A few months ago I received a pre-release copy of Jill Smokler’s book, . I had it out on my kitchen counter, on the couch, on a living room chair – basically I would pick it up read a few pages, laugh, sigh and put it down. It was the perfect book to enjoy in small bites, letting the voices of all those women resonate and relate. What I didn’t expect was for my 9 year-old daughter to pick it up and basically devour it.
I didn’t know she was reading it until I heard giggling coming from a corner of the living room where we have the one big comfy chair. (also the only chair, but that’s another story) I hadn’t read through the whole book, but figured I knew it was mostly funny, tongue in cheek – whatever. Then it got really silent. About 20 minutes later my daughter came out of her room and approached me with a confused and concerned look on her face. “Do you like being a mom?” she asked me. And my heart sank.
Now of course a nine year-old doesn’t understand that moms venting and needing to commiserate is actually one of the joys of motherhood – and certainly of mom blogs and forums like Scary Mommy. When my daughters were born and I was literally trapped in the house because I was pumping every 3 hours to make sure my twin daughters only got breast milk, and I held one of them in the dark in our walk-in closet for hours because it was the only way she’d be calm – and then felt guilty because I wasn’t holding the other one as much since she slept so well by herself in her crib – the days had so many shades of wonder, exhaustion, self-doubt, minor victories, and overwhelming love, that I couldn’t tell one from the other or have time to think about what other new moms were doing to get through those initial months.
But, when I recount those early days to my daughters I don’t go into the parts that drained me or made me almost burn down the apartment building when I fell asleep while sterilizing my pumping tubes and gear. They were babies of course. Babies can’t help the demands they make of you. But we can help the demands we make of ourselves. I’ve been thinking about this a lot with Mother’s Day coming up, and all the silly Mommy Wars talk and the new ridiculous Time Magazine cover meant to shock. My daughter saw that cover yesterday and couldn’t even make sense of it. I couldn’t either.
But, it became a discussion about motherhood, about choices, and most of all about how the media will try to make huge issues out of topics that are not that huge at all. That a real article about a woman being “MOM Enough,” would include her being mad enough.
Mad enough to demand quality education for kids starting in preschool like they are doing at Save the Children.
Mad enough to demand that the media stop trying to pit moms against moms and realize that the highs and lows of motherhood are what unites so many women – no matter how they choose to parent – like you see in all of the incredibly honest and real mom blogs across the net from all parts of this country and beyond.
Mad enough to tell their daughters that being a mom is personal, not political. That just as no one has a right to tell them how or what to do with their own bodies and minds, no one has the right to tell them what a “real” mom looks like, if and when they choose to become a mom.
Most of all, mad enough to know when to take their daughters by the hand and lead by example. We moms can be a very judgemental lot – that’s what the media is counting on, after all. So this Mother’s Day I am giving myself a gift. I am not going to fall into the trap of rolling my eyes at the moms on the extremes of the parenting spectrum. Or the moms whose choices are so blatantly different from my own. Or the judgement I pass on myself every day for feeling like I fell short in some way or another on the Motherhood scale. It’s not just a Mother’s Day gift for myself, it’s a gift to my daughters – so when they grow up and choose to be mothers – and I hope they do – they feel empowered, self-assured and excited, even in the midst of feeling scared and unsure. It’s about winning the Mommy War that goes on inside myself every day – and that’s a war worth winning.