I always wanted to be a mother. I’d see Carol Brady on the Brady Bunch or Marion Cunningham on Happy Days and look forward to being the patient, approachable, unflappable mother that had all the wisdom in the world. They made it look so easy. I babysat the two kids next door several afternoons a week for 6 years. I remember watching Sesame Street and making dinner. I thought (at the wise old age of 14), I can do this. Motherhood is about sitting on the couch learning to count with the Cookie Monster and popping a frozen dinner in the microwave. Easy peasy. Not.
Motherhood is shrouded with all kinds of mythology. These myths hold us back from letting go of perfection. They cloud our judgement as we work feverishly to make sure that our children have all the latest toys yet skip reading them a book at night. The myths make us worry more about what the neighbors will think about how we’re raising our children instead of actually raising our children. Letting go of these myths can help us get present with our children and our relationship with them.
So let’s debunk some of the myths we have about motherhood:
- Children are an extension of you. This was a big aha with my own mother. She never seemed happy if I was living my life on a different avenue than she expected. I was always out of town too much or driving 2 hours for my son’s 6-minute wrestling match. I wasn’t frugal enough. Then I turn and look at my own children. I remember wanting my son to apply early to Cornell (my alma mater). It would have dramatically boosted his chances of getting in. I realize now I was wrapped up in my own ego. I want my kid to go to an Ivy League school. He is himself. He is not me. He needs to find his own path. Thankfully, he did in sunny Miami and not snow ridden Ithaca. Give up the myth that your child is our mini-me and let them be themselves.
- The nurturing Madonna. There is a Madonna statue in every Catholic Church I have been in. The bucolic baby resting happily on the Madonna’s lap as she smiles at her little cherub. I never remember feeling like a Madonna once. Ever. I do remember trying to breast feed for 2 plus hours in the middle of the night with no success. I remember weeping because it wasn’t working and wondering how I was going to last another 18 years with this infant needing sustenance from me. When I purchased formula I felt guilty for many months. My sister-in-law had breast fed twins! Why can’t I do the same? Because I am not perfect and it’s OK. I have two of those cherubs who made it past 18. I wish I had not been so wrapped up in being the nurturing Madonna.
- Working full time means abandonment. When my daughter was born, I owned a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My first husband and I rotated managing the restaurant. I went back to work after two weeks. Yes. Two WEEKS! We traded my daughter off in the middle of the afternoon. I am not advocating women go back to work after two weeks. But I have to say that because my husband and I traded her back and forth, I had her undivided attention when I was home. It was Mommy and Missy Moo time. I believe I was a better mom because I was satisfied with my career and ambitions and didn’t hold any resentment that being a mother would keep me from a successful career. I also had a reason to work hard as I wanted the best for my daughter and, later, my son.
- Mothers are in control of their children’s views. This is funny because both of my kids have strong opinions and viewpoints. I remember mentioning my daughter’s support of a political referendum when she a junior in college. A peer at work who disagreed with the referendum said, “You can’t let her have that opinion.” My peer had small children. She had no idea that she would not have control over her kid’s views as they aged. I’m not saying that as a mother you don’t have an influence but ultimately your children’s viewpoints are their own. You are not in control. Influence, yes. But not control.
- Mothers are a Jane of all trades. I did not want to ask for help when I became a mother. I thought I could handle it all. Flawlessly. This is untrue. I needed someone to clean my house. I needed a nanny. I didn’t cook meals from scratch anymore which aggravated my internal Foodie. My Dad drove my kids to McDonalds (perish the thought) and to local parks. I had to let go of the idea that I was going to be in every memory my children had. Just because I didn’t do EVERYTHING didn’t make me less of a mother. Heck even Carol Brady had Alice. I see clients who are mothers who suffer under this expectation. Don’t suffer. Let it go.
These myths strangle us. You are perfect as you are.