I started this post with the words “I’m a good mom” and then spent the next ten minutes qualifying that. I’m a good mom, except for the letting the kid stay up too late. And I let him eat french fries and now they’re all he’ll eat. My child is entirely composed of potato and oil. And I can’t be bothered to craft his meals out of organic, unprocessed foodstuffs, obviously. He has consumed both “meat product” and “cheese product,” as well as the unspeakable contents of the humble McDonald’s Happy Meal (mostly the french fries, but still). I completely failed at sleep training; he still wakes up five or six times every night, demanding to be nursed. And have I mentioned that I’m still nursing? Don’t know whether to file that under “good mom” or “bad mom” but I do know that I do not dig nursing, no I do not. I don’t mind it, but I’m not all bliss and bonding. It’s a chore, and I wish that when he reached for me it was because he wanted a snuggle, not because he’s hungry. And I shout. I do. I’m a shouting mom. I swear, and I make inappropriate comments which are sure to bite me in the ass once he starts talking, and he’s not talking yet, and clearly this is because I am failing to adequately stimulate and nurture him. I spend way too much time working and not nearly enough time hanging out on the floor with my kid or taking him for walks or reading to him. We do not do enriching things like Music Together or story time at the library or baby yoga. I am a terrible mother.
Do we all do this? Is our sense of self so skewed by our (real or perceived) ideal of the “perfect mother” that our imperfections are all we see? I didn’t do this in my professional life (although, truth be told, I do now – I’m constantly worrying that I’m not working hard enough/networking enough/knowledgable enough to impress my clients, even though I’m putting in something like 16 hours of work every day including weekends – since it’s interspersed with childcare and housework I feel like it’s clearly not enough, because at any given moment I’m not devoting my full attention to work, but that’s a whole different rant). I’m insanely proud of my kid, but I feel like all his positive traits are a result of his innate self-being, while the negative ones are so obviously mirror images of my negative traits that it’s kind of spooky. He’s impatient, and he shouts, and if something isn’t going his way it is THE END OF THE WORLD OMG. Which, if you’ve ever met me? Is pretty much my modus operandi.
How do you decide what makes a good mother? Is it a matter of fitting into a certain mold? Because I don’t fit. I’m not crunchy, but I wear my kid pretty often and I do own a pair of Danskos. I’m not a hipster parent, but I do dress my kid in all black whenever I can, and he never, ever wears things involving teddy bears and/or sports motifs. We listen to Dan Zanes, but we also rock out to the Fratellis and Christina Aguilera. I’m not completely AP but I’m not not AP. We all sleep in the same bed, but he’s a bed hog. Also, he kicks.
But, you know, if the measure of a good mother is how happy her kid is? I totally win the Mama of the Year award. He wakes up every morning and literally tackles us with his affection. He spends at least ten minutes hugging us and snuggling before he’ll even consider getting out of bed. He smiles more than any kid I know. He wanders around singing all the time, runs over for hugs, runs off by himself. He’s fearless and strong and self-assured. He’s curious about everything, and strongly believes that if he can figure out a way to get at something, he must be allowed to have it. He wants to do everything himself, but he also wants to be snuggled and held. When he falls down, he gets right back up. He’s very serious about dancing. He loves the hell out of us.
I’m a good mom because I love my kid. I’m a good mom because my kid loves me. Everything else is just window dressing.