Monday, May 28, 2012

On Being "Mom Enough"

This windstorm happened a while back, and by now it's easily old news, but it's also something I sincerely meant to write about and share my thoughts on when it was still fresh and interesting. By now, everybody has gotten the point - that being "Mom enough" doesn't necessarily mean doing the ultimate best ever, but doing the best you can with what you've got - but I still have the urge to weigh in on this concept on this cloudy, stormy Memorial Day.

There are plenty of abusive, insincere, angry parents out there who are nowhere near "Mom enough" to parent their children. They are current hard drug abusers, angry alcoholics, emotionally and mentally unstable. They hurt their babies or even take the lives of their children and they are unquestionably not "Mom enough", and I don't think anybody would argue that. Those who need help and don't seek it, or ignore the problem, or take their issues out on their offspring have problems that need to be taken care of before they can sincerely stand up and say they are the best mother that they are capable of being.

But that doesn't qualify the rest of us - those of us who were former drug users, former alcoholics, who are clean and sober, or who were booby trapped and robbed of a healthy breastfeeding relationship by unsupportive family or pushy medical personnel, or who didn't know enough about circumcision or vaccination or whole foods or healthy living to make an honest, educated decision about it, they just went along with what they were told was right and spanked their kids or yelled at them or did something that in general most of us know better than to do, or know how to do it safely (if such is possible). We are parents who have busted our asses to do the best we can do, and be the best we can be, and set the best example for our kids as possible. Maybe we formula fed our kids, and used disposable diapers, and pushed potty training, and vaccinated and circumcised and ate what is honestly pretty awful fast food, maybe we put our kids in separate rooms far from our's and spanked and did all kinds of things. But the problem with judging other mothers based on what you see or hear them doing is that, honestly, you have no idea how much they know.

Maybe that mom was raised thinking spanking her children was the only and most correct form of discipline. Maybe her friends convinced her breastfeeding was disgusting, maybe her husband or boyfriend convinced her that circumcision was the only option. Maybe she thinks that co-sleeping will turn her baby into a clinging, dependent child. Maybe she thinks that cloth diapers are a hassle, and that fast food isn't all THAT bad, and that organic foods aren't worth the money. Maybe she was told one time to never question shots that our children are given and that they're all completely 100% safe for every child and adult. Maybe, just maybe, she is like the majority of other parents, who think that if they are being told something by friends or family or a doctor or nurse that the advice they're given is true, effective, and honest. And really, if you step back and think about it, even if something goes against instinct, why is that really such a harmful state of mind? It shouldn't be. And that seems to be the problem, that instead of trying to correct the problems - uninformed medical staff, friends and family who don't really understand - we make the mom feel bad. We make her feel like she isn't "Mom enough" to her children, that she doesn't do enough or try hard enough. We call her names and jump on her and force her to eventually submit not to the idea that she didn't know better and was misled, but to the concept that she messed up and should take responsibility for her actions. Actions that, a lot of the time, I honestly don't think that these moms should be held accountable for.

The TIME article that instigated this entire thing - about extended breastfeeding - has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. Subtly inflammatory, it suggests that the only women who have earned the right to call themselves "Mom enough" to their children are those who have gone above and beyond even their own comfort level, potentially driving themselves to discomfort and leaving them resenting their children because they feel as though they absolutely must do or say something in order to be a real mother. By this logic, I am anything but; I did not breastfeed either child past six months (the first was only breastfed a mere four days!), I only occasionally used cloth, I turned my first child forward facing at 13 months old. I have done things that many would consider to be nowhere near "Mom enough" because they are all I knew - and although none involved so-called "extremes" to parent my children to try to win that coveted "award", they are all things that I did because I was misled or uneducated or lacked experience. They are things I did that many would consider to make me not "Mom enough". (And on that note, I ask you this: how are mothers who have pushed themselves to a level even they are not comfortable with being the best moms they can be if they are in a constant state of wishing they HADN'T gone that far, all for the sake of trying to do what they think they have to be "Mom enough" to do? A woman not comfortable breastfeeding a three year old in public or otherwise - because she chooses not to leave herself resenting her child and her decisions and chooses to wean before then, does that mean she isn't "Mom enough"? Hell no! It means she wants to be the best mother she can be, and she knows that part of that is being comfortable and secure in her relationship with her child!)

The one thing that we moms will always have in common is the ability to teach each other. We have all been in similar situations, whether or not we carry our children with us in our arms or they are gone now - we carried them a length of time, we loved them, maybe we were blessed enough to birth them and raise them. We are a group who have experienced things that others never will. We share a bond because we have loved someone more than we ever knew we could love another being. We have helped create life, and that is perhaps the most amazing thing of all. The last thing we ought to do is be tearing one another down and suggesting that there is some potentially unattainable perfection that we should all be shooting for instead of simply trying to be the best we can in our own situations for our own children. That impossible perfection is exactly what ends up dividing us, causing huge rifts in what should be a community of moms supporting one another and teaching each other how to raise children. We should gently teach, give suggestions, offer help when it is needed. We should reach out to help each other and give support in difficult situations, not throw out halfassed judgement because it's convenient and makes us feel, by proxy, "more Mom" than someone else is.

