It’s nap time here at my house. For the first time all day, the toddler and the dog are tame and I’m just sitting here quietly with a cup (my third today) of coffee. There’s a lot to be done around here and usually, this hour or so I get of tantrum-and-barking-free time in the afternoon is spent in a mad-dash trying to knock off items from my to-do list.
Before I sat down, I went through the list: I need to tape off the bathroom and office so I can paint those rooms this weekend. I should probably unpack a box or two in our bedroom since we’ve been living around and out of those boxes for over a month now. I’ve got deadlines approaching, neglected cleaning chores and a head of hair that hasn’t seen a brush since, well, Lord, who knows when. But I’m also tired. Just bone-weary tired so I sign in to Facebook and find myself drawn into a passionate wall-conversation about an article called “5 Ways We’re Making Parenting Harder.” I click, curious, because clearly, I must be doing something wrong to have had a day as hard as this one has been.
Maybe you’ve read it already and if you haven’t, go here to read the full text. I’ve seen it shared by several of my girlfriends and though it’s usually met with rallying and cheers of “hooray!” from other bone-weary mommas, I’m not so thrilled by its well-meaning but flawed message.
First of all, I haven’t been a mother for ten years so I don’t think it’s fair to say that parenthood is harder today just because we’ve got to contend with Pinterest, massive birthday parties and elves on shelves. Like the author of the article, I ate Spaghetti-O’s and watched marathons of Muppet Babies but while I did those things, my single mom was searching the couch cushions for enough change to give us lunch money the next day. I think she’d deeply resent being told that motherhood is harder today than it was when she was in the trenches just because our dream home boards make us feel inadequate.
But the author is right, we do make things harder than they need to be. Here’s how:
1. We spend too much time comparing our lives with the lives of others.
At the very heart of it, the issue here isn’t big birthday parties or how over-the-top some parents go with the tooth fairy. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a Tiger Mom or an Earth Mother or what your bedtime routine is or isn’t. The thing that makes parenthood, more specifically motherhood, difficult is our over indulgence in making comparisons.
We’re all guilty and it’s totally understandable why we fall into that trap. Parenthood is tough business. We make difficult choices on behalf of our children and we won’t find out for many more years whether those choices will make our kids flop or fly. To ease the pain and soothe our fears, we peek over the fence, hoping to feel validated in our choices but in reality, we end up really feeling like screw-ups when we see that the folks next door are doing it all differently.
And what about when you are the one being judged? As a professional blogger and mom who relies on Pinterest to put food on the table in more ways than one, I hope I can be the voice of the accused birthday-basher in this article and admit that just like anyone else, I worry I’m doing this all wrong. So should we all try to hide our gifts because being able to sing or cook fabulous meals or run a multi-million dollar company could threaten another woman? Let’s hope not.
The reality is that we’d all be happier if we’d just trust that we’re the authorities on our children and that we’re parenting exactly how we’re designed to parent. You can get your kids fed, bathed and in bed with time leftover for hubby? More power to you, sister! You’re breastfeeding a kid who can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?” Way to go you DHA-producing diva! Your car is spotless with baskets full of educational games to keep the little bitties occupied? Well, honey, come help me because we drive around town looking like the Clampetts. Which brings me to my next concern…
2. We’re not sharing our gifts.
As moms, we preach this all day: SHARE. SHARE. SHARE. But then we’re not so good at that ourselves, at least not when it comes to sharing our gifts and embracing the gifts of others. After strongly considering putting my daughter in a half-day Montessori school (a daunting expense when I’ve already walked away from a salary to be home) it dawned on me that if she just spent time with each of my girlfriends, she’d have a really well-rounded education. From music to math, the women I know are super-talented. When you start looking at the natural talents the women you know possess, they seem far less intimidating when you realize how much your child (and you) could benefit from being exposed to that gift.
3. We get caught up in buying a childhood.
It starts when you register for baby shower gifts. You stand there in the aisles, wondering how one tiny person could need everything on that sixteen-page list you’re holding in your shaky, swollen hands. The truth is, they don’t need all of that and you don’t need the stress of keeping up with all of that. I think we’d relieve a huge amount of parental stress if we just cut back on all of the stuff. One way we’ve tried to do this at our house is by focusing on giving experiences rather than stuff. Instead of a ton of presents at Christmas, we might plan a big, family outing. We’ve also reduced our trips to the dollar store, which can be a trap for collecting useless clutter.
4. We get lazy and we resent when other moms aren’t being lazy with us.
I’m all-too-familiar with this feeling because I was usually the smug kid sitting in the back of the class, making fun of the kids who were eager to discuss last night’s homework. Why? Well, besides being blessed with the gift of sarcasm and a biting wit, it’s likely I didn’t do the assignment and was feeling insecure. There are a thousand ways to cut corners as parents, from Phineas and Ferb marathons (which I’m guilty of) to those ridiculous, frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If you’re going to make mac and cheese for dinner, don’t give the mom making organic broccoli a hard time. I guarantee you, she’s cutting corners somewhere else so we should all just ease up on each other.
5. We don’t embrace grace.
Instead of agreeing to take it down a notch as the author suggests, what if we just offer each other some grace? And maybe a hand?