Sunday, November 25, 2012

Selfish Mom

In the wake of backlash from the original mommy wars, it's fashionable now to call yourself a selfish, bad or clueless mom. Just poke around the mom-blogosphere for five minutes.

I'm the worst mom because ... I drink wine during the day; I don't change diapers often enough; I never cook; I text during the dance recital; I don't read to my daughter every night.

Suddenly, Sanctimommy is gone, and we are all jockeying for the title of World's Worst Mom.

someecards (one of many similar)

But Sanctimommy is just beneath the surface, isn't she?

In the stories we share, we rarely if ever show ourselves in a bad light. Self-deprecatory humor aside, truly bashing yourself in public goes against the nature of human beings, let alone mothers who have sacrificed themselves at the altar of perfection for decades.


Before Rayne and I got pregnant, we had several very serious discussions about the kind of parents and spouses we wanted to be when we had children. We were very clear that we did not want our identities completely usurped by those of our children; we wanted our own relationship to be on the list of priorities -- not always first, but not always last, either.

Almost a year in, I think we've done a pretty good job. We go out fairly often and we manage to talk about a lot -- politics, podcasts, people, careers, residences, our past, our future -- aside from how damn cute our little round-headed boy is. And then we gaze lovingly at his likeness on Rayne's baby monitor phone app at least once twice.

We also try (occasionally even successfully!) to give each other space to fulfill our own needs whether they be writing, working out, playing video games (you can guess who that is), sleeping or socializing with friends.

I'm sure it will get harder as we add to the brood. And when/if I go back to a "real" job. But for now, I leave Henry with babysitters and friends while I train for a marathon. And let him play on his own and even cry a little while I write.


From the chorus of self-described bad mommies out there, it would seem that my sincere desire to maintain other aspects of life -- a career, an intimate relationship with my spouse, intellectual pursuits -- is in good company.

Somehow, I am not getting that impression.

Everyday platitudes abound: You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family. Which means, what, get a pedicure or a massage? So I can return to prioritizing everyone's needs above my own, correct?

I need not expect an identity, a life, outside my children's. Or joys aside from those I feel when I see Henry laugh on the swings or contentedly bang two mixing cups together. (Don't get me wrong: I never thought I could experience joy from the banging of mixing cups, yet here I am.)

Have I hit a collective nerve? Perhaps I sound selfish, like a petulant child stomping her foot at the wrong American Girl Doll Santa brought. Perhaps I should derive fulfillment simply and exclusively from Henry's delight.

Under the surface, I think we all still believe to some degree -- including me, which is why I can't seem to let this go -- that parents who prioritize anything over their children's immediate happiness are getting it wrong. Missing something. Selfish. Naive. They don't understand...maybe not yet...maybe not ever.

Oh, but I understand, and how. I love Henry more than language is capable of expressing; I am undeniably tethered at the heart. He will never know how much I love him. Were he to love me but half as much....

I understand.

Photo credit: Beatrice Moritz Photography

I refuse, however, to live entirely through him. I am Henry's proud, awed mom; I am Rayne's loving wife; I am my father's obstinate daughter. But first, I am -- and really, when you get right down to it, can only be -- myself.

I had to ditch my terrible commenting system, but I didn't want to lose the comments, so here they are: