Saturday, March 26, 2011

What's Your Mommy Stereotype?

Recently I have had a lot on my mind, not much of which has made it to my blog. My blog has been mostly relegated to "travel catch-up" and hasn't really been a sounding board for my thoughts recently.

For a while now, I have been mentally wrestling with the idea of what it means to be a good person, specifically what it means to be a good mother. It's easy to feel pressure to conform to some of the mommy stereotypes out there, regardless of which school of thought you subscribe to, and believe me, there are lots to choose from:
  • Susie Homemaker (An oldie but goodie--"Do YOU make your own bread?")
  • Working Mom Who Has and Does it All (Another classic)
  • Completely-Organized-and-Together-and-Always-Prompt-With-a-Perfectly-Clean-House Mom ("I'm SO embarrassed that you dropped by and there's a single toy in my entryway!")
  • Super-Involved Soccer-Mom/School Room-Mother who Volunteers for Every School Event
  • Baby-Wearing Attachment-Parenting Creative Home-Schooling Mommy ("I-wear-my-child-in-a-sling-on-my-hip-until-they-are-three-so-they-will-grow-up-to-be-more-well-adjusted-than-yours")
  • Spiritual Mommy (The one whose seven children sit completely reverently with perfectly combed hair and arms quietly folded at church each Sunday-- whose children LOVE their daily family devotional/scripture time.)
  • Urban Hip Mommy (Looks effortlessly cool as she pushes her designer stroller, sips her Starbucks skinny steamer and fiddles with her iphone while her kids--dressed to the nines in Baby Gap--play at the Children's Museum.)
  • The Hot Momma (A perfect size 4 with flat abs that look like they've never been acquainted with maternity clothes. Wakes up with her make-up done and hair styled. LOVES the gym.)
  • Pillar of the Community Mom (Makes dinner for anyone who has a baby, president of the women's organization at church, serves on the school board or PTA, first to sign up on any service project volunteer list)
  • Mary Poppins Nanny Mother ("Takes them on outings, gives them treats, sings songs, brings sweets. Never is cross or cruel, never gives them castor oil or gruel...")
  • Achievement/Extra-Curricular-Oriented Super-Mommy with AMAZING Children ("Ryder has been so busy preparing again for the engineering competition that he won last year that he hardly has any time left for his cello practice!")
  • Enviro-Conscious Diapers-with-Cloth While Preparing Locavore Meals with Organic Produce Delivered from the Local CSA Mom (Okay, maybe that one is unique to Portland)

I am not saying that any or all of these stereotypes are bad. Most- if not all- of them have some worthy elements to them. But most of the "good mother" stereotypes have one thing in common: they are all equally unattainable for a normal woman who has normal children. I frequently fall prey to feeling like I have to fit one of these stereotypes-- perfectly, no less-- in order to be a "good" mother. Heck, if I'm being completely honest, I think I have at least wanted to be every single one of these stereotypes ALL AT ONCE (some are more out of reach for me than others...).

So back to the question at hand... what makes a good mother? Is it how smart or talented your kids are? How much you volunteer? How clean your house is? I often get stuck on these things. How do you know when "good" is "good enough"? I'm still working on the answers to all of this and when I figure it out I will let you all know-- heck, I'll publish a best-selling book and use the proceeds to hire a personal chef, get daily housecleaning, force my way onto "What Not to Wear" for a wardrobe makeover and spend a couple of months traveling to "discover myself".

But for now I've realized one thing that-- at least for me-- is true. I've been trying to "do" a good mother rather than "be" a good mother. As if somehow doing enough things or fitting a certain stereotype will suddenly make me feel like I have arrived. Motherhood is all about uncertainty. You are raising real people: they have their own free will and make their own choices. There's no way to know if you are doing the right thing or if you responded the right way or were too mean or too lenient or just right. There's no validation fairy that jumps in and says, "Great job! You were really firm in that situation and that's going to make all the difference in your child's life even though now he thinks you're the worst mom ever." Furthermore, you can't control your children or predict what life will throw at you or at them. You can only love them, teach them and do your best. And right now "doing my best" is about being: being loving, being kind, being firm, being "mean" (at least sometimes), being available, and just being there. Being a mother.


Kelly(M&M) said...

Wow! That is all I have to say for right now. You hit on so many of my same feelings. (Especially the What Not to Wear Part- ha ha! I am going to look for Stacy and Clinton in NY!) Good for you for recognizing where the fault lies in trying to be any of these "perfectly." My goal lately has been just to figure out the kind of mom MY kids need. And then love them! We will talk more later. I really do think you are awesome!

Allyson said...

I love your posts! I think you could submit this one to a magazine - you'd definitely get published just for thinking it through and expressing it so well.

I'm impressed that you're pondering on these things and doing your best to be a good mother. Kudos!

p.s. Hope you don't care if I provide my family with a link to your post - so good!

K kid said...

Thanks, Kelly.

I forgot to add the "Fitness Guru Mom" to my list-- you know, the one who runs marathons every year, is a personal trainer, gets up and runs at 5:30 am, teaches classes on personal fitness..... ;)

When I write all of them out and say, "I want to be ALL of this," it looks ridiculous, so why do I still feel like I need to be all of these things when most of them have very little to do with mothering at all?

I think you expressed it really well, Kelly. I want to be the mom that MY kids need and just love them.


K kid said...

Allyson, you're welcome to share the post with whomever you want. THanks!

Rebecca said...

Then there is the Bloggist/Facebooker mom who writes the challenges of motherhood so "perfectly" into a blog and makes us all jealous!!! If only we could write it so well! ; )

Miss working together---really.

Leah said...

I think in being a person, you are all of these types at different times. Karen you are a person who makes and enjoys scratch cooking and desert delicacies, gardening, You have also pulled out the working mom, the organized as you did choirs, kids in robotics, dance, and while a baby in the bjorn. you are the spiritual mom, you are totally too cool for school mama look at your profile picture. On and on you painted a picture of yourself in this list, and it all adds up to you being you. Love it and yourself cause it's all good baby.

Suzie Petunia said...

You forgot about the kind of mom who makes amazing food AND oh yah she's a concert pianist. YOU, my dear, are amazing. Mostly because you are exactly the mother that your children need. :)

I really DO hope you enter the VPA talent contest. We need the touch of class you will add, not to mention your amazing talent. Please, enter! I will come film you myself for the entry if you promise to do it!

K kid said...

Thank you, Leah, that is really sweet of you to say that. I definitely want to be lots of those things at different times in my life with varying degrees of success or unsuccess. But I definitely have not (and never have been-- at least if you count post-11-years-old) a size 4.... But I'm trying to learn to love myself as a double-digit-size, and I actually can most of the time. :)