Tearing Down The Motherhood Pedestal

I was surprised to realize that I am in fact judgemental toward women and particularly mothers.

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Original artwork by Author

When my good friend called me judgemental, I denied it. Me? No way. I’m as open minded as they come. But the accusation kept bothering me. Over and over I’ve examined areas where this accusation might be true. I was surprised to realize that I am in fact judgemental toward women and particularly mothers.

As a mother myself, I recognize the incredibly high standard I gave myself when it came to mothering. The kids and my relationship with them came first. Motherhood was in front of the business I created and worked at for thirty years, in front of my own artistic creativity, in front of my relationship with my spouse, in front of my friendships, and certainly in front of my own rest and relaxation. If I wanted these other things in my life, I’d just need to work extra hard and sleep less to fit them in. Motherhood was sacred.

I have a good friend Justin who has two preteen sons. They don’t have a lot of money and live pretty much month to month. When his wife decided to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree in painting. I realized that I was judgemental toward her decision. In my way of thinking she should wait until life settles down a bit, becomes more stable and the kids are older.

To my surprise, the family seems just fine. No, better than fine. The boys have immersed themselves in music and are playing just about every stringed instrument they can get their hands on with the gusto and intensity that most parents only dream of. What if a big part of parenting has to do with modeling self care as adults?

Another friend of mine, Peter had a relationship with a much younger woman who was recovering from drug addiction. She cleaned up, fell in love with my friend and got pregnant with twins. The marriage didn’t work out and the twins are living on a ranch in Arizona with Peter.

This Mom it turns out is extremely passionate and dedicated as a performance artist and musician. When I first saw her video posts of her performing on Facebook, I thought, what a bad Mom. She isn’t a bad Mom. She’s a wonderful creative woman. If the gender tables were turned and she had the kids and the Dad was off obsessively pursuing his unique creativity, would I have felt the same way? The answer is no.

Of course kids thrive well with two loving and dedicated parents, but the truth is many kids survive, succeed and thrive when this isn’t the case. Many kids struggle through life when they have two attentive parents. I’m beginning to think that my idea of attentive was a little too closely linked to my idea of martyrdom.

From the time our kids are toddlers, we schedule their lives making certain that they have no free time to explore on their own, to move at their own pace within the world. In this sense, their lives seem to reflect our adult lives that are dedicated to them. We are all busy and at the same time waiting for the next thing- to get through school, through work, to retire. We are constantly marching and missing moments when we could be strolling and savoring them.

Now my three kids are adults and I’m trying to pull away from my old ideas of motherhood and model a life that I would wish for them. I’d like them to have the life they want. A life that is rich in self discovery and self love. If they become parents, I hope that they will not lose themselves in the process. I certainly hope that I will feel the same toward my son’s becoming fathers as I do my daughter becoming a mother and not judge the degree of their parenting based on their self sacrifices.

Writer and painter living in San Diego, CA

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