The Realist Mom Manifesto

11 Aug

On the Today show this week, there was a discussion about a survey that asked 25,000 mothers what their deep dark parenting secrets are. If you’re a mother, none of the results will surprise you: moms want more sleep, they want some time to themselves and they are incredibly tough on their parenting and their bodies.

Did you know that if you Google “mom and guilt” you get 4.1 million results? In .17 seconds.

This is exactly why I started blogging.

Motherhood is not a competitive sport. There is no contest to be won. There is no medal to be earned. Perfection is a myth. We all want the same thing for our children: we want them to grow up to be happy and healthy and good people. Anything else is gravy.

So why, why are we so tough on each other? On ourselves? Why have women allowed a culture to arise that makes guilt a prime mover in how we conduct ourselves as parents and as…people?

It starts the second that sperm penetrates that egg. We are judged on what we eat during pregnancy, how much weight we gain, what type of birth we’re planning…and it only continues after the baby is born. Except it becomes so much more complex. It’s not just about us anymore – we are judged and so are our kids which means we get judged some more. We feel guilty about the choices we’ve made and the ones we didn’t make. About working. About staying home. About our cooking and housekeeping. We start to feel shame.

My children are in grade school now, and I see how easy it was for me to get sucked in to the whole “competitive parenting” thing. Let’s face it; we don’t get much of the way of kudos as mom. It’s not like your kids stops in a middle of a tantrum over a candy bar and says “I know I don’t appreciate it now Mom, but thanks for not letting me spoil my dinner and also setting limits for me. You’re fantastic.” So, if your homemade mini-cheesecakes earn the admiration of the PTA, it’s kind of nice. Who doesn’t enjoy a compliment? So maybe next time, you make cupcakes that look like spaghetti and everyone ‘oohs’ and ’aahs’. It’s little like crack to a mom. (And yes, I did make those cupcakes.) Like any drug, there is a price.

Let me tell you a little personal story:

One year, for our school’s Field Days, I machine embroidered the name of each child in my daughter’s first grade class on color-coordinated t-shirts. I even made one for the teacher. It took me hours. Hours I could have been spending with my children. I guarantee you that I chased my daughter out of my sewing room so I could get them done. Did the kids get a kick out of them? Sure. But it didn’t change how much they enjoyed running around, playing games and having fun. And it didn’t get my daughter any closer to growing up to be a happy adult.

You know what else? Somewhere, whether it’s the cookies or cupcakes or t-shirts, there is a mother out there that was probably made to feel inadequate because I wanted to feel good. A mom felt guilt. A mom felt shame. And then maybe they baked those stupid cupcakes. And so on.

Moms, that crap has got to stop!

This culture has got to change.

It’s my firm belief – and the entire reason I sit down and write my little blog – that honesty is the only way this cycle comes to a grinding halt. Moms need to be honest with moms. And honest with ourselves.

Motherhood is hard. It isn’t pretty. Some days, it downright sucks. There have been days I have sat in my bed and eaten frosting out of the container because I just felt so overwhelmed by it all; certain I am failing as a parent, certain the mom next door or around the block has it all figured out but I am just too stupid, lazy, tired and inconsistent to.

It would have made all the difference if someone had said “Psst! I’m over in my bed eating frosting too.”

“Psst! I’m over in my bed eating frosting too!”

I hope that by being honest with you, you will be encouraged to be honest with your friends. I want to start the “Realist Mom Movement” – a new culture for motherhood where we don’t compete, we encourage. A culture where we realize that kids could not care less who baked the cupcake or what it looks like – they just want to eat it. A movement that acknowledges that moms need a break sometimes, that we are more than “mom” and that, even though we love our kids, we don’t like them every minute of every day.

You are not perfect.
You are awesome.

Every day we show up, we are good enough.

I hope you’ll join me.


10 Responses to “The Realist Mom Manifesto”

  1. Jaime August 11, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Amen! What a great post!

    I’m not going to lie…there was a time, not that long ago, that I was way too judgy of other people. I am making a very strong effort to stop the judging. To stop wondering why mothers do what they do and instead just appreciate that they are taking care of their children and loving them…no matter how they go about doing it. This is my new personal mission…to be accepting.

    Of course, that has not played out in my view of myself yet. I have to work on that one still.

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 11, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      I find the older I get – the less I judge. Maybe it’s because it’s because I’m more likely to have “been there” as I age.

      The first person we need to stop judging is ourselves. I struggle with that too. I try to at least answer my inner critic now: “Girl, your thighs are huge!” Oh yeah? Those thighs ran a marathon. So suck it!!
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. amy l August 11, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    I read that article and was horrified that something like 25% of moms would rather lose 15 pounds versus raising their kids iq 15 points. Scary. I’m one of those moms that sews and makes the cupcakes, but I do enjoy doing it. Maybe its easier since I only have one child. There is a lot of mom guilt and envy but really if one mom feels inadequate or guilty is it due to their own issues or is it really the special cupcakes that make them feel that way?

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 11, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Here’s the thing – I think it’s great to make cupcakes and sew, obviously – BUT i do think there are times when it becomes less about kids and what we enjoy doing and more about doing what we thing we are “supposed” to do or worse – showing up other moms. That’s what I object to.
      And if a mom feels inadequate or guilty it sure is about her issues – which we all have. And that’s my point. We all have moments where we feel like that – overwhelmed, alone, inadequate – whether we have 1 child or 6. And that’s okay.
      Thanks for sharing your point of view. I appreciate it!

  3. Roxanne August 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I am there with you. I have always tried to steer clear of the mommy wars. But I have always felt the mom guilt. Always. It’s part of my own personal demons, which I am getting to work on, but it’s also this culture we live in. A lot of people strive in competition. Or they just have their beliefs held so strongly that they believe it’s best for everyone. It’s all so tiresome, and it would be nice if we could all just sit back and say, “what works for you and your kid is best” end of story.

    And…pssst…I’ve over in my bed eating frosting too.

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      Thank you. Imagine if all moms would just own it – we’re all in bed eating frosting – literally or metaphorically – at some point!

  4. Hattie August 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Today I posted a very similar post and I feel very much the same way. Judging sucks. Being a mom is really hard work. So is being a wife. Being an employee. Being a child to ageing parents. Being a great neighbour. Being a wonderful friend. Doing it ALL adds up to feeling too much pressure and cracking. I loved reading your post Beth! And ps…I wish I lived closer to those caves. My husband Steve and I both ooooooed and awwwwwed over your photos and wished we could have been there!

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks Hattie! I appreciate your comments.
      The Caverns are pretty cool. I can’t believe I’ve never taken the kids before.

  5. judy schmid August 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Thank you! You are so very right about the age thing! As I get older my circle of friends gets smaller. I need to surround myself with positive, unselfish, kind (etc) people. As all of us know Life is to short and we do have to accept ourselves first. You are so right…it may not be frosting…but I know I sit in bed feeling the same way!!!

    PS…We still have the t-shirt…he wants it framed so he can have it forever (don’t tell him I told you!)

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      Thanks Judy! That is one of the advantages of aging!

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