Thursday, November 8, 2012

The "do it all" mentality, or how I am really failing at being a mom

A couple of nights ago in one of my mommy groups, we started talking about how hard it is to "do it all;" that is, to take care of the kids, keep the house clean, make dinner, run errands, be a good wife, stay in touch with friends, and look like a supermodel. Moms who are in a career are made to feel like they are failing their children by not staying at home. Moms who stay home are made to feel like they are lacking in motivation, brains, or somehow less of a woman because they "don't" work. It seems to me that almost every woman I talk to about this subject says she feels like she is failing at doing something.

"My house is a wreck."
"We had take-out for dinner."
"I took the baby to daycare today even though I had the day off."
"My clothes are so frumpy."
"I fell asleep last night before we could have sex."
"I never make it to the gym."
"My baby doesn't go to music class (or signing class, or story time, or playgroup)."

None of those things are inherently bad, so why do we as women and mothers have such anxiety not getting to every last thing on our endless to-do lists?

I will admit, I'm definitely guilty of having this mentality. It's something I'm trying to work on. There have been days when I have broken down crying, telling Jim that I feel like I am failing as a wife and mom because I can't do it all.

Case in point: Mornings have turned into Jim's thing. I nurse Ella, she goes back to sleep for a little bit, and when she's up for good, Jim takes over until he leaves for work. Every morning, without fail, I feel bad that he feeds her breakfast, plays with her, and keeps her relatively quiet so I can sleep for an extra 30 minutes. I feel like I should be super-mom, and be out there with them making breakfast with a cheery smile on my face instead of the zombie look I sport until about 10am. It doesn't matter that I know logically that I need those 30 minutes, that if Ella gets up in the middle of the night I am the one to take care of her while Jim sleeps, that there are many days when I don't have a chance to sit down until 8pm, or even the fact that he likes getting to spend that time with her. I feel like I am failing my family by taking care of myself.

This idea that we can do it all is perhaps one of the biggest myths of our generation. As children we were told that we could be anything, do anything, have anything, so now we have turned into entitled adults who want everything, no matter how unrealistic a goal that is. We've been told that we can do it all, so we feel that we should do it all.

I don't have any great solution for how to change this mentality. I think a good first step is recognizing it for the falsehood it is. We as women need the help of our husbands, moms, and friends, and we need to be able to ask for that help without feeling bad about it. We need to think and believe that someone is not less of a woman for buying pre-made baby food, hiring someone to help with the housekeeping, or choosing to pass up a promotion at work because it would mean less time to spend with the family. We need to spend less time comparing ourselves and cutting each other down, and more time raising each other up when we stumble.

After all, I don't think our moms and grandmothers fought for our ability to be able to do anything so that we have to do it all. Rather than burdening us, our choices should make us feel empowered. I think somewhere along the line we have lost sight about what is important- that if our kids are happy and healthy, if we have a roof over our heads, some money stashed away for a rainy day, and a husband who loves and respects us, we're doing okay. And that maybe being "average mom" will make us happier than being "super mom."

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