It was innocent enough as far as Facebook Questions go. What is the one thing in life you can’t imagine living without out. That’s easy.
I have them piled on my bedside table. Nestled in the rack beside the toilet (yes, folks, I admit it, I’m a read and pooper). Shoved in the crack between the armrest and the cushion of the couch. And of course there’s that spare always at the ready below the seat of my car.
But I’d only just typed the “s” when I could feel the tightness moving upward from my stomach into my chest, like a fist pushing up, eager to get out. Did I just say my books came before my child? What kind of mother was I?
That this was a silly Facebook question didn’t play in my mind at that moment — although it would come. No, in that instant I felt like a failure, a mother undone by her true feelings.Let’s face it. It was bullshit. This was Facebook. Not Sophie’s Choice. I’d burn my books Nazi-style if it came down to them or my child. She is, by all accounts, the light of my life, the cream in my coffee, the 5-year-old voice of entertainment on a dreary day (ahem, 5-year-old trying to say cracker with a British accent says crackwhore — you tell ME how that’s not heeeee-lar-ious).
But this is the world we live in, the Internet world, where there’s always a holier-than-thou mother waiting to pounce on those of us who don’t believe — as she so clearly does — that shitty diapers are like nectar from the gods. Where woe is the woman who announces publicly that she ran outside and danced in the rain the day her child potty trained, fully aware that her daily fecal duties were coming to an end.
Being honest, being human, is not allowed in millennial motherhood, where there’s always someone willing to undercut your confidence for the sake of making themselves feel better about their choices. Working mother. Stay at home mother. Bottle feeding. Breastfeeding. Spanking. Non spanking. Circumcising. Intactivist. They’re not choices but insults, hurled across the interwebs to send other mothers into a tizzy of self-doubt and, inevitably, guilt.
We all think our mothers had the monopoly on guilt. The Jewish kids say there’s “Jewish mother guilt.” The Italian kids say their mama could lay it on like no one else. Growing up Catholic, there was that “Catholic matriarch” warning that you could always be better, always find a way to cut down the time you spent in that confessional with the priest.
But we can set all the cultures aside — today’s mothers are guilt tripping one another, one STFU Parents-worthy jibe on Facebook or blog post at a time. So I’ll go back to my books, at least they don’t bite the hand that feeds them.