Motherhood isn’t a competition.
It’s not a fashion show or a beauty pageant.
It’s not a Cirque du Soleil crowd-aweing performance.
There are no Mother trophies; no gold, silver, or bronze Mother medals.
Yet, this is how motherhood is often portrayed and lived-out.
The controversial Time breastfeeding cover image is a perfect example of this. The picture unsurprisingly created a flurry and jammed up the social media world with all the usual short-term vs. extended breastfeeding quarrels. The typical battles between the I’ll-hide-in-my-closet-to-nurse and the I’ll-stick-my-nipple-up your *beep*-if-you-ask-me-to-cover-up breastfeeders launched on cue.
The photo is an inappropriate way to properly illustrate attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding (the real subject of the article); however it is a perfectly appropriate representation of the worldly “modern” mother. The question attached, “Are you Mom Enough?” sticks its scornful tongue out at all mothers; daring us to prove ourselves in the arena of competitive motherhood.
You’ll find all sorts of moms rivaling in these popular Mom Games.
The Games commence with the conception and pregnancy events. First, watch the prudent waited-till-we-got-married-expecting moms vs. the oops-how-did-that-happen knocked-up gals test out their archery skills. Then find a good spot by the Luge to see the waited-till-we-saw-the-world-together-and-got-to-know-each-other-first moms try to catch up with the expeditious honeymoon-baby-let’s-get-this-party-started moms. If you want to see a good boxing fight, look for the naturally-conceived-or-adopted moms vs. the artificially-conceived moms in ring # 3. Watch out though that one can get pretty darn ugly. And if you’re curious, don’t miss the canoe and kayak races between the one-to-two-children moms vs. the ten-to-twenty-children moms.
After this we move onto getting the baby out. Most of these competitions take place in the track and field area with moms competing in various speed, long-distance, and strength events. Here you’ll see the natural birthers vs. the medicine/c-section birthers. In another area are the hospital-natural birthers vs. the homebirth-natural birthers. And if you stick around a little longer you’ll catch the midwife-assisted homebirthers vs. the unassisted homebirthers.
And now, let the games really fire up with the feeding and child-rearing contests.
First, you can watch the formula-feeding moms duke things out on the volleyball courts with the exclusively-breast-milk-feeding moms. There’s a special cycling event between the I-nursed-my-baby-for-six-months moms vs. the long-distance extended-breastfeeding-my-8-year-old-while-running-the-Pikes’-Peak-Marathon moms. For a change of scene, head inside for a special fashion show/beauty contest between the blushing blanket-over-my-head-while-nursing moms and the topless nipple-in-your-face breastfeeding moms. While you are inside, survey the contrasting skating duets of the graceful sit-on-the-rocking-chair-with-a-boppy-pillow moms and the fancy breastfeeding-while-skating-on-one-foot-and-cooking-a-gourmet-feast moms.
If these events bore you, mosey on over to the rodeo stadium to see contending moms wrangle their bucking toddlers and steer their rebellious teenagers. Too intense for you? Take a peaceful stroll through the nature preserve out back and take a peek at the sing-songy-bunny-loving moms competing for the Gentle Discipline and Nicest Moms awards. For some real excitement, buy some tickets to the fencing matches between the dictator-totalitarian moms vs. the lets-be-best-friends-forever moms. (Can you guess who will win?)
If you have time, check out the working moms vs. the “stay-at-home”-mom obstacle course, the tug-of-war between the eco-friendly-cloth-diapering–gluten-free-cook-everything-from-scratch mom vs. the climate-changing-earth-hating-disposable-diapering-processed-sugar-high-fructose-corn-syrup-partially-hydrogentated moms, and the homeschool vs. public school vs. private school triathlon.
Ok, so there aren’t any Mom Games in real life but sometimes being a mother in today’s world can feel like there are. I was thrust into this world of competitive motherhood shortly after my first child was born. Suddenly, everything I thought I knew about being a good mother didn’t matter anymore; my daughter either hadn’t read or disagreed with all the great parenting experts on breastfeeding, sleeping, and just about everything. I floundered around for a while trying to earn my keep and prove myself in my new role. As I read about and discovered all the different ways of parenting, I would latch onto a new method or idea and stubbornly try to make it work. And, ashamedly, in an effort to boost my own self-esteem, I developed high-and-mighty judgmental opinions about which ways were the best or better ways to be a mother. Whatever I was doing was the best way and every other mother should do it this way too. Like the image of the woman on the Time cover, mothering was about proving a point instead of following my own instincts and heart.
Thankfully, my children threw reality back in my arrogant face and forced my attention back where it belonged: on them – not on what other mothers were doing or what other children did/didn’t do. Once I started refocusing, I realized many of the ideas I thought sounded or looked cool in theory or worked well for others, weren’t necessarily meant for me. It wasn’t just a matter of if I could walk in those “clothes”, like Simcha Fischer frankly points out, it’s about whether they fit me, my children, and our family.
Now, pregnant with our fourth, I’ve sorted through my collection of parenting techniques and philosophies; some things are worth keeping for now or later and some need to get tossed out for good or given away for someone else to try. I’m still learning, still trying to stand high on my pedestal and still falling flat on my face over and over again. Each time, I am reminded again that it’s not about whether I am “Mom Enough”, it’s about whether I can love and accept my kids and our family as we are and let that be enough.
“Famil[ies], Be Who you Are” John Paul II
Copyright 2012 Erika Higgins