, including correspondence from people at Elle who were, actually, of two sides on the topic...
Apropos to this blog, one comment in particular got people talking. A poster who signed off as "Jack" said: "...I would dare say the poor children are better off in the care of a stranger at daycare, or dumped in the woods to be raised by wild dogs than with a resentful, selfish "mommy."
Whoa there man, who are you talking about? Oh wait. You're talking about me...!
Well, in response, I received a plethora of personal messages along the variety of" F#@$ Jack." Not going to lie, it felt great to get the (electronic) support so thanks for everyone who wrote!
But, in all honesty, when I first read "Jack's" comment, all I did was laugh and forward it along to two friends with the message "Wowza, glad I have acquired a thick skin." Truly, I wasn't fazed and I thought about my husband telling me that "once you have haters on your blog you know you've made it." So maybe I should start planning my "I made it" party (note to planners: I want cake...lots of cake).
As recently as two years ago, the situation would have been completely different. When I first had D, I would live in fear of hushed words or sidelong glances at playgrounds or anywhere else--signals that I must be doing something wrong. Like many moms, I was unsure of myself constantly and the idea that I was somehow not raising my child properly could level me. I had many nights of wondering how, how, how am I going to do this because, frankly, I felt like there was this little guy counting on me and I had no clue what to do to be his mom.
So what happened between now and then (besides being too tired to worry about what other people think)? I suppose I have climbed the mommy learning curve...but it's more than that. For better or worse; and whether true or not: I have developed the belief that I am a good mother. This is in the face of much damning empirical evidence to the contrary: My eldest subsists on air and water alone; my second-born wears clothing that bares his brother's name and I would be hard-pressed to find one item I have actually procured solely for him; tonight I rocked my youngest to sleep to my version of "Cause I Got High" ("I was gonna learn a lullaby, but then I got high...") And that's just the tip of the you-so-crazy-mommy iceberg...
But it's true. I feel like I'm good at this thing. And I feel as if my kids are lucky to have me. Isn't that egotistical? ("Jack" please don't answer that, it was rhetorical). Here's why: I enjoy them day to day, and I think they enjoy me. I can vividly remember when D was about 18 months old and when I was still getting the hang of the whole "motherhood" thing. The days that I felt I had "done good" were pegged with some activity that I could hang my hat on: Today I took D to the museum, or today D and I did 8 puzzles. It was how I knew to mark time and mark progression: Through accomplishment. These days it is different and that is how I know that I am different. How I feel as a mom is not based on where I took the kids on a particular day but rather what sorts of moments we shared, and--alert: cheesiness to follow--how they, especially my eldest who obviously is the most cognizant, look at me at the end of the day. Today we didn't leave the house. We didn't go to the park; we didn't do any crafts; and D did not learn how to do calculus (damn him!). At the end of the day, when I tucked D into bed, he looked me in the eyes and said "Mommy can I have a hug, I am a very lucky boy." I of course died. He went on: "Thank you so much for laughing with me today we are so funny."
I mean: COME ON...!
Don't get me wrong. Some criticism still burns me to the bone. When my husband tells me something he thinks I am doing wrong with our kids (and when, after days of pretending I disagree with him, I realize that he is right...) I feel a sort of disappointment with myself that is actually physically jarring. Same with my sister; same with my parents; same with the people I am lucky to call my friends.
But the lesson that has come from being able to process, filter, and move on from much of the criticism that motherhood intrinsically invites into your psyche? Being able to shrug off the stranger telling you your child looks jaundiced (yes that happened); the old lady whispering to you that your son shouldn't be out in the 80 degree Berkeley weather in "just that shirt"; the waitress attesting that "nursing 2 years is really the only way to go"?
"Wowza"--myriad thanks to my children. Liberation is mine.