“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”
The Mommy Wars, we call them. And they’re all about choices. More specifically, they’re all about me trying to feel good about my choices, usually by defending them at the top of my lungs while waving my spear in the air and denouncing everyone else’s choices as primitive, selfish, or just plain uneducated.
Work or stay home?
Cloth diapers or disposable?
Breastfeed or bottle feed?
Pacifier or thumb?
Ferber method or attachment parenting?
Co-sleeping or independence?
Public school or private school? Or home school?
Spanking or non-spanking?
Barney, The Wiggles, or no TV at all?
If there is a decision to be made, you will find women on both sides of the line, fighting fiercely to defend their turf in the sandbox of parental proficiency.
To be honest, I have, at times, envied these women a little. Look into their eyes and you will see a passionate certainty, a blazing confidence that seems to say, “I’ve got this mommy thing all figured out!”
In the seven years I’ve been a mother, I’ve felt a lot of things. Joy? Yes. Fear? Almost daily. Pride, wonder, disappointment, amazement, frustration? Over and over.
Certainty hardly ever makes the list.
With every decision I make, on issues as silly as the Tooth Fairy or as serious as discipline, my overwhelming feeling is hope. Hope that I’ve set my child a step further down the path to integrity, independence, and faith. Hope that I’m not screwing up too royally. Hope that somehow, some way, despite me–and maybe even the tiniest bit because of me–my child’s canoe will make it through the all roiling rapids ahead without capsizing.
Parenting is a tough gig. And yet, rather than offer support to each other, many moms are at war, whether the battleground be bottles and bedtime or career and home life.
Why do we do that? Why undermine each other like that when we’re all basically fighting for the same thing–healthy, happy children? I’ve pondered this for a while as war stories have come in from traumatized friends and neighbors. Nothing can bring a grown woman to tears like an outside voice confirming her worst and most secret conviction: “You’re doing it wrong.” Isn’t that, deep down, what haunts us? I suppose that winning this sort of victory gives a momentary reprieve from the worry, from the nagging feeling that we could be better, that we could do more.
Fortunately, mommy guilt doesn’t cage me anymore.
For one thing, when you have a child with special needs, that yardstick you’re using to measure yourself against other moms pretty much gets thrown out the window. Suddenly, it’s all about what’s best for your child, with no thought to what the mom down the street thinks about it.
Second, as anyone with more than one kid knows, I’ve come to understand that every child is different, and so is every family. The gentle verbal reminder that brings one child to instant obedience doesn’t even make a blip on another child’s radar screen unless it’s accompanied by a swat on the bottom or the (serious) threat of donating all his worldly possessions to charity because he didn’t clean his room. Though I believe that there are sound, reliable principles of good parenting that are always true, the way that these principles are applied can vary widely with equally good results.
Thirdly, and most importantly, I’ve realized that, no matter how it felt when we nervously carried that little, vulnerable bundle of spit, poop and dreams home from the hospital, we are not in this alone. There is One who holds my children closer to His heart even than I do, and it is to Him that I appeal daily for wisdom, patience, understanding, patience, and help. (And did I mention patience, Lord?) He is with them when I cannot be, and I have faith in Him to smooth over the many mistakes I make in my stumbling walk through mommyhood.
So, to sum up, I’d just like to say to my fellow moms: Relax. You’re not doing it wrong!
(Except for you. Yeah, you! Cut that out!)