Thoughts on motherhood

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about motherhood and the raising of the littles.

It feels like there are so many moms out there touting the glories of raising young kids, but not many talking about the other side of it all.  This isn’t meant to be a downer post, and I’m not coming out with any solutions or grand revelations, but I have been thinking a lot over the past five months about this thing we all do.

And lets start right off by saying: don’t get me wrong! – I adore my kids and being able to raise them as I see fit.  But I do wonder if I don’t live in a society that glorifies the raising of young children to an unrealistic degree.

“I stopped sleeping for 5 years because Tommy just wouldn’t sleep through the night, but it’s ok because I knew someday he’ll be grown up and gone, so its ok to be sleep deprived.” “I never leave my kid with anyone because of xyz”.  “My kids only eat xyz, so that’s all I make.”

I’m guilty of this stuff too, totally, hands down! I am totally guilty of thinking no one else on earth could possibly understand my precious wonderful children as completely and necessarily as I do.

But lately I’ve been wondering how this sort of neuroticism can possibly be healthy…for the kids or for me or for anyone.  And also, why do we moms say things like this?  It feels like a lot of us wear this stuff like a badge of devotion that proves what June Cleavers we all are.

It’s true kids grow up quickly – goodness knows I can’t figure out how Sophia can possibly be turning 8 soon – but is her childhood so extremely, sacredly important that her adolescence and adulthood pale in comparison?  Shouldn’t the grown-up part of my child’s life be just as important to me as the young part?  And if my child’s whole timeline of a life is equally valuable, why is there such strong social pressure to glorify the first 10 years – to the point of being willing to forgo…oh, dear… fill in the blank…could include sleep, exercise, books, friends, sex, a healthy spousal relationship, or a million other possibilities…?

These are just things I’ve been thinking about.  I wonder about them when I consider moms-who-work-outside-the-home, and the guilt they feel over doing that, and the totally inappropriate judgement that way too many stay-at-home moms dish out over it (I know because I’ve witnessed that condescension many times).  I wonder about it when I hear women diss other women who don’t breastfeed, or disparage women who have c-sections, or (and I hate this one most) look down on moms who don’t have home births.  And I absolutely cringe when I hear homeschool moms look down on mother’s who send their kids to public school, or when I feel that condescension coming at me from the opposite direction.  (Because seriously?  I have NEVER met a mother who didn’t put a decent amount of energy into weighing the options before choosing the educational course her kids would go.  And why does it matter anyway?  As long as we can all do what works for us.  I’ve met plenty of awesome public schooled kids, and I’ve known plenty of poorly behaved homeschooled kids.  And the opposite.  Why do we act like the educational method is the deciding denominator in a child’s personal character?)

Bringing up kids is difficult no matter what method is employed, for any part of it.

I wonder: if we didn’t overly glorify Raising Kids: the Early Years, if we didn’t overly sentimentalize it – I wonder if we’d be more tolerant and accepting of all the different methods out there?

I wonder if we wouldn’t all be a bit happier while actually doing it.

Over the Spring and Summer, I began  to stop over-sentimentalizing childhood at the sake of using my own good sense.  I want us to focus more on what’s good for our whole family, and not only what’s good for the kids in the moment.  So, for example, Lily had to be pushed a bit into sleeping through the night, and guess what? She survived, and we’re both happier now for the good sleep.  We are actively en route to being weaned, and getting her to abide by a regular bedtime, as well as potty training.  And the older girls are being firmly held to a standard of good behavior and politeness which is non-negotiable.

I still need something more, something for myself personally, I’m not sure what yet, but I know I miss having my own “stuff” going on in life. We’re still journeying, still trying to figure out: what does a less child-centric family look like to us?  What does a family-centric life mean to us?  A life where everyone’s needs/desires are regarded with equal importance…what does that look like, feel like??  This is a lot like wading into an unexplored world – there isn’t a lot of precedent out there for an “everyone-in-the-family-equally” life.  There isn’t even a lot of specific language out there for it yet.  I keep calling it “family-centric”, but I don’t think that adequately describes what I mean.

But it feels good to be thinking in this way, it feels like I’m being much more realistic and grounded and fair to all five of us, it feels like I’m on the right path (for us).  I’m happy about that. I want the girls to see and to know that it’s ok for them to have a balanced perspective for their own kids someday, and not feel like I or society or whomever, expect them to become a vaporous servant to their own children’s every whim.

At the end of the day, I hope these issues are a lot easier for my kids to navigate then they have been for me. :/

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7 Responses to Thoughts on motherhood

  1. Cindy says:

    Very well said!!!!

  2. Robyn says:

    YES. Everything you said.

    When Sean was a baby, I was so caught up in being the perfect attached mom. Then I had Chris and it wasn’t realistic for our family for mom to be a martyr. Add in his health issues and I got a good dose of “wow, there are different ways to do this and no one way is right for each family or each child”. I feel we have a nice balance going now.

    • mamainthequietcorner says:

      I think you’re on to something about the “attached mom” syndrome. Attachment parenting may have been the natural pendulum result to the more authoritarian styles that had been in vogue, but AP goes just as far in the opposite direction.

  3. CJ says:

    “…is her childhood so extremely, sacredly important that her adolescence and adulthood pale in comparison? Shouldn’t the grown-up part of my child’s life be just as important to me as the young part?”

    Watching my children grow as quickly as they do is bittersweet because the time during which they are just mine (or during which I can trick myself into believing they’re just mine) is slipping away. As adults, they won’t be mine anymore; they’ll be their own people living the lives they want to, where they want to. Even if they’re a daily part of my life as adults (which they won’t be if they follow their parents’ lead and move thousands of miles away), our relationships won’t be—and shouldn’t be—as intimate as when they were wee beings snuggled to my chest. That, to me, is what makes childhood precious.

    I’m not convinced that our culture is child-centric as much as it is bent on controlling women by telling us that whatever it is we’re doing, we’re doing it wrong. If we were child-centric, I don’t think there would be different parenting method “camps.” Instead, we’d be working together to empower each mother to be her best…which benefits kids more than any particular parenting style.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  4. Diane Wimmer says:

    Well said Beth…. … every single one of your thoughts are as wise as ever. I am amazed by someone so young having so much wisdom. I learned early on as I was being judged by my parenting… that we do the best we can… There is no guide book or rule book in life… I think as you said doing what was best for our family was what was important.. My children are adults now and are on their own and do I look back and wish I had done some things differently. Of course, but at the time I didn’t have the ability to see into the future. We learn and grown from all our experiences. I do so miss the childhood years, but am so proud of the adults my children have become. I love sharing and being with them. and someday if I am blessed enough, I hope to have grandchildren to cherish just as much….

  5. Thank you for this post. Being German I have a bit of a different approach on parenting anyway (home schooling isn’t allowed e.g. but public schools are good) but your post yet gave me the feeling that I’ll do fine what ever I do once I’ll have a little one.

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