The other day a student said something that stopped me in my tracks. I started the class by stressing the importance of utilizing email for any and all questions, emphasizing that my phone is always on me. Because I’ve started this new job, I now work full-time, work part-time, and mom full-time. There hasn’t been time for me to walk over to my computer, sit down with a steaming cup of coffee, and spend a hours checking my email. There have been days lately that I can barely schedule lunch.
My new student, after hearing my opening remarks, raised her hand, and said, “Are you really that busy?”
It was clear that she thought I was blowing smoke up her skirt. I thought about her question for a second, a life reel of stress running through my head, and then replied, “Unfortunately, yes. This is my part-time job, but I have a full-time job servicing six hospitals, and in my spare time I’m a mom.”
“Wow,” she said, her face marked with awe. “You’re such an independent woman. That’s amazing.”
And then I started laughing. Why? Because not even other moms would consider what I do on a daily basis to be amazing. As moms, we’ve rarely given credit for our own struggles in Momdom, and we barely recognize achievements in other moms. If, in fact, a mom has exceeded expectations, turned into a unicorn, sprouted a halo, and truly become amazing, then we, as a society of moms, have hated her. We haven’t given her credit, due to our jealous animosity.
We’ve taken credit away from moms, by creating a given behavior that we then take for granted.
Being a mom has been one of the most difficult accomplishments of my life. It’s been rewarding, it’s been aggravating, it’s been downright hard. I’ve kissed booboos, given hugs, cleaned vomit in the wee hours of the morning, encouraged a love of learning, and wiped poop of a tiny human’s butt for six years.
I’ve stayed up all night walking circles in the carpet, soothing ear infections and teeth. I’ve nursed until that small act of Momness failed, and given bottles to promote growth and health. I’ve played on the ground with Lincoln Logs, building blocks, and Legos. I’ve worn costumes in public with my child. I’ve started tag wars at the local park. I’ve helped with homework every night, and read books until my eyes couldn’t see the words.
Not only that, but I’ve been a mom primarily alone, while working multiple jobs—somewhat because I want to, but mostly because I have to. Have my actions made me special or amazing? No. Motherhood hasn’t made me special. It hasn’t made me unique. What it has done, what it’s made me all along, is a normal mom.
Society hasn’t blinked when a mom does something right. It hasn’t given props to a behavior it’s deemed expected. It’s taken for granted that a mom is going to complete her motherly duties with minimal complaints. Moms have to feed the baby. They have to wipe the butts. They have to play Peek-A-Boo for three hours straight, and then sing “You Are My Sunshine” until their voice is raw and the babe asleep. They have to lay the child down, clean the house, fold three loads of laundry, cook dinner, and start the cleaning process all over again.
If the mom has chosen to work—although it hasn’t always been a choice—then she has to take the child to daycare, spend the day being ordered around by other people, pick up her child from daycare, cook dinner, play with the baby, and then fight bedtime routines. And then, the next day, she has to do it all again. She signed up for this mom role, and that’s just what moms do.
Society has taken credit away from the mom. Moms haven’t gotten credit for the sheer act of being a mom. Moms have flown under the radar until they’ve done something that either promotes controversy, or creates a gimmick. Only then has the mother sparked interest.
I’ve read about these moms, because, as a society, we’ve known these moms. They’ve blipped into our focus as either lauded or hated. There hasn’t been a middle ground with these types of moms. We’ve either sided with them, or sided against them. These have been the moms that dangle five and six year old children from the nipples of their exposed, naked breasts for Breastfeeding Awareness. They’ve posed naked to “show the truth” of a C-Section scar. They’ve created songs for YouTube videos about the difficulties of being married while raising a toddler, complete with frizzy hair, bathrobes, and chocolate stains.
They’ve posed with three toddlers, perfectly honed abdominal muscles flexed in scanty workout clothes, and asked the question, “What’s Your Excuse?”
Even though these moms have gained interested, they have not been given credit for the sheer act being a mom. They’ve gained their credit through controversial antics.
On the flip side, there’s been the dad. Oh, man, we, as a society, have loved to love the dad. He’s gotten so much flack for being a nonexistent household entity that, when we’ve found one in nature, we’ve surrounded him as a beacon of light. We’ve praised him. We’ve given credit where credit hasn’t been, because the norm of the dad has been to be absent.
So, when a dad brought his child to the hardware store, donned in a cape, we took notice. When a celebrity dad changed a diaper without gagging, he was treated like Zeus. When a dad has given Mom a “break,” and taken his kids to the park, he instantly became a playground celebrity.
Why? Because he’s been both commended and glorified as being a good dad; his actions have been noted as amazing. Moms, myself included, have loved to love dads who actually parent. What we’ve taken for granted in the mom, we’ve treated as an anomaly in the dad. A good dad has taken on the title of Hero. A good mom has taken on the title of Mom.
There haven’t been “good” moms, because we, as a society, took credit away from the mom. She’s done her mom duties, why should she get credit for that? She’s just done what we’ve all done from the dawn of time. She’s wiped the butts. She’s fed the child. She’s kissed the booboos. She’s slid down the slide at the park.
Now, if she’s ignored her child to peek at her phone, we took interest. If she allowed her eight and ten year old to walk home from school by themselves, we noticed. When a mom hasn’t gotten on board with the gluten-free, peanut-free, GMO-free trend, our eyes perked and narrowed.
But it’s been those moms who’ve gone above and beyond–the ones who’ve grown their own veggies, scrapbooked every moment of their child’s life, prepared weekly meals that’ve never gotten called “vomit,” and have every aspect of their life in place–that we, as moms, have ostracized. They’ve done too well. They figured out the mom thing too much. They turned into that unicorn and sprouted that halo. So, even moms who’ve deserved credit, for going above and beyond the call of Mom, have received only jealous hostility from the rest of the mom world.
Having reflected upon my student’s words this week, I’ve wondered: could we, please, pass some credit back to the mom? Could we allow moms to become amazing again?