Judith Warner knows how to stir the pot. This article, making waves throughout the internet and on chat-boards, tells us that if we want to be happy as mothers and as people, we need to lower our expectations. Going one step further than the usual cry to not sweat the little things and to give ourselves a break, Warner hypothesizes that our desires to be better and do more is actually tied up in a refusal to accept our own mortality:
If one were to be highbrow about it, one could see the desire for self-surpassing – the refusal to accept, for example, a muffin top, or a greater need for sleep – as a refusal to accept mortality, which is of course the ultimate self-limit.
Warner has a litany of Undone Things that rings true to every mom: Unorganized photos, art that isn't hung, those extra 5 (10) pregnancy pounds. Who doesn't have a to-do list that never goes away? But she decides that "living life to the fullest" does not necessitate fulfilling these sorts of goals. In fact, she says, living life to the fullest requires re-adjusting what we expect of ourselves.
I guess I agree. In part. If your to-do list is becoming your jailer and you never feel like you can relax and just be, I think it's time to re-evaluate. But throwing out all self-improvement aspirations? Isn't that a bit much?
Sometimes I wish I didn't want so much. Not as in things (okay sometimes things!), but in terms of the self-improvement goals that Warner seems to loathe. It would be easier if I didn't care about making photo albums and keeping the house in better shape.
But...I do want to make photo albums. I do want the house to be in better shape. Is it bad to want to be more? I don't think so. Yet, you read the comments to Warner's piece and it seems that moms everywhere feel oppressed by scrapbooks and are collectively waiting with baited breath till they get the okay to do...nothing...
I'm all about realistic expectations. But sometimes this sort of thinking is simply a justification for complacency. Nothing great about that expectation.
Plus, I am not letting my muffin-top win just yet.