“The only mothers I can stand to be with now are the mothers who complain. The mothers who insist that they always love their kids, love being with their kids all day, love the freedom (?) of not working (?!), love spending all day with toddlers – I can’t stand these women.”This is something I wrote in September 2002 – let’s see, that means my son was just over 3 at the time – I wrote that over 4 years ago. But these words still ring true to me today. I can still only connect with other moms who are willing – no, who dare – to complain.
The Manic Mommies (one of my favorite podcasts) were recently discussing a comment by a listener (on their show entitled "Kids and Magazines") who asked if, for a change, they could focus on the positive aspects of being a mom. This gave the Mommies some pause, because, as Erin pointed out, the Mommies are Manic for a reason! She went on to say that she feels women connect with their show because it is a place that you CAN be honest about motherhood and how it IS hard sometimes (a lot of the time…) and that out in the world, you often have to hide that. You can’t just say to a stranger: “you know, I love my kids, but more often than not, they are really driving me up a wall…” So the Manic Mommies is one of the few safe spaces that moms can vent and really talk about how difficult it can be.
This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the 7 plus years that I’ve been a mom. First: why can’t moms be more truthful with each other? Why, when you meet a mom, more often than not, is it a contest to see whose kids are smarter, sweeter, easier, better listeners, more talented, etc.? Why can’t mothers be truthful with each other about the realities of their everyday lives?
Second: why does the media still portray motherhood in a such one dimensional, black or white way? There are the Good Mommies: the ones who stay home with their kids, perhaps even home school their kids, do all kinds of creative activities with them, sacrifice themselves on the alter of perfect motherhood…. Then there are Bad Mommies: the ones who go back to work as soon as the child has left the womb, have daycare and nannies to take care of their child so they can have as little to do with him/her as possible, who dare go out with friends, have interests outside the home, maintain a relationship with their husband, etc. etc. And there is nothing in between. You are either a Good Mommy, self-sacrificing and loving, or a Bad Mommy, cruel and loathing. When the reality is, of course, that motherhood is something in between. It’s a balancing act.
It is only the alternative media that crosses into the grays: magazines such as Brain, Child that publishes beautiful essays that describe the complexities of motherhood, or podcasts such as Manic Mommies, that describe the day-to-day challenges of being both a mother and a woman with a career, or Mojo Mom, a podcast, website, blog, and book that helps women figure out who they are now that they are a mom.
In the meantime, until the rest of the world catches up, I’ll just have to stick with my small but loyal group of Mothers Who Complain.