Here it is again, the season of bouquets of flowers and brunches, sappy cards and macaroni necklaces. It’s Mother’s Day week.
This annual celebration is the appropriate occasion for me to admit that my feelings on motherhood have evolved with experience and that my role has changed over time. I still worry, yes. I still suffer through sleepless nights and hand out my fair share of discipline, but with older children there is a lot less hands-on parenting for me to do, especially in comparison to years past.
I am now a professional spotter; just in case someone forgets their cleats at home and needs to have them dropped off at school; just in case they need help updating their resume; just in case they’re looking for the recipe for sweet and sour meatballs; and just in case they need a bottle of peroxide or fabric softener. Someone they can count on to know all and have all.
In short, motherhood for me now is less about the physicality of caring for kids and more about providing support to more independent ones, less about printing and birthday parties and more about career choices and fractions. As a result, that trajectory has given me perspective, and not just about my children specifically but also about motherhood in general.
So much has changed for mothers, yet strangely enough, so much remains the same. I suspect that certain parts of parenting – the moments of pure joy and pride, but also the worry, the exhaustion, and the tedium – will always transcend generations; the common threads holding all parents together, regardless of other circumstances.
The change that concerns me, however, is this growing tendency to paint motherhood, in all its unglamorous reality, as one of those awful experiences that must be trashed publicly for a greater glory or martyrdom of some sort. Perhaps this is a “making up for lost time” kind of backlash to a past era, when the war stories of child rearing were shared only with a small circle of girlfriends and not in the public where everyone could see your imperfections.
But the pendulum has swung all the way over to the other side. These days you can’t go to a bookstore, or a movie theater, or a dinner party without being exposed to some horror story of how a baby upended a woman’s life, or at least lifestyle. In the beginning, I applauded this let-it-all-hang-out era of motherhood, and how sharing the real truth about raising kids would make us all more relatable and allow us to not feel so alone. What we had sniped about in private was now public and being able to talk about it was long overdue.
Now… well, now I’m kind of over it.
There’s been this grotesque collection of articles and novels on every horrific angle of motherhood, from unexpected pregnancy, to postpartum depression, to stories about stitches that I just won’t repeat. “My kid calls me names and throws canned food at customers at the grocery store.” Cue the army of moms to comfort her and tell her it’s completely normal and she’s doing a great job, followed by their own examples of pain or frustration, round and round we go, and repeat. Each one tries to outdo the next, like a competition over whose pregnancy or parenting experience gets the award for the worst, somehow making them the best.
While many think these renditions of motherhood are new and refreshing, the reality is different. Tough tales about raising children have been shared in countless kitchens and playgrounds, probably even versions shared by exasperated mothers over ancient fires, for crying out loud. Before there were gender reveal parties and support group forums, there were family-style baby showers where women cried in the bathroom from being overwhelmed and having no one to talk to.
The only difference between these days and those is that Internet accessibility has amplified the motherhood blues. Those who are able to capitalize on their troubles have even managed to catapult themselves to fame.
I’m tempted to climb the soapbox and shout out to women, “No one has reinvented the wheel, here, what you’re experiencing dates back to the cave-dwelling age.” But in the spirit of compassion, I won’t. Instead I’ll give them the benefit of hindsight.
Don’t start a blog, please. This, too, shall pass.