Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just finished chuckling my way through Ayelet Waldman’s "Bad Mother". She’s pinned it down so well for me – what I am like as a mother. And I sure am glad, reading her account of her motherhood adventures, that I am not alone in my klutzy, kiasu, angsty, self-centred version of motherhood. Hers is the honest, no-holds-barred, warts and all version of what mothers are really like. And when I was reading it, I was largely laughing, sometimes sniffling but always nodding.

She writes about unrealistic expectations that we have of ourselves, and about others. What struck me most was what she said about other women being each other's worst enemies. I think its true. We mothers are our own worst critics. We tend to judge each other's parenting styles - often swiftly and harshly - with a critical eye, by our own personal yardsticks, often failing to acknowledge that each woman and each parent-child dyad is different. And often, we judge ourselves the harshest.

I know this is true because everytime I read about how well other parents' childrens behave or perform in school, I wonder if I might be selling my kids short, if I might be a better mother. And terribly, I wonder why my kids cannot be like those other kids. Yes I love my kids to bits but that does not stop me from wistfully yearning for perfection - in them and in me. Can't be healthy right?

Yet imperfect mother that I know I am, I still try to put up a good appearance. I try to belong. I want to belong. Hey, I’m Libran. It’s important to Librans to want to be liked. So I try - though often I feel like a troll wearing the haute-couture togs of perfection, unable to live up to the standards of others.

I never felt like I fit in with the other moms - hence my avoidance of any PTA activities for all my kids' schools. And yet. Reminiscent of secondary school cliques all over again, the need to belong, for validation, is still strong. This is the same for any group I suppose - even virtual parenting groups. Whether it is about breastfeeding, birth, schools etc, we go in to parenting groups to get information and to find validation. We need to be told that we are moving in the right direction, that other (read better) mothers think and feel the same as we do. I don't have to extoll the virtues of belonging in a group.

But a sharp knife cuts both ways. Just as we seek affirmation, definition in a group, the process can also be alienating and potentially damaging.

So maybe the best therapy for me is to avoid extended contact in these situations. Avoid the PTAs. Avoid the competitive mommy circles of school sports. Avoid online parenting groups. Avoid parenting magazines.

Its the same reason why I stopped reading women’s magazines (which basically make money out of telling women how they can do better/look better because they’re just not good enough). Why bother?

So like those glass bell domes that Ms Universe contenders stand under while the Q & A on world peace is going on, I choose to stand under my own soundproof glass dome. Call it denial if you like, for the sake of my sanity (and vanity). I still go into parenting forums from time to time, but I write less. And I skip more posts. And bad mother that I am, I now avoid the glowing testimonials like the plague! Life is short and there are already guilt trips aplenty, the less I compare, the happier I will be.

1 comment:

mummyof3 said...


thank you for this! i'm going thru my round of 'my life is a mess' dialogue in my head. and yes, part of it is unreal expectations of myself adn those around me.

and i'm a libra too, i so so understand, i suffer fr the same thing. sigh. but the late 30s and perhaps the 3rd child have made me a tad more confident, i'm not as bad as i used to be : )).