There’s an odd phenomenon I’ve encountered over the last couple of years. I find that parents, mothers in particular, when hearing how many children I have, tend to start explaining how they wanted more children or how they had considered having more or how they might use IVF to have more children. I’m not sure if my family size is a general conversation starter, much in the way modern art is. A sort of “What the hades?” type of thing. I might be hearing things incorrectly, but those explanations often sound like justifications about the number of children they have. As if I care how many children any one else has.
I don’t. Not because I am a rude or self-absorbed person, which I may be but that’s beside the point, the real reason why I don’t care about anyone else’s reproductive choices is because that’s my son over there, licking the slide. See mom, whose hair looks brushed and actually has makeup on, you don’t have to explain how two kids works well for you. Two kids worked well for me too. My silence isn’t me judging you; my silence is me trying to remember if my son is wearing clean underwear this morning. I know I did yesterday, because he didn’t want to wear Doofensmirtz underwear, because he’s a bad guy. So, that means his underwear is relatively clean so that’s good. Did he just wipe his nose on his shirt again? Why? That sleeve was clean.
Huh? You have your hands full with two, yeah I can relate. I had two once. I used to dress them in matching outfits, and pack those snacks no matter how short the park trip. Yeah that one over there is mine too, the one running around your child trying to throw bark chips at him. That in his hand? Yeah that’s a waffle. It was his breakfast yesterday, he stashed it in the car, not sure where, since his sisters allegedly cleaned out the car yesterday.
Having large quantities of kids does not make me super mom. Don’t feel like you fail to measure up to my standards. I don’t typically wear my shirts inside out. Typically, I don’t treat spit up stains as accessories to outfits, but if you got it, flaunt it. Or at least look as if you know you’re covered in vomit. And I would scoot closer to you to visit, but there’s poop on this side of my pants. Hey I remembered a change of clothes for the baby, I’m feeling pretty awesome actually.
So no, I’m not judging you. I’m not close to judging you. I am wondering how loud I can raise my voice to get my daughter’s attention before you judge me. See, she’s supposed to be helping the toddler, who has now climbed the railing on the tall slide. But she’s still just spinning and singing. Thanks for having your child come to the rescue.
How do I do it? Not well. I’m sure one wears you out. I was worn out by one too. Now I’m just dazed and confused. You laugh, because you’re polite, but that’s the truth. Having more children than you doesn’t make me a better mother than you. It’s quite possible that there is nothing in this world that would make me a better mother than you. And I certainly don’t think anything of the number of children you have. I’m more preoccupied with the number of binkies I have now. Because I definitely had more when I left the house than now.
Motherhood seems to be the one occupation that you immediately doubt yourself. The default assumption is, if someone if doing it differently, she must be doing it better. Why is that? Why do we doubt ourselves so much? Why do we focus on what we are not doing for our children and not stop to think about everything we do for our children? It’s not selfish or self-aggrandizing to think about what we do for our children. We don’t tend to think about it because it comes so naturally. We just mother as we should, as we can. We give what we are able. It’s because we want to give our children everything that we focus more on what we are not doing for them.
I know I need to stop that cycle in my own head. If I didn’t read to them last night maybe I need to step back and remember the caresses I gave them, the jokes I listened to, the chores I helped with. Not that reading to them isn’t important but that there were other important things that happened too. Children don’t need a perfect mother. They don’t need us to solve everything for them, as odd as that sounds. They grow when they struggle with things, just as we do. We cannot be their everything always, and it’s unrealistic to expect us to be. And it’s good for them to see us struggle to balance and accomplish what we need to. It’s good for our children to see us work, work hard at caring for them. Our children need US. Who we are. They need us to meet them where they are. We need to give ourselves to our children. And the way I give myself to my children most likely won’t work with yours. The way I spend time with them, the way I express affection, the way I discipline, the way I educate, it works, for the most part, for my family. And only my family.
By all means, look to other mothers for inspiration. But don’t let yourself feel guilty because your family life doesn’t look like theirs. It’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to look like yours. You can only give yourself and that will look the way it does. And your children, they don’t want anything other than your love as you give it. That mom over there, in the clean clothes, stylish haircut with the home made snacks, she’s amazing. Her children are blessed. But she can’t give your children what they need the most. You. Your arms. Your kisses. Your encouragement. Your smile. Chances are your kids didn’t even notice her. They don’t know all that they are missing. They just know that mom brought them to the park today…..because she’s the best mom ever.