The day of my Aha moment, I realized that I weary not only as a result of my demanding schedule, but also because I had the overwhelming feeling that I was a terrible mom. I had failed to become the archetypal ideal of motherhood.
I wasn’t the endlessly patient, calm, soft-spoken, cheerfully self-sacrificing icon of motherhood that I imagined I would be. I did not have the temperament to be one of those earth mother types – infinitely patient, baking whole grain cookies, home schooling – who scheduled their own life around carpooling their kids from one activity to the next. I also rejected many aspects of my own upbringing that were harsh and autocratic. I decided I needed to strike a balance. I needed to be loving and nurturing while still maintaining authority in my household.
At any given time I had dust bunnies in the corner, laundry piling up on the chair, toys strewn all over the house, and some experiment growing in the refrigerator. I didn’t think tantrums were cute expressions of frustration, or that drawing on the wall was evidence of a budding da Vinci.
Many times I wouldn’t leave the house because I couldn’t contain my active and strong-willed firstborn. Excursions were frustrating and anxiety-ridden. It was easier to just stay home. As a result, I became socially isolated.
I was trying to do everything, and felt as though I were succeeding at nothing. I had the pervasive sense I was a bad mother; my child misbehaved because I was a bad mother; my house was a mess because I was bad mother; I was a bad mother because I worked full-time; I was a bad mother because I enjoyed socializing with my friends; I was a bad mother because I had an active community life; and finally, I was a bad mother because I refused to give it all up. Ultimately, I was tired, angry and depressed because I thought I was a bad mother.
The guilt and anxiety I felt at the thought of possibly failing as a parent, combined with my insistence to maintain a life beyond motherhood, was wearing me down.
How did I get into this rut?
I realized that I had bought into the “Mommy Myths”. What are the “Mommy Myths”? They are the archetypes about motherhood that we (and others) use to judge how good we are in our roles as mothers. They are often idealized, one-dimensional figures of women fed to us by the media, or the childish memories of our own mothers who made mothering seem effortless.
- I am not a good mom unless I let my children know that I was put on this earth to fulfill their every desire – no matter how outrageous. I work long hours and accumulate massive debt to pay for designer
clothes, acrylic nails and the latest $150 pair of basketball shoes – even if my child doesn’t play basketball.
- I am not a good mom unless I am married. Therefore, I will stay in a bad marriage where I am openly disrespected and physically or psychologically abused by a man who has an addiction or is emotionally absent to the kids
- I cannot be a good mom until I get married because it is too hard to do everything by myself. I have to be the mother and the father. Who can possibly do both roles well?
- I am not a good mom unless my home is spotless. Housework is my job because I am a woman. If I do delegate household chores to the children it will only be to my daughters, even if I only have one
daughter and four sons. Housework is women’s work.
- I am not a good mother unless everything is natural: natural food, natural clothing, etc. Children should be free to express themselves. Inappropriate comments are cute and “precocious”, and speaking disrespectfully to adults is shocking, but not a punishable offense.
- I am not a good supermom unless I can do everything and do it well. I take pride in the amount I can get done in a single day. “Quality” time is one more item on the “to do” list.
- I am not a good mom unless I do everything for my kids until I drop from exhaustion. I absolutely cannot accept help from anyone else because a good mom can handle any workload.
I have listened to men wax poetic about how their mothers did everything without complaint. One man spoke admiringly about how his mother, a single, working woman with eight kids, did everything. She cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, shopped for groceries – she did everything and wouldn’t have it any other way! I had no words to respond to this delusional thinking and had to walk away.
The “Mommy Myths” are generalized expectations of “good” mothering that trap us in roles for which we are unsuited as individuals. In order for every woman to find her unique gifts as a mother, it is important to expose and explore the Mommy Myths so that this role becomes truly enjoyable.
If you see yourself firmly rooted in any of these archetypes, take a gut check. Are you really enjoying this role? Are your children happy, self-reliant, respectful, helpful, hardworking, compassionate, and generous? If the answer is yes, then stick with it. There is nothing inherently wrong with falling squarely into one of the “Mommy Myths”. The problems begin when you try to become someone you aren’t, and do not get the results you desire.
Excerpted from The Momarchy: A Single Mom’s Guide to
Guilt-Free Parenting!” by Angela Toussaint.Copyright © 2011. All