Let’s be honest: we, as women, trend toward either martyrdom or sainthood. We do it all–mostly because we’re tough as hell and awesome–therefore, there are moments in our lives where we want just want someone to recognize our efforts. Our boss, our coworker, our family members, our significant other, our spouse, the stranger we let merge onto the highway, anyone. We want someone to hear our inherent roar, and see our prowess. That’s not a human concept; all animals have feelings. Everyone needs to be accepted, recognized, and loved.
Even though we need to feel recognition from others, something begins to happen when we women become mothers. Maybe it’s the vomit at 2 AM, maybe it’s carrying the badge of unexplained shoulder goo around the workplace, or maybe it’s the monumental guilt over how much power we have to screw up a young child’s life, but we, as mothers, start to feel an emotional drain. What’s more, we begin to need validation and respect for that drain.
Motherhood is God’s highest blessing. We stare into those tiny eyes, and we feel indescribable love and devotion toward the human we helped create. But, though our hearts might burst with pride, there are days when the task itself feels utterly thankless. Being a constant disciplinarian is exhausting, being a chauffeur is exhausting, being both maid and chef is exhausting–particularly when the kid hates every food item that isn’t spelled p-i-z-z-a.
When we feel this way, we begin to scroll through the internet to get empathy and recognition of our plight, we sit at Starbucks and watch a woman wrangle three kids into line to know we’re not alone in our struggles, or we gaze at a screaming child being carried through the park under mom’s hip and are reminded of days past. In doing so, we not only feel empowered that we are possibly not alone, but we also–strangely–begin to classify ourselves against these other mothers.
If I were her, I would have put that kid in time out.
Look at her, she gave that kid a toy to stop him from screaming.
Did she spank her kid? How dare she!
I can’t believe she lets her kid speak to her that way.
She’s only got one kid; one isn’t hard.
That must be her first child. She won’t care about a dropped pacifier once the second comes.
OMG, that woman has five kids? Is she starting a zoo?
Well, she stays at home all day, so she has time to do whatever she wants.
How many activities is her child in? Does she even want to see her child?
As I’ve written before, a woman’s greatest enemy isn’t man; it’s other women.
As a society, we’re creating a hierarchy of difficulty amongst moms–stay-at-home moms, working moms, military moms, single moms, young moms, older moms, moms of three or more, moms of twins. We even create blogs either pitting stay-at-home moms against working moms, or justifying the worth of the SAHM and the working mom. As I’ve stated before, the only difference between a working mom and a SAHM is the amount of guilt the working mom feels for not spending that extra bonding time with her child, and feeling the pressure of “doing it all,” which then distracts the working mom even when she trying to bond with her child.
Recently, though, the trend has morphed into either sainting the single mom, or saying she’s just not “single” enough. Don’t worry, I see the same thing happening with married couples not being “parent” enough, so us single moms aren’t the only ones under judgmental attack from our peers. After Rebel Circus ran an article entitled, “Things Single Moms Keep To Themselves But Are Dying To Say,” which reminded me of an article from FindingJoy.net, entitled, “10 Things Single Moms Want Their Married Friends to Know,” the comments flurried out from the mouths of single moms. I know; I respond to those articles, too–and it’s usually something silly about cleaning vomit alone at 2 AM, because, let’s face it, that’s pretty much a super power.
Where is my tiara and cape, again? I’m still waiting!
One comment in particular has been both lauded and condemned, wherein the hierarchy amongst single moms becomes clear. I’m not going to trash the woman by pasting her comment for the world to see, but her premise goes like this: if you are a single mom receiving any help whatsoever, then you’re not a “real” single mom.
That’s what sounds so asinine to me: it’s not only the idea that there are “fake” single moms, and “real” single moms, but a hierarchy of realness exists at all.
It’s like two children on the play ground, screaming, “No, I can slide better than you!”
It’s a damn slide, moms. Single motherhood is a damn slide, and the degree of difficulty happens in the psyche.
The same idea has come out about parents who receive any form of help from Grandma and Grandpa, too. If those parents receive help, they’re not “real” parents. I read that theory and thought, “I want to be a married mom who has help from a spouse and weekly help from parents. #Jealous.”
Married parents and single parents are beginning to classify themselves through either martyrdom or sainthood with the idea that others have it easier, or that they’re doing it better, and, I’ve got to say, it’s a damn shame. It sounds like these parents are of the opinion that we’re just throwing parties with these childs’ lives, ditching them whenever possible, just so that we can make our lives easier. I mean, come on, we’re all in this parenting gig together.
And, no, this isn’t the same as when I like to declare that a trophy in no way impacts a child’s inherent worth. Trophies are not mystical motivation killers; they do have the ability to make children lazy. That stupid participation trophy will never destroy the values a parent instills in the child. Parenting instills values, not trophies. Disagree all you want, but my saying that a trophy is not a “real” parent will never be the same as a parent claiming that another parent isn’t a “real” parent, simply because they receive help on a regular basis.
Do you have a child?
Do you feed a child?
Do you discipline a child?
Did you birth or adopt that child?
Are you a child’s primary caregiver?
Bingo! You win! You’re a “real” parent.
Man, I want to bang my head into a wall, … or three.
Everybody needs help. It doesn’t make a person special if they believe they don’t have help. Which, laughingly, the one mom who said she received no help, as a single mother of two, went on to say that she goes to school full-time and works part-time. What does she do? Strap one kid to the front and one kid to the back? While claiming to be better at single momdom than everyone else, and having a more difficult time than us peon fake single moms, she admitted to needing help from at least a daycare or babysitter. So, like I said, even if a single mom firmly believes she gets no help from others, she’s still getting help from others.
We pay people to watch our kids so that we can work, and we work to pay people to watch our kids while we work.
Vicious cycle, no?
There is a team of people who help me, and I need a team of people to help me. Why? So I can work two jobs, blog, work on my writing my novels (like I do that anymore), and hopefully start a little side business. I seek help from Tiny Tot’s dad, his grandparents, his aunts, Mr. M, school, and the lovely ladies at the daycare. We all work together as a cohesive unit in order to make sure my child is watched and loved while I provide the necessities of life for us. It honestly does take a village to help raise my child.
But, when I get home, when my workday is done, when the school day is over, when it’s me, Tiny, Sharktooth, and Lover Boy, we’re alone. It’s all on me. I’m the tutor, the maid, the cook, the disciplinarian, and I’m all I have to rely on for help. If I make it through the day without having a psychotic break, I’m doing a damn fine job. The fact that I need help, though, doesn’t make me, or women like me, “fake” single parents; it makes us single parents.
Help or no help.
I get it, though. The idea of “real” parenting, or “real” single parenting other parents is due to our inherent need to be validated through recognition. Hell, there are times that I want that, too. The parents making these claims want someone to pat their heads, rub their backs, and say, “There, there. You have it so hard, but you’re doing a fantastic job. Bravo!”
We all want that. However, stepping on other people’s struggles to get there isn’t the way to go about finding recognition. Like I asked before: do you have a child, and are you the primary caregiver of that child?
Congratulations, you’re a real parent.