I'm not a mother, which grants me a viewing seat to the marvelous performance of motherhood. The downside is that this seat is too close to where the gossip is, where judgement happens and where the stares are shot. Judging is bad, but it is not the most dreadful bit: I think being vocal about the judgement is the tragedy, because not judging requires mindfulness and discipline that are hard to master instantly. Holding one's tongue however...
I think the problem in our society, besides being too vocal and intruding when it comes to people's lives, is that we don't give people the choice to live the life that they want, and of course, when it comes to mothers, the pressure is augmented and multiplied by 1000.
Don't pressure mothers; give them these 10 choices today.
1. The choice to work: If a mother wants to work just let her. It doesn't mean she is selfish or negligent or risking the well being of her children. The fact that she has a job doesn't make her any less caring, selfless or you know, a mother! Having a job should not start a debate about her financial situation, her relationship with her husband and whether her mom and mother-in-law are comfortable babysitting her children. You don't need to feel sorry she is not sleeping, or to examine her face looking for "AHA! Gotcha!" wrinkles.
2. The choice not to work: If a mother decides to dedicate most of her time to her family and children, let her, it doesn't mean she is silly, ignorant or lacks ambition. I know many exceptionally bright women who either decided to spend more time with their children, or felt having a job in addition to a family is too overwhelming they couldn't or didn't want to cope, and this is absolutely fine! Who are we to judge? If you are too worried about her lost potential, why don't you start not wasting your own potential gossiping and judging? Also, how can we ignore the unfathomable gifts motherhood gives the world in the form of well-mannered, well-raised and well-nurtured ladies and gentlemen? This requires hard work you know?
3. The choice to dress up: If she feels like looking good and dressing up, let her! (Yes, beauty and chirpiness are not always welcome.) Why criticize a good mood in the first place? Are you jealous? Or are you bitter? or do you have absolutely nothing else to look at and worry about? By feeling and looking good she is doing your eyes a favor, and again, I see no reason to assume her children were tantruming, pulling each others' hair, tearing up their clothes and screaming hysterically while throwing couches and plates around while she was calmly wearing her lipstick.
4. The choice to dress down: Sometimes though, her children would get sick, keeping her up most of the night, and she could catch the bug that had her kids down. Yet she will still need to keep up with adulthood and work. You know, the usual, 9-6 job in which the boss calls for a 30-minute meeting at five that starts at 5:30 and ends at seven to tell her she needs to submit something the next day for a client that he had forgotten to tell her about, and although he is sorry she still needs to have something ready by 10 am. Her dad called her twice that day asking her to help him fix something on his computer and while on the phone her mom mentioned that she misses her, she remembered she is supposed to buy a gift and visit the neighbor who has just given birth, but time is tight and the load is immense and she realllyyyy couldn't care less about you figuring out that the top she's wearing today is the same one you saw her wearing yesterday.
5. The choice to invest in her self development: It is not her education vs. her kids' and let's not get into the argument of "where does she find the time?!" Maybe, just maybe, she is better at managing her time than you are!
6. The choice to be lazy: Have you pursued every single thought and chased every single dream you had? Yes? Good on you! No? Then why should she?
7. The choice to rely on family for support: If family is helping her raise her children by babysitting them or cooking for them or driving them to after-school events, your approval is not required. Families love to help, and if they can't, they will sort it out. Your heart might be so big that it feels sorry for those adorable grandparents whose laughs and joys are tied to those hours they spend with their grandchildren feeling younger, feeling stronger, feeling meaningful and feeling hopeful, but you don't make sense.
8. The choice to do it all by herself: Whether she wants to or has to, the truth remains it is more work for her and her husband. The only thing you should do is to either offer help or encouragement.
9. The choice to have a partner who doesn't have a job: Although this is not entirely her decision, she gets blamed for it. Putting up with the misfortunes of her husband isn't a sin by the way, and even if it wasn't a misfortune, partners nowadays are evaluating and comparing the values of their jobs and deciding who should be the breadwinner and who should be the caregiver in newer and smarter ways.
10. The choice to have a partner who has a job: Well people don't ever criticize that, I just had to add it for semantics.