A Midlife View Of The ‘Mommy’ Problem

get-attachment-10.aspxThanks to Heather Havrilesky’s, New York Times article “Our Mommy Problem,” I’ve been jolted to posit my opinion not as an expert or psychologist but as a mother and writer. I’m also at an age where I’ve “been there done that,” having a daughter in college and a high school junior.

Havrilesky states: “Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children…Motherhood has been elevated…to the realm of lifestyle, an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s life.”

There is a “Mommy” problem out there perpetuated by the media, stereotypes, politics, fear – and worse by women themselves. We are living in a world, where women are given instructions at every fork in the road. Some of my favorite Mommy anthems

  • Having It All– No one can have it all at one time.
  • Lean In– I liked the book (my review) but we shouldn’t be the only ones leaning in (hear that corporate America, government policies).
  • Perfection Affliction – Just don’t go there!

Then there are the types of mom you need to morph into:

  • Tiger Mom – May work for some, but when I’ve decided to act like one, I was ashamed of my hypocrisy, because my extracurricular activities consisted of the 4:30 movie. I also sensed my relationship with my children erode. Guess what? Some children are ambitious and driven from day one, they are going to stand at the podium delivering the Valedictorian speech. The remainder will find, thought it may not be on your timetable, something they are passionate about.
  • Helicopter Mom – Been guilty of this too. If you want to destroy any chance of your child growing up and moving away and having a modicum of dignity – stop hovering. All of these actions undermine a child’s self-esteem. I’ve moved away from asking too many questions from my college aged daughter. I still believe in keeping my eyes and ears open but I don’t audit the minutia.
  • Motherhood As A Sport – I’m not blaming or shaming, but I’ve seen the role of mother taken too far. These moms are involved in every aspect of their child’s lives and they compete at every level. They know if someone is giving their child a hard time and they will speak to that child. They are known to stamp their feet at sporting events and even root against their child’s teammates. Is this the kind of behavior you want your child to emulate?
  • Outdo Martha Stewart Mom – I made pumpkin shaped sandwiches for my daughter’s nursery school class. It was cute but I stressed myself out. Becoming a stay-at-home mom, I took the gusto I had for my career and turned out snacks and crafts because I thought that is what I was supposed to do.

The best mother you can be is your authentic self; children can spot a phony from a mile away. Show your children who you are, what you love, what inspires you and they will learn to embrace who they are. You also owe it to yourself to not abandon your dreams. The best piece of advice I’ve read, and the one that made the most sense to me, about facing an empty nest is to handle this stage in life with aplomb, even if you have to fake it for a while. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be sad but this is a prime time to show your kids how to handle change. Isn’t the point of parenting to raise children who can handle bumps in the road?

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