Friday, March 21, 2014

modern motherhood


why is it that motherhood and guilt seem to go hand in hand (at least among this generation, in this country)? lately, i've been wondering how to achieve a little more motherhood/personal life balance. and perhaps i'm projecting, but i feel that as soon as i utter those words i am inviting judgment, because it seems like in past generations, there was no difference between motherhood and personal life. is it just me or does it seem like motherhood is your personal life, once you become one? i know that i have never been more thrilled with my day job. i am thrilled to be at my baby's beck and call, thrilled to have a little life to take care of, thrilled to be so full of love. but sometimes i'm even more thrilled with the idea of some time off, to do other, grown-up things. and yet, the very idea of this is like a prescription for guilt.

there is so much joy in being a stay at home mom. but it is hard, too. sometimes, i think i am living in the '50s—when i've just hung some freshly laundered cloth diapers to dry, spent the day freezing cubes of pureed chicken and veggies, making greek yogurt, feeding what feels like a multitude of mouths, and loverboy comes home from work, after the baby is in bed, to a dinner i serve in front of the tv (or is that the '70s??). but then i get online and see the successful, productive businesses of countless other stay-at-home moms, and we are right back in modern times. people often tell me that there is nothing better than getting to stay at home with your kids. and mostly, i agree. but the fact is, in modern times, it doesn't seem to be enough. maybe it's not enough when you're educated (+ more educated), because you've been trained to expect to do something that's measurable by society's standards. measurable against other people. measurable in terms that can be written on a CV or boasted about in conversation. being a mother is not measurable by the tangible yardsticks of money or awards or esteem. there are no promotions, no raises. the only "project" you're "managering" might be pretty close to taking his first steps, and the home-made, one-of-a-kind, priceless "product" you've "collaborated on" might have the very best smile on the planet (at least that's the word in our house), but you don't exactly get a round of applause for that.

well, you might get one tiny little applause from one tiny little person. and seriously, that's better than all those things put together. it truly is it's own reward.

but it's really easy in motherhood to feel anxious all the time about messing these sweet, innocent little lives up. at first, it's ALL up to you to keep them alive (as one of my friends said recently, and i concur; it's very scary). and then, when you suddenly think you know what you're doing as far as nursing and getting them to sleep and remembering to do tummy time, it's time to start solids and baby sign language and reading books. before you know it, you're babyproofing your house and little pieces of finger food and introducing the word "no" and sippy cups. 

and sometimes, in the middle of this really mundane but incredibly important thing called raising a child, i can forget the miracle we are party to and feel the pressure to do more. either through comparison or because of all that education or simply by way of self-criticism, i never feel that i'm doing enough. i don't think that of any of the moms i know. i think, instead, how do they do it? how have they managed to juggle feeding and caring for these tiny, perfect people, themselves, their spouses and their houses? and also, how do they maintain their sanity and self-esteem and identity? because i know how hard it is. but when i look at my own life (and how quickly the time is going), i can feel disappointed with myself that i'm not doing more.

i think the truth is, motherhood is just plain different from the way things used to be. now, we can have kids and (theoretically) do those things that fulfill our modern expectations of making money/creating/accomplishing stuff. it can be exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming. (truly, there is no end to the things you can potentially feel guilty about.) but maybe, it's more exciting? recently, i've decided to start spending more time on projects i've had on back burners, because you know, sometimes a mama has to remember to take care of herself, too. anyways, i'll let you know how it goes.

now, back to diaper duty! (ha)

but really, look at that cute face. can you imagine a better job?



  1. Whenever I read your posts, I feel like you beautifully articulate so much of what I was feeling in the early years of adjusting to motherhood, for better or worse.

    If you don't mind a bit of unsolicited advice, I would say that with the benefit of some hindsight, I would keep doing what you are doing -- valuing these precious days. It really is true that the days are long, but the years are short. Shockingly, that toddler I once had is now a teenager who's almost as tall as I am!

    But, I feel like it's also important to keep filling your cup, as you are already making an effort to do. You have a certain spiritual and intellectual capacity which are undiminished by childbearing. You can feed your spirit by spending time with the Lord in His word every day, whenever and however that works for you. You can feed your mind by reading the classics (or other mentally stimulating books), even if a few minutes at a time, or listening to great audiobooks as you fold laundry, push the stroller, etc. You can listen to interesting podcasts -- there's lots out there. You can do the NYTimes crossword. You can hire a young mother's helper as often as you can to come play with Wilder while you do something creative in the other room, to be interrupted only in case of emergency. :-) You can join a book club, or take an online class.

    Because what your baby needs most is a happy mother. :-) And you are the best one for him!