Saturday, March 22, 2014

I Am the Best Mother in the World (and you are too)

I am the best mother in the world.

Seriously, I am.
I am the best mother in the world for my kids.

And I’m going to tell you another little tidbit. You out there? Well you’re the best mother in the world for yours.

I know what mine need. Intuitively, I get this. Just as you instinctively understand what your children need from you. I know mine need 2 gummy vitamins at breakfast, extra time to walk to the bus stop, extra bubbles in the tub, at least 2 arguments over the Spiderman plate, and extra snuggles before bed at night.  I know that they need me; that is, the best version I can give them of me on any one day. Sometimes I look rumpled on the outside but feel high spirited on the inside. Some days I look put together and high spirited, but feel rumpled on the inside. I understand how to calibrate the different versions of me to still get them what they need. Which makes me the best mother in the world for my kids.
And you are for your kids too.

Which is why I was so completely puzzled at something that happened yesterday. In general, I make it a practice not to respond to comments on my writing that is posted on sites outside of my own blog. So when a rather innocuous piece went up on a national site about the importance of accepting help from others, I was shocked at the response it generated from some.

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago to process what I was feeling at that time. I wrote it completely for me. I shared it because I thought that somewhere out there, there might be another mother or father or person who this resonated with, who struggled with the perception that needing and asking for help in any situation might make them look weak. And preclude them from doing what they need to be the best they can be for their family. It also might prevent them from seeing the joy and gratitude that others feel when they get to feel helpful. I know all of this because this is what I discovered when I finally learned to accept some help on a week when I was feeling particularly stretched thin.

It was my experience. Solely my own. I shared it only in the hopes that others might recognize this in themselves and be moved, as I finally was that one particular week, to reach out. This is literally the only reason I share stuff. I do not make a living from blogging. The majority of national sites that run my work do not pay me. I do not run any ads on my site. I have 5 followers. Literally, that’s it. I’m pretty sure they all live in my father’s active adult community in Florida. No one is tracking me to be the next great literary wonder. I don’t put my stuff out there because I think that book deal is just one hot smoking blog post away.

So when I shared this piece yesterday about the value in reaching out and accepting help, I was shocked to be body slammed by commenters who complained that I was whining about nothing. I had it good. What was wrong with me that I even needed help? From those 820 words, they presumed to know everything about me. They told me to “put on my big girl panties” and suck it up. Drive on bitch. Get some real problems. Try appreciating your kids. If you can’t handle the work than don’t have them.

Amazing. Did they not get the memo? I am the best mother in the world. For my kids. And that means acknowledging that FOR ME, once in a while I need some help because I am human and sometimes I struggle with stuff. And that doesn’t make me weak. It makes me strong. Since I am the best mother in the world I know that more than anything my kids need this lesson. Because god forbid they grow up and think that their mother did it all, perfectly, with no help, and always smiled. And if for one minute they don’t smile or struggle or need someone to throw them a life preserver and think something is wrong with them because of that fact? God forbid they grow up thinking that they are anything other than perfectly imperfect, like we all really are anyway.

It’s fine. I took my body blows for the day. And in fairness, plenty of mothers also piped in to defend me which was nice and they took to the internet to duke it out. The “she is a sucky whiny mother camp”, and the “who are you to judge camp.” And I watched this all unfold deep in my discomfort. All of this stuff that I was stuck in when Distracted Living first was published and the attention it got, the things people said about my parenting skills, the way they chipped away at my confidence in the knowledge that it was because of all my imperfections (and not in spite of them) that I was exactly what my kids needed.

But this time what struck me in particular is the amount of time women spent discussing a rather harmless point I was trying to make: that accepting help can be good. It was a mommy war in all of its full glory. And it suddenly occurred to me that Sheryl Sandberg has it all wrong. We are never going to lean in successfully at anything if we can’t lean ON each other. If we are always judging and tearing each other down.

You know what that glass ceiling is that you’re bumping up against women? In many ways, it’s just another piece of the glass house where we all seem to live internet friends, casting our stones at each other for how we do or don’t parent which couldn’t be more absurd since we all know that at any one time, each of us, in all of our various iterations, is the best mother in the world for our own kids. And so we can lean in and ban bossy and say and do whatever the hell we want, but the reality is that until we stop tearing each other down over stupid silly stuff and start supporting each other both in words and deeds, women will never really make the strides we hope to see professionally. My girls will be too busy slinging shit back at other women that they won’t have time to bust out in all their glory and take over the world the way I whisper in their ears each night that I know they will, that they should.

Moms. This is on you. Stop it. Lay down your arms. Attacking other women because they don’t fit your standard of what a mom should be or make choices that you make more than anything else at this point is inefficient. We’ve got to get busy working together if we want to raise mothers and sisters and daughters that are confident enough to fulfill that promise that lies within each one of us.

And be the best mother in the world. Like you know you already are.

And I am too.

 

5 comments:

  1. I discovered that saying "we" enrages some people. Other people are enraged at my audacity to say "I" and "me" with such great frequency. Sometimes I resent what the internet brings out in people, other times I take it as a gift to understand the ugly that some people enjoy unleashing in the safety of anonymity.

    We are all great.

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  2. Glad you didn't let it get to you. People who make nasty comments are the one with the problem, it's usually more about some issue they have, not anything you've done. All you can do is be overly polite, kill w kindness. Unless it's someone who really gets under your skin, then you let her have it! )

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  3. Well said. And with such grace and style. Internet harangues are the absolute worst and I've dealt with my share too. One, about a humor essay I wrote about circumcising my son, went wild on Reddit and even dragged my husband into it. That was 4 days of being told I was the most evil, child-abusing mom in the world. And introduced me to a new brand of wacky: The Intactivists. At the time, it was unnerving but it made me stronger as a writer and a mom and a human. A baptism by fire, if you will, but it's impossible to shake me as a writer now. Ultimately, those hateful comments aren't about me ... they're about the commenters. And I just let 'em go till they burn themselves out and find something else to hate on.
    PS: Now you have 6 followers. :) -- Norine of Science of Parenthood

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  4. I have had to stop reading the comments on other sites that are not my own, because I don't want to see the hateful ones. It's not worth ruining my day. I read your post and thought it was honest and heartfelt, and I think there are just people out there who feel a need to bring others down. Keep being the great mom you are!

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  5. I am shocked that so much mud was slung. I'm with you. It's okay to ask for help when you need it. I learned this when my child was six and I woke up from knee surgery only to be told that I could not put weight on my leg at all for 6 weeks. My husband had just moved ahead of me to another state, and I was all alone. It was the first time in my life that I ever had to ask for help. And my friends jumped in. They made meals, came over bright and early to get my daughter ready for first grade, came over again to help get her into bed at night, took her on play dates, took me on play dates, wheeled me to her soccer games in a wheelchair, through mud. It was humbling and heartwarming. And I can never pay each of these people back. But what I can do is pay it forward to other friends in need. As moms, we need to be giving when we can, but not be afraid to ask for help when we need it. I shudder to think how scary those weeks would have been without a sense of community.

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