The latest treatise on parenting properly has shaken mothers to the core this week, as TIME Magazine featured a story about attachment parenting entitled "Are You Mother Enough?" For the love of God, who is mother enough, who is child enough, dad enough, friend enough...? But when a theory is put forth that implies that a superior way of parenting exists, mothers everywhere hang their heads in collective shame and are each in their own way sure that they have fallen short as a mother and that their offspring will suffer life-long damage because of their errant ways.
Now, let me remind you once again that parenting trends come and go and that the one consistent theme across all theories is that they are intended to achieve the best possible outcome for the child. Significantly less is written about how these differing styles of parenting will affect the parents themselves, their marriages, friendships and jobs. You get it, right?
Has anyone seen books or articles entitled "Are You Feeling Good About Your Role as a Mom?" or even "Most Mothers are Doing the Best They Can?" My guess is that the answer is a resounding no. I distinctly remember that when I was pregnant, people opened doors for me, helped me carry bags of groceries and even gave up their coveted seats on public transportation. After I gave birth, things shifted. Everyone was focused on how precious my baby girl was. She sure was, but I started to feel invisible. I am attempting to illustrate how we often focus on the children to the exclusion of the mothers.
I remember people asking "How's the baby?' or "What's she doing these days?" These were lovely questions, but they were certainly more frequent than "How are you feeling?' or even "Are you getting some rest?" No, no, no. It was baby, baby, baby! It was not that I begrudged my girl this attention. In fact, I was grateful for it. It is simply an observation that I had now moved into the background.
It is interesting to me that the article "Are You Mom Enough?" ran in time for Mother's Day. This, I am sure, was no coincidence. Of course, we often don't feel like we are good enough moms, but most of us are doing the best we can, whether we are breastfeeding for three months or three years, sleeping with our husbands or with our toddlers and whether or not we are carrying our little ones on our hips or pushing them in strollers.
And then, what about parenting teens which is my particular area of interest? Can you be mom enough to teens? This, too, is a difficult task. Teens can be delightful, but moms are stressed because teens are so enigmatic. At the age at which you really need to know what they are doing they begin to shut down. "How was your day?" -- a seemingly innocuous question -- can lead to slammed doors and an escalated exchange of harsh words and emotional volatility. I even wrote a book with a colleague about how to interact with teens most effectively. The book was not, however, entitled "The One and Only Way to Be a Good Mom to a Teen" and it was intended to make the journey easier for BOTH the parents AND the teens.
Mothers everywhere need to think about pushing back when new theories are shoved down our throats. We need suggestions, but we do not need treatises on our supposed inadequacies. After all, most of us are, in fact, doing the best we can.