Ask a mother of young children, how she is doing, and you won’t get the answer from her lips. “Fine,” she’ll say, or “OK.” She’s not lying, exactly. There is just no one word in the English language that can really sum up what it is a mother is feeling.
Exhausted? Most definitely.
Exhilarated? That too.
To be a mother is to live in a perpetual state of both adoration and exasperation with one’s children. To be a mother is to live in a perpetual state of self-doubt. Are we giving them enough? Doing enough for them? Making the right choices, doling out the right disciplines, the right lessons?
It’s because I am one that I can say this: moms, if you’re worried about it, chances are about 99.9999 percent you are. How can I say this if I haven’t yet met you? Because you care enough to worry. It’s the mothers (and frankly, the fathers) who don’t care enough to worry who should be second-guessing themselves. The rest of you, no, the rest of us, are often harder on ourselves than need be.
Is it any wonder we’re such a self-punishing, neurotic bunch? The rest of the world feeds off our own insecurities, stoking the fires that fuel the mommy wars, that make us doubt whether we’re good enough, strong enough, giving enough.
I’ve HAD enough, is what I say.
With the new year fast approaching and resolutions carefully being crafted, here’s what I’d like to see us all add to the list: to be nicer to the mothers out there. To build them up instead of cutting them down. To value them in the way our society hasn’t for centuries.
How can we do this? We can do this in the way that we vote, supporting candidates who will fight for better maternity leave coverage in a country that lags behind every other first world nation in this world. We can do this in the way that we work, supporting mothers in the workplace as they juggle kids and career.
And when we can’t do big, we can do small.
I’ve found that something as simple as telling a nervous mother to stop apologizing to me that her toddler is acting exactly as a child should during a family portrait session because I think kids should act like KIDS can change the look in her eyes, can make her “I’m fine” or “I’m OK” sound just a little bit more real. It’s not much, but it’s something …
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