So who is "Mom enough"? Everyone. Every mother who has learned, and grown, and educated herself. Every mother who wanted to do more and try harder and fix problems and change things for the better. Every mother who has stood up and said that she isn't sure this is the ultimate best, but that it's the best that SHE can do and the best that SHE knows how to do - these women are "Mom enough". All of us are, and that is sincerely and honestly what counts the most, and no matter what we think of how another mother is doing when it comes to raising her children, the one thing none of us EVER have ANY right to say is that we don't think she is "Mom enough".

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On Entitlement.

First of all, damn.

It has been over a month since I posted last, and in that month surprisingly enough not a lot has happened. I've moved up slowly at work, inching out of training and into the position of a full-fledged employee who might actually know what's going on. School for G has ended for the year and he doesn't seem to notice the difference; he spends his days with A at daycare having a lovely time with Miss J and her amazing three girls. They love it there, and while I know it's never as good as being home with me or Daddy, it's about as close as I'm going to get.

But that isn't what this is about.

This is about something that Hubby and I were discussing earlier, something that I - like most people - need desperately to work on. Something I don't often think about, and that one thing is pretty big for all of us: entitlement.

You see, no matter what you believe - that we die and that's the end, or that there's a Great Beyond, or that we go on to live many more lives - the one thing that none of us can argue with is that we only get to have THIS life one single time. Once. No matter how many times you believe we will or won't come back, you can't argue that much, and that's kind of a daunting fact sometimes. So much so that some of us - myself included - manage to con ourselves into believing that what we do in this life isn't really all that important; that we won't really make a dent in someone's memory or mind, that we won't somehow make a huge difference in anybody else's life. And that's what it is, really, a con. We con ourselves into thinking that we don't matter, or won't matter - maybe because we're depressed or sad or tired or even just want to think that nobody's watching or listening because being the person we want to be all the time seems so impossible, or so difficult - but the fact of the matter is that when we tell ourselves those things we're lying to ourselves and everybody around us. We're lying to our husbands, our wives, our boyfriends and girlfriends, our parents and children and friends and relatives and pretty much everybody. Sometimes some of us push that lie so far that even we start to believe it, and it goes from a very bad habit to a lifestyle. We make it a way of being, but in the end we're really only doing that - BEING, but not LIVING.

Right now, I am being. I'm here, and present, and scared of death and storms and wasps and am morbidly obese and unhappy and depressed and I tend to rely on food to make me feel better about myself. But I've conned myself into that line of thought, that in the end I'm not really important. And I forget my big ideas - the ChaserBox (which you don't know anything about) and my charity, Helping Hands Healing Homes (go like them on Facebook), and I forget about the fact that my kids are learning by example and they are expecting me to show them how to be a halfway decent human being, and I am showing them how to to do anything but.

Not to throw off anyone, but I believe in Fate, and I believe that she consistently works in mysterious ways. I believe that we are given opportunities - often to make ourselves better people - and it's up to us to see them and take advantage of them before they're gone. Sometimes they're positive, sometimes neutral, sometimes negative, and we have to choose (often quickly) how they will affect our lives. I believe that new doors open all the time, and that when one opens (like when the lovely Kitchen Witch's husband was offered an amazing job, simply by chance, and he took it) it is up to us to help or hinder the process that Fate begins. I have been hindering. I have been hindering on a huge level, one I am not proud of. I have been shown time and time again how my negativity and weight are affecting my life and one another. I have been shown their effects on my body and relationships and I have been told in no uncertain terms what will become of me if I can't remind myself what my purpose in life is.

The problem, of course, has been going back to that idea of meaning something, of living. I've been doing a lovely job of being but not a very good job of living, and it shows. It shows in the attitudes of my children and my actions and words toward them. It shows in my attitude in the morning, it shows in how I conduct myself and act. It shows in how I treat myself and my body, and how I constantly abuse my mentality and soul because today is just another day, and in my head I am immortal and there will be a million more days just like today where I can get that second or third or billionth chance because I messed today up too much by deciding it was easier and more convenient to simply BE instead of to LIVE.

I want to remind you, right here and now, that we have exactly ONE chance to get this life the way we want it. Mind you, I'm not by any means saying that if you push yourself to every imaginable limit you will be guaranteed to attain every single thing you've ever wanted and then some. But you can and will be happier, at least, which is a huge step in the right direction for a lot of us. Myself included. This is the only life where I get to be who I am right now, who I was born as. This is the only life where I will see the things I see every day, where I will know these people as they are right now. This is the only time I will get to be wife of Hubby and daughter of my mother and Mama to G and A and whatever other children we may have. This is the only time I will know these people as they stand right now, and either I can make sure I have made a positive lasting mark on them and their memories by living life and making it as amazing as possible, or make an awful negative mark by showing them that if you let things get you down far enough, you will spend the rest of your life in the valley wishing you were strong enough to climb that mountain.

Right now, I am climbing. I am climbing arm in arm with some amazing, beautiful people who make my life a million times more beautiful by being part of it. It's incredibly difficult and there are days I want to do nothing more than rest, but I know that if I rest one day I will convince myself I can rest for two, and I will go back to being and not living. I never want to just BE again.

I want to live. And I want you to live with me.