As a culture, we are living in a time of maternal scrutiny, the likes of which have never been seen or experienced. Imagine parenting through the looking glass, or an Orwellian population of glassholes, and there you have it. Engaged in so much righteous comparison of one another's lives by strangers wielding their in-person Op Ed's, we can feel like we are starring in our own reality show, without having ever agreed to sign the contract. As if parenting isn't challenging enough, as mothers, we are judged for every choice, decision and step we take outside our front doors.
Yesterday, a friend shared a story about being at a function with her three children, when her 7-year-old daughter took off her sweater and did the ol' toss-off to Mommy, asking her if she could hold her sweater for her. My friend sighed, rolled her eyes and said, Oh, God... really? A dad standing next to her said, "Ohhh... so, YOU parent by guilt." Apparently, a mother expressing her frustration with her child, in a public setting, is fodder for judging what "type of parenting" she's engaged in. Are 7-year-old children too burdened to carry their own sweaters?
There are moments as a mother when you can't stand being grabbed, poked, hung onto or taken for granted one more second, or you'll go insane. And, it is always when you reach that moment of truth, when your child needs you for just one more thing.
When our children are infants and toddlers, we recognize, and are in awe, that these beautiful, precious little beings are dependent on us for everything. As our children grow into small people, they continue to need us in ever-emerging, different ways. Recognizing that we need to help foster our children's growing independence can be a bittersweet, slow awakening. Or, it can be that aha moment when the sweater that we're suddenly being asked to carry bears the full muscle memory weight of being a Mama Packhorse for too many years.
How about if this Mother's Day we all step away from our self-appointed roles as judge and jury and embrace the idea that we are in this together as a community? Let's let go of labels like "parenting by guilt," and create a world in which it is OK to express frustration with our children, and OK not to carry that sweater that our child is perfectly capable of carrying by themselves.
We adore our children. We treasure spending time with them, and can't imagine a life without having been their mother. They can make us laugh like nobody's business, and sometimes they can also drive us completely nuts, testing our patience, stamina and even our marriages.
The bottom line is that most of us try very, very hard to be the best mothers we can be, but we're far from perfect, and our children need to know this about us, and that expressing frustration with them is normal. Being a grown-up all the time is bloody hard. Would I have responded any differently to the father who labeled my friend's parenting style? Well, truthfully, I'm not that quick on my feet when someone maligns my parenting skills. But, I'd like to think that there is a mother out there who would have thanked him for his 2 cents, and asked him if he'd like to carry her purse...