Monday, March 2, 2009

Am I Less of a Mother?

I am a 40 year old woman. I have two sons, ages five and three. I spend my days between my office and my sons' schools. I cook three squares a day. I mend the occasional seam and fix buttons when I can find a match. I make homemade Valentines and sew super hero capes for my sons' stuffed animals. I, with my husband, raise our children with no family network to support us. I work part time. I mother full time. Yet some women claim that I am not really a mother. Apparently this has something to do with not paying my proverbial dues to earn the badge of Motherhood. Perhaps some context will help you track with me.

  • I got pregnant on the first try, one month after going off the pill. Same story the second time. I kid you not.
  • My pregnancies were easy peasy. Sure, I gained 45 pounds, half my body weight, but most of it melted away eventually (not without a struggle, mind you).
  • Bunion surgery was worse than childbirth. From the first pang of labor pain to a swaddled baby in my arms was all of three hours. I even fell asleep during labor the second time, and the nurse woke me up to push. Three pushes, 20 minutes, done.
  • I had an epidural for both births. I was dilated eight centimeters before I lugged my ass to hospital. I almost missed my epidural window and am grateful to those anesthesiologists who boogied to get me drugs in time.
  • My babies were champion eaters and sleepers. Still are.
  • My babies were bottle fed.

Some women have told me, uttered behind my back and boldly to my face, that I am less of a mother than they are.

  • Am I less of a mother because I did not struggle to get pregnant? Does that mean I don't cherish my children and the miracle of life? Of course not! As a new mother on the cusp of 35, I was and am eternally grateful for bearing two healthy children. I am astounded by the cliched miracle of life every. single. day.
  • Am I less of a mother because I don't have pregnancy war stories to share? I did faint in the cereal aisle of Lowes Foods once. Luckily my husband was there to pad my fall before I lost my battle with the linoleum.
  • Am I less of a mother because I did not toil through an excruciating labor? My babies did all the work. I watched my children being born in the mirror and I swear they swam out.
  • Am I less of a mother because I made use of the medical advancements available to me? The way I see it, I don't get my cavities filled without Novocaine so why labor through excruciating pain without the benefit of drugs? The epidural made my experience pleasant and pain free. I was admittedly lucky to experience no complications. I labored to eight centimeters on my own so perhaps I could have finished the job too. I didn't want to find out what I was made of; I had nothing to prove. At the end of the day, it's a personal choice.
  • Am I less of a mother because my children eat a varied and healthy bounty of food? Am I less of a mother because my children relish their sleep? My boys, since they were itty bitty, ate like champs. To this day they probably eat better than any adult I know. My first son, Bird, slept through the night at 12 weeks old. My second child, Deal, beat his older brother by two weeks. Bird napped until he was 4 1/2. Deal is 3 1/2 and stills naps regularly. And they both go to bed at 7:15 and sleep until 7:30. I realize I am lucky. Developing healthy sleep habits for our kids did not come without some tears and threats and tantrums. But bed time is generally a perfectly pleasant time at our house.
  • Am I less of a mother because I didn't nurse my babies? Oh, this is a touchy subject. Let's just say that I tried. Hard. My baby failed to thrive. He rapidly lost weight. My physical issues prevented him from getting nourishment (details to come in another post, another day). My team of doctors and lactation consultants ordered the baby on formula. You might say I went through heroic feats to try to nurse, even using a contraption that fed my baby formula through a tube that was attached to my breast to simulate nursing. I toiled so hard, yet my efforts were futile. The second time around the hospital lactation nurse, upon reviewing my file, advised me against breast feeding. To this day I see a nursing mother and child and feel pangs of regret. But in the end, my babies were nourished. And the best part was that my husband could cradle his infant sons and feed them too.

Motherhood is a patchwork of experiences. There is no handbook telling us what to do. There are no rules, no maps, no guidelines. Yet there are many, many tests. We all became mothers in different ways, none better or worse than the other. The women who took in foster children. The women who cared for a sister's daughter and raised her as her own. The women who adopted children who would otherwise face a bleak future. The women who rode the in vitro roller coaster. All are mothers. All see the magnificence and magic of motherhood. All feel our children's pain tenfold worse and rejoice in their glories tenfold more. All see the simple breathtaking beauty in her slumbering child. In the end, motherhood is a sisterhood.

Reposted from an original Deep South Moms Blog post.

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Anonymous said...

I don't get it when mothers are expected to have miserable experiences to earn enough street cred to be in some sort of mother of the year club. However you get them and however they grow up with you, boogers still need to be wiped and puke still needs to be cleaned up at 3am. While we experience it in different ways, we are ALL parenting. I got PG as fast as you did and was very quiet about it - guilty it was just that easy - and dealt with bitter friends who took much longer. Its too bad when women want to knock each other down rather than build each other up. So disappointing. But back to the point - your boys are amazing, and so is their mother!

Anonymous said...

You sound like a fertile woman who was born to breed! (smile)

Seriously, you had me at super-hero cape for the stuffed animals. You sound like a great mother and wife. It's not a competition. All that matters is the love you give your family.

Now then, where's a super-hero cape-making new wife for me! Ha.

@sweetbabboo said...

Glad you posted this over here since I forgot to comment at Deep South.

I don't think any of those things make you LESS of a mother. They make you a DIFFERENT mother from others. They make you an individual.

It is my personal belief that most mothers are absolutely doing the BEST they can. Mothers are weighing their personal feelings with their abilities, strengths, weaknesses, individual challenges, individual children to come up with their personal mothering style. Just because a mother makes choices that are different than mine does NOT make them wrong choices or bad choices. In addition, mothers who make the same choices as me are NOT better mothers. Heaven knows I'm far from perfect and have certainly already done something to screw my child up.

Moms need to stop comparing ourselves to others, criticizing other moms, and belittling choices that are not as popular. We need to begin supporting each other and come to the realization that mothering as in all things in life is an individual thing.

From all that I've read from you, you are exactly the mother that your two boys need. They don't need anybody else's mother.


Maggie, Dammit said...


Love this.

Anonymous said...

In my observations it seems like, at times, moms can be each others worst enemies (that's a little strong) instead of each others biggest supporters. Motherhood looks awfully hard (and rewarding and fun and fulfilling and meaningful and all kinds of other good stuff, but also HARD). Is it really necessary for one woman to cut another down so that she can feel better about herself as a person and a mother? How is that helpful to anyone?

Patricia said...

Good heavens! When I was raising my babies (now 30 and 26) I was supposed to feel guilty when I went back to work when they went to school. Who was going to be there when they got home? Uhm....the daycare?
I suffered terrible labours (both times) but all I feel for someone who didn't is envy.

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