The constant drumbeat of mothering perfection coming from the mainstream media puzzles me. Where are these "Tiger Moms," I wonder? Where are these perfect French children raised by Parisian women who never make their children too important in their lives? (I'm guessing the Parisian mothers also don't have muffin tops). Is your 7-year-old on a diet so she can pose for Vogue? Mine isn't. Would you even do that to your own self, let alone your child?
I didn't think so.
This month Washingtonian magazine tells us about the Type A parent who is enmeshed in her child's life so intensely that she doesn't even want to let a baby cry and this person grows into a parent who never wants their child to experience unpleasant emotions.
Is there more than a small handful of that kind of mother inside the Beltway? I can't find her -- at least not in any of the circles in which I travel. Lately, I've even taken to looking for her because I just keep wondering -- is it me -- or is it the media?
It seems we are constantly being served a meal of mothering perfection and extreme parenting. The media and the publishing industry are feasting on this woman. Frankly, it seems they are gorging themselves on her.
Me, I'd rather starve. I don't know these women. Do you? The mothers I know, including those living in and around the Beltway, which we know is by no means a representation of "regular America," go to work because they have to, because they've worked too hard to give it all up, because they love their children and their jobs, they worry about doing laundry, about helping their kids with homework, about getting to work without spit-up on their blazer.
They aren't thinking about Vogue photo shoots, they aren't obsessing over Mandarin in preschool. In fact, the ones I know worry that the Montgomery County curriculum is too intense for Kindergarten and they wonder why the 6-year-olds can't play more during the school day. Also, in the world I orbit, husbands play a role. Husbands call doctors, husbands look into preschool options, and husbands work around the house. They aren't bumbling idiots who contribute nothing to child rearing while Super Perfect Mom saves the day. I keep wondering, why is it just so irresistible to pick on and sensationalize motherhood?
The women I know also wonder if the construct of today's American mother is just hype for the media and publishing world to continue feasting on, to shock us all and generate attention. And frankly, do any of the children of these extreme mothers actually like their mothers? Personally, I can wonder this because my kids are still young enough that me entering the room is akin to Kurt Cobain showing up at a college grunge party. I am a rock star.
Then again, it probably helps that I don't have them on diets or playing the piano until their fingers bleed.
All of this leads me to my point -- if you're like me -- and read all this news about American mothers' alleged obsession with perfection, with these absurd standards we apparently hold even the youngest children to -- then this year for Mother's Day, treat yourself to some time with real D.C. moms. On Sunday, at the Synetic Theatre in Arlington, Listen to Your Mother makes its D.C. debut. I am thrilled and honored to be one the dozen local writers who is reading in this show.
Listen to Your Mother is the brain child of Ann Imig, a mother and blogger from Wisconsin, who believes in the power of our voices. And we're talking the real stories of motherhood, not the extreme ones that land you on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Style section. Imig recognized the power of women's stories and started a stage production two years ago that has since met such success that this year, under the slogan "Giving Mother's Day a Microphone," the show will debut across the country from New York to D.C. to Spokane and San Francisco, to name a few.
Each local writer has under five minutes to tell her story and I was lucky enough to hear everyone's pieces in advance of Sunday. I can tell you, the D.C. cast is not serving up a feast of shocking tales of extreme parenting perfection. It's 90 minutes of reality. Ninety minutes of true parenthood ranging from an unspeakable tragedy, to life with a special needs child, to the daily struggle of trying to survive the all-important dinner time with young kids, to my own piece where I confess I suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.
It's real life. It's a show for anyone who has loved a child, not just for mothers. It's refreshing because no where through the show is a woman struggling with perfection cloaked as homemade organic food and cloth diapers. Instead of the reality show version of motherhood the media parades to shock us, Sunday's show mocks mothering perfection in its authenticity. For anyone who has ever felt alone in parenting, Listen to Your Mother is a great reminder that we're all in it together. And no one is worried about perfection, more like just surviving the day.
That's what makes it a perfect way to spend part of an afternoon.
If you haven't had a chance to purchase your tickets, it's not too late. You can purchase them online or enter to win one of the two tickets The Century Council, a non-profit organization and one of the show's sponsors, is giving away online. If you miss the show, it will be posted online in its entirety. Follow me here for more updates on screwing perfection.
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