I see it, out front, no one can miss it, but I can’t believe I am seeing it. Some cutesy card, “I have puppies instead of children. I’d rather ruin my carpets than my life
“. I find myself looking around me. Does anyone else see this? Do they SEE this?!
Like so much that passes for humor, maybe this is funny, because, somewhere inside, it resonates .. it rings true.
We will deny it. Mothers do. If you ask us, to our faces. But in secret … is it a different story?
Once upon a time ago, Ann Landers ran a poll, “If you knew then, what you know now, would you have children
?” The resounding answer +70% (anonymous to be sure) was “NO”. Current researchers are predicting those numbers would be much higher today, despite a cultural throw back to idealizing the institution of motherhood.
Authors such as Shirley Radl, in her book, Mother’s Day is Over
– took the plunge and talked about the less than glamorous realities of motherhood and whilst many of us are grateful for such pioneering honesty, the subject is still largely verboten. Let’s face it, to speak disparagingly of ones offspring is socially hazardous. The only thing worse, is to generalize your experiences, and thus, criticize the entire institution of motherhood. Go this route, and like many articulate, educated, socially conscious, mother-writers, you may find the sanctimonious, mommy police at your
Stephanie Wilkes and Jennifer Niesslein
, speak compellingly of the ‘costs of motherhood:
Given all the hits a mother is liable to take, is motherhood worth it? To be honest, it’s a rhetorical question. Because you can’t ever tell what version of motherhood you’ll get. We all want to be the mother who reaps the rewards and isn’t much affected by the risks. But despite our best hopes and efforts, we could all easily be the woman who slips into depression, whose marriage falls apart under the weight of this life, who cannot raise a whole family up out of poverty on her own, whose fatigue is just overwhelming. Just as we can’t know what kind of people our babies will grow up to be, we can’t know what cards motherhood will deal us.
Or check out this preview of, The Mommy Myth
; The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women. “We have a long history in this culture of mother blame,
” said Susan J. Douglas, author of above. And boy oh boy is she spot on! Not only is ‘mommy blame’ a cultural legacy, it is also a familial one, which can be handed down inter-generationally. It is the height of irony as a mother, to reflect that your own mother, probably felt much the same way, and probably at some point in her life, reflected that her mother did as well. A view also shared by Ayelet Waldman
, author of, Bad Mother
, who says of her own mother, “I wish she’d had a different life
“. I cannot help but wonder if, in letting our own mothers ‘off the hook’, we also give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room, to if not get off the hook, at least make it a little more bearable. Maybe when we wish our mothers a different life, it is our way of saying we wish we could have the same.
For myself … I feel as a mother I have been through the wringer, inside out and on more than one occasion, with more than one child, more than one father, and more than one staunch family underminer. Is it worth it? I don’t know. I have worked my ass off and parented with consciousness and integrity – very often single handed and in process, sacrificed many, many things.
There is something utterly heart breaking, and completely demoralizing when you hear the words, “You’re a BAD mommy” or their derivatives, when truly you’ve played the game the best you were able, loved with all you have and then have to accept, your performance is apparently well under par, especially when so much of the game was never in your control.
Would I rather have puppies than children? Hmm … frankly after being a parent for the last 20-odd years, puppies sound like an awful lot of work too. So do house plants. I’d settle for a clean carpet and some guilt free peace.