I am in the that phase of my life where pretty much everyone around me either has, is having, or is thinking about having children. And without exception, every one of them thinks they are, or will be, bad at it, especially the women.
For instance, I have a friend, we'll call her Christy, because that's her name, who recently, after spending several years and thousands of dollars trying to get pregnant, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. During her pregnancy Christy read every book, and researched every product. She is my guru when it comes to what a baby needs and does not need. She is also one of the most loving and responsible people I know. Yet, earlier this week, she sent me an email saying she felt like the world's worst mother. I won't go into the details; Christy is also very private, but suffice to say, it was not a matter she had any real control over, nor something that put her in the same league as Medea or Nadya Suleman. That got me thinking, does any mother actually feel like they are doing a good job?
I know my Mom has never really felt like she was a good parent. My sisters and I are now all in our thirties, and she still can remember instances when she believes she scarred us for life. Also, I know that out of the millions of blogs out there, I still have not found one written by someone who thinks they are an awesome Mom. I have come across "Her Bad Mother," "Martini Mom," and the "Un-Mom," but I am still looking for "Doing Fine At Mothering." Oh, and let's not forget Dooce, who makes bank criticizing her parenting skills. Why do all these women, none of whom appear to be raising serial killers, feel so bad about the job they are doing? Is it real, or is it an act? Do Moms inherently think they have to bad mouth their skills, even if their skills are good? Are they afraid they will be opening themselves up to criticism, or do they really believe they aren't very good at child rearing?
I guess I am asking these questions due to my (hopefully) impending motherhood, and the fact I am already sure I have messed up my child, even though I haven't met him or her yet. First of all, there is the fact I will not be growing this child inside of me, or giving birth to it. The person who does that will be involved minimally, if at all. I think we have all heard the horror stories that result from those situations. Also, there is the fact that our child will likely be of a different race. That means the first thing most people will think when seeing us together is "oh, that kid's adopted."
Will that lead to me embarrassing my kid by attacking anyone I perceive to be racist? Or will it lead to them feeling like they were ripped away from their culture due to "white privilege?" And how am I supposed to do their hair? I can barely do mine. Lastly, there is the issue of breastfeeding, which I will go into in depth in another post. For now let's just say that in the past few weeks my breasts have gone from my favorite part of my body to a source of pain, frustration, and embarrassment. Part of me thinks putting myself through this to breastfeed is the least I can do for my child, and part of me thinks the mental damage it could do would make things worse rather than better.
Here is what I am proposing: let's all feel good about our parenting skills. Let's not just feel good about them after getting support from blog comments telling us we are actually doing great. Let's make a concerted effort to know we are doing the best for our children, or children coming to us. Trust me, there are enough bad parenting stories out there to prove me right.
To Christy and my Mom, know this, it is women like you who give me the courage to undertake this endeavor at all. Thank you.
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