Monday, October 3, 2011

The "Perfect" Mother

Like many women, my relationship with my mother has been a difficult one, but not for the traditional reasons. As I have aged and watched my friends with their mothers, I am (now) grateful for the things that my mom did non-traditionally.

Growing up, I had that normal sense of wishing that I, and my family, were like everyone else.

We weren't.

Now I know that no one is.

But at the time, the one deep longing I had for my mother was for her to take me shopping, to the mall.

I am now very happy that my mom never gave a shit about malls or any of those things. My mother never commented on my weight or put me on a diet. She never made me feel inadequate.

Sure, there are pains that I carry from my childhood, some of them deeper than others. But what I have come to realize, more and more, is that my mom did the best she could. And really, that is all you can ask of anyone.

It is extremely challenging to be a mother. And not because of the job itself. Being a mother is a natural and wonderful joy. The "job" is a challenging because we all hold this insane ideal of what our mothers should be. And no one can measure up.

I think that one of the greatest harms we do to ourselves is this crazy notion of the "perfect mother."

There is no perfect mother.

A mother is a person, like everyone else. That we should hold them to a higher standard, while also expecting that they do most of the housework and nurturing and everything else, is so unfair.

When we expect the woman to do 95% of a job that should be shared 50-50 by at least 2 partners - if not a community of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends - we are essentially slapping around an already exhausted person who should be praised, not criticized.

Being a mother is a thankless job. It doesn't produce income or other tangible benefits. If something goes well, the children must be brilliant. If things go poorly, it must be the mother's fault.

I don't know that I will ever fully know all of my mom's struggles. I do know there have been many. I don't know that my kids will ever know mine either, and part of me thinks that is a blessing for them. One thing I do know is that you don't fully appreciate your parents until you have your own children.

I also know that no one fully understands what my struggle has been, except perhaps my mother. And I think I can never truly thank her enough for all she has done to help me over these last 8 years.

I hate to ask for help. My mother is the only one who knows, intuitively, when I need her. And she always steps in gracefully, without complaining, and helps me.

That is a mother. That is my mother. And I feel blessed.

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