Monday, April 21, 2014

In Defense of Mothers Who Succeed

Apparently, I'm a mom people love to hate.

That's according to some random Internet article, "10 Types of Moms That Suck." I found myself on the list as #6, The Always Chipper and Well-Dressed Mom (I flatter myself), which is followed by the author's explanation of her derision:

"I hate you. No really, I just... hate you. I'm 100% sure you sold your soul to Satan, or maybe Martha Stewart. Nope, don't even speak to me, I feel more disgusting and unworthy the closer you get."

Ouch. I shudder to think what the author would say about me if I also told her that my house is pretty much always tidy despite having three youngsters, I have a giant box of busy bags I put together for my son by hand when my twins were less than a month old, I cook dinner from scratch about five days a week, and I'm now 5 lbs. away from my pre-baby weight just three months after I gave birth to two babies, without hitting the gym once.

Why do I share this with you, my friends and anonymous readers, when to do so opens me up to much ridicule? The very point is that it DOES open me up to ridicule, and I want to go on the record to say that I'm sick of it.

To be clear, I don't care what people say about me personally. My skin is incredibly thick, I like myself, and a person's hate speaks more about them than the person at which they aim their vitriol.

And I also don't care what another mom does or doesn't do. If you find yourself wearing the same yoga pants three days in a row, without showering or changing, then so be it. If you use TV as a babysitter more often than you feel is good for your children, have at it. We all do what we have to do to survive motherhood. In this game, I'm quite certain no one is capable of their best even most of the time, and who am I to judge what someone must do in order to make it through this madness.

What I do care about is the constant bickering and trash-talking that make up the so-called Mommy Wars. It's bad enough to carry around the mommy guilt that comes with the territory, not to mention the near total sacrifice of self that happens when you become a mother. But it's even worse to be a mom in the kind of culture that puts self-loathing on a pedestal while tearing down anyone who dares to succeed and be proud of it.

It always bothers me when the kind of mommy blogs and articles getting all the attention are the ones that, as one author so eloquently described, manage to be both self-flagellating and smug. They speak of their inadequacies and failures as though this is as good as it's ever going to be, with the kind of woe-is-me bravado that elevates one to the status of Tragic Folk Hero. Don't get me wrong — in my dark motherhood moments I feel as much need to bemoan my situation as the next girl, and as women we feel consolation in the bearing of our souls when our burdens are compassionately received.

What I DO have a problem with is this: the idea that the dark moments and parental failures ARE as good as it's going to get, and anyone who dares rise above them is someone to be reviled.

Where is the camaraderie in that? Where is the support, the encouragement we so desperately seek in the midst of our failures? What's more, where is the incentive to ever dust ourselves off and try again when to fail is to be glorified and to succeed is to be vilified?

I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. More importantly, I don't do the things I do to put myself on a pedestal, to show off or make other women feel inadequate. I do them because I want to create a happy family and a happy home, and this is how I set out to achieve it. Moreover, I feel a great source of satisfaction in a job well done, in setting the bar high and accomplishing what I set out to achieve. It's just the type of person I am, and always have been — and hopefully always will be.

I also don't feel the need to lower the bar to make my life more palatable to others. On the contrary: I would love, more than anything, to inspire someone else to try a little harder, in any way that's meaningful to them. I want this because I've been inspired by so many other moms who, like me, refuse to give into the insecurity and sadness that can so easily creep into the life of a stay-at-home mom.

When I was a first-time mom I was hit pretty hard with postpartum depression. There I sat, in my ratty old pajamas and in tears, desperately trying to soothe a baby who screamed for hours and hours on end. I looked at my new life and thought, "Is this really all there is?"

If I had only listened to the woe-is-me voices who said there is nothing more to aspire to, I would still be stuck in a fog of depression, dirty yoga pants and all. But luckily, I met some mothers who said no, this isn't the end of your life. You can do more, when you're ready, and you can have a full, happy life as a mom. So that's what I set off to achieve, in my own way and in my own time. And I am happy — yes, happy, with a crazy 3-year-old boy and sweet but demanding 3-month-old twin girls. And I'm proud of that.

Just for the record, I am always chipper because I have chosen to embrace my role as a mother, not bemoan the ways my life has changed. I am chipper because I have battled my way out of a depression that doctors told me would rule my life, and there is no way I'm going to let momentary frustration derail my progress and take me back to that deep, dark place. I am well-dressed because fashion is a hobby I've always had, and dressing with my own sense of style (even when I have nowhere to go) helps me remember the person I am, not just the mom I've become.

My house is always tidy because a clean home makes me feel at peace, and so I work my butt off to keep it that way. I put together busy bags for my son as a labor of love, because I wanted to ease the transition from being an only child to a big brother to twin sisters and give him something to look forward to when Mommy can't be with him. I cook dinner from scratch because it's healthier and cheaper, and it's also probably why I was able to keep my pregnancy weight within a healthy range as well as slim down so quickly after the birth of my children.

Still, this is only part of the story. Although my house is clutter-free, it's been weeks since I've cleaned a bathroom and even longer since I've vacuumed because I simply can't do it all. After the first week or two my son hasn't touched his busy bags and spends most of his days whining for more TV, and would probably sit on the couch all day every day if I let him. My home-cooked meals are incredibly simple and even a little boring, and if I had the money I'd be eating out a lot more than is good for me. And even though I'm almost to my pre-pregnancy weight, I am still about 20 lbs. heavier than is healthy for my height, not to mention the fact that I have the stretch marks and sagging skin that prove I carried children to term, and more than one at a time.

But that's the last you'll hear of my shortcomings — not because I don't want anyone to know the dirty truth, but because I choose to focus on my successes, not my failures.

And anyway, it really doesn't matter what I do or don't do. These are just the things I choose to do for me and my family, and everyone's priorities and strengths are different. Our particular talents should be what make us unique and help us take satisfaction in our motherhood, and our differences should allow us to stand as an example to other mothers who want to try things a little differently, not as a target for those who are less than happy with their own stressful situations.

So, bickering mommies, hate me if you must. Choose to stay at your low points and use your energy to tear down others instead of building the life you really want for yourself and your families. I choose to ignore my flaws and be proud of my strengths, and no amount of trash-talking is going to stop me from doing my best.


  1. Replies
    1. Glad you liked it, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. I loved this post, Lindsay. I get caught up in the "woe is me as a mom" mantra, and I need to remember to work harder to still be myself. Good reminders!!

    1. So glad you liked it, Tracie. It is so hard not to get bummed out by the mom life. It is just plain HARD, and somehow both overwhelming and boring at the same time. Trying to maintain a sense of self has really helped me to focus and enjoy being a mom. It's not about what anyone else does or doesn't do; it's about what I can do for my family. I hope you find what works for you too!