There is simply no end to the reasons people criticise mothers…
You don’t breastfeed? You selfish, shallow beast. You don’t buy organic meat? You’re poisoning your children with nitrates. You let your kids have screen time? Lazy, lazy, lazy. And then there’s the big one – you chose to go back to work? Your husband makes good money and you made the choice to work? It’s the ultimate selfish act…
Of course if you choose to stay at home, you’re a target for the Feminazi crowd and if you refuse to work despite financial difficulties, you’re a burden on society who should stop having children…
No matter how you choose to parent, you’re a bad parent to someone.
I choose my career. We could probably get by on my husband’s income. We could probably get by just fine if I chose to take a “lunch cover” part time retail job. “We’d” be just fine. I’d be a self-loathing, bored-out-of-my-skull basket case but the mortgage would be taken care of no problems.
I’m OK with it. In fact, despite not spending hours every day hand fashioning Transformers out of lego/clay/paper/mud I believe, shock and horror, I’m a good mother. To come to this realisation, I have had to adjust to believing that haters are wrong. It’s a hard thing to do, haters have such passion and I’m not the world’s most confident human being. But if you think it through and follow some parenting logic, it’s not so hard to deliver the hates a big proud middle finger solute.
You’re the parent, you have final say in how you raise your rugrats…
As a mum, you shape the notion of who your daughter will be someday, and the kind of girl your boy will fall in love with. You dictate what your child views as important and what they view as irrelevant to their long term happiness. You. It’s a lot of pressure, I know. But only you (and your partner/family if you have good ones – full respect to single mums, you guys are the heroines of our generation) can shape your little women or men in the way you choose to shape them.
It’s nobody else’s choice. If it were, we may as well hand over our choices about children to the government, so it can raise the perfect citizens it needs. It’s been done before, it’s called Eugenics and Hitler was a big fan. (Yes, I played the Hitler card, but stay with me).
Here’s my favourite lines from judgy-mcjudgers in my life and how I feel (rationalise?) about them.
We have to make sacrifices for our children, it’s your turn…
We do. We have. We did. I sacrificed all the usual things, sleep, perky boobs, the confidence that my pelvic floor will be there for me when I sneeze…. I left a rather nice job because pregnancy sent me a bit nutso and then chose to build a business while I was knee deep in breast pumps and baby poo. Every mother makes sacrifices. For me, being financially independent and having intellectual satisfaction were sacrifices too great to consider. Sacrificing my whole notion of self-worth just seemed, well, extreme – I know, selfish right? Seems a lot to give up to make the haters happy.
A woman’s place is with her children…
Bahahahahahahhahahahahahah. Hahahahahahahahahha. Ever notice it’s 60 year old men who throw this one at you? After they had that sweet free university education, that income that supported twelve kids and paid a mortgage. After 40 years of having their tighty-whities washed and pressed for them? I don’t even bother arguing this one, generations of women argued it for me, if he missed the cliff-notes then it’s his problem, not mine.
You’ll regret it, these years go sooooo fast…
This one gets to me because it’s true. They do go fast. It feels like only yesterday I experienced the wonder of childbirth (via C-Section with a crapload of drugs) now my boy has a preppie uniform on. They do go fast. The days go really freaking slow but the years disappear. I must confess, I hate craft. I hate playing Transformers and Angry Birds and trucks. Luckily his dad, grandparents, kids next door and teachers all love this stuff. I like taking him to the museum, park and festivals. I spend lots of quality time, and lunch making time on my child. Will I regret not spending every waking moment with him? Possibly. But even if I did, I suspect I’d still look back longingly for these early years.
You’re house is always messy!
This is a dirty lie. My house is spotless for approximately 12 minutes after the cleaning lady leaves. I hate housework. I make no apologies for that. It sucks.
Your child will grow up resenting you…
Maybe. I resented how much my father worked. I had serious issues with it as a teen. My son and I talk about how much I work and I know wholeheartedly that he hates seeing me work. He doesn’t hate my husband working, because he doesn’t see it. He sees me because I run a business and business owner’s work never ends.
On one level, I think he will resent me. When the teenaged, “blame your parents for everything” phase comes around, I fully expect “work” to be top of his list. He sees his friends with mums dedicated to their every bowel movement and he’s jealous. He sees his friends dropped at day care at 6am (I wish I was that organised) and doesn’t really think about work being the cause. It’s me, working at home that is the root of any resentment. Those day care kids will resent day care. The kids of helicopter parents will resent being over-protected.
The kids of stay at home parents will resent financial stuff… or who knows, they may grow up to be perfect butterflies with open hearts and brilliant minds. I hope they do, because some mums that give up EVERYTHING for their kids need them to be successful human beings more than anything in the world. No pressure kids.
My own irrational and over-dramatized fears for my child…
Well, if the haters get to have them, why shouldn’t I?
OK, so what if I had been the sanctimummy handbook definition of the “perfect mummy”? If I’d given up everything to spend every moment devoted to my son’s every need. He’d be stoked. He’d love to have my every waking moment belonging to him. We’d build art projects from stuff we picked up in parks and grow organic kale that he’d never eat. I’d hate myself but I’d be his loving and devoted doormat… I mean mother.
This is where my parenting fears come into play. I can see why Sanctimummies get all het up, I too feel like acting out of crazed, half-baked notions of good parenting. I try not to….but here goes.
If I became my boy’s whole world, I would fear that in 20 years’ time when he goes looking for the girl of his dreams, she’d better dote on every word he says, she’d better give up everything to make him happy. She’d better have no sense of self-worth, just depend on him to fill up her self-esteem cup and pay the bills. She’d better be 100% devoted to every moment of his life, or it’s not real love.
We’d also run the risk of raising a narcissistic jerk who needs A LOT of attention to get by – like full facial tattoos level attention. One who needs his wife to be dependent on him and 100% dedicated to child raising. This, right here, is my greatest fear for my son. You may say it’s a rationalisation, and maybe there’s a bit of that but really, I don’t want to raise a jerk. Tony Abbott’s mum must be so sad.
I want my son to see women as capable of achievement, hardworking, independent but still loving. I want him to pursue girls who are brave and have brains (this is part about me not wanting dopey grandkids too). I want him to have a mother-in-law who respects her own daughter. I want the girl he marries to be confident and capable, raised in a home full of praise and encouragement, so she can join my son in raising my grandchildren that way. I want him to be kind and supportive of his wife, to do his bit around the house (don’t even look at his bedroom), to change nappies, to strive for a career he loves and support his wife in doing so too. I want him to be a dedicated and loving husband and father. This is what I want for my child. I believe that being a working mother will up the odds on making it happen.
So to the kale-eating, attachment-parenting, home-schooling sanctimummies, I say, parent your way. Do what you think is vital for raising the kind of adults you hope your kids will be. I’ll do the same. Keep your judgements on my parenting preferences to yourself, and I’ll do the same. We may not agree with each other, but we can still be nice, after all, tolerance is yet another lesson our kids need to learn. Let’s teach it.
About the contributor: Dana Flannery owns Talk About Creative, a digital marketing agency based in Brisbane. She works long hours but does her best to attend Easter Hat Parades, soccer games and Christmas pagents.
She doesn’t always manage it, but nobody’s perfect.