[I wrote this a couple of weekends ago but left it in my "Drafts" folder. Given the hoopla around the most recent Time Magazine cover, it seemed like a good time to finally publish the post.]
American moms are the judgiest* people to ever roam the Earth. (*Yeah, I made up that word.) I was reminded of this while reading the comments (yes, I know to never read the comments) on the New York Times “Room for Debate: Motherhood vs. Feminism.” Heather McDonald described my personal feelings on the topic perfectly. Being a mother is part of who I am but it isn’t all of who I am. “There is no parenting secret that ensures that your children will grow up [to] be successful adults. So why would you want to sacrifice your career… and oftentimes your happiness all in the name of motherhood?”
Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé, which I just finished reading, summed up what seems to be the prevailing sentiment of middle-class American women: “We’re supposed to be liberated and financially independent. But we also think we should center our lives around our kids… To face down this dilemma, middle-class moms embrace guilt. We kind of love it.” Screw that. I don’t feel guilty. And I don’t tell you the following as a justification – because I don’t feel I have to justify myself to anyone.
I love my little muffin. But I don’t believe my life should revolve around her. I work full-time outside of the home. I couldn’t breastfeed and do not feel bad about it; in fact, in hindsight, I cherish the freedom that it gave me, even if that wasn’t how I’d planned it. I don’t spend every second of my free time with my daughter. I feed her jarred or pouch baby food because I’d rather have half an hour to read before bed than spend that time pureeing vegetables (hey, it’s organic!). I occasionally plop her down to play by herself while I read a magazine nearby. I don’t want her sleeping in our bed because I want (and need) to sleep. But I do love to snuggle with her. And take her on outings around town. I play with her on the floor. I encourage her to chat with me. I read to her at night. My heart breaks a little when she is sick. I tiptoe into her room before bed just to watch her sleep with her cute little bum in the air. I miss her during the workday. I’m invested in her growth as a kind, intelligent human being.
But, I see no need to enroll my 7-month-old in French language “classes,” swim lessons, music instruction, etc. You do? That’s great. There will come a time when I’ll probably be running around (or paying a babysitter to do the same), shuttling my daughter from softball practice to music lessons to god only knows what. For now, I have chosen not to drive myself nuts trying to cram them all in.
I can hear the judgmental, my-way-is-the-only-way, mothers (and non-mothers) now – “How selfish! If you didn’t want to put the time into being with your kids you shouldn’t have had them.” And to them I say…
There is no “right” way to raise a child, and besides that… Mind your own business. Raise your kids the way you see fit and I’ll do the same. Unless another mother is abusing (and I mean real abuse, not defined to include “crying it out” – give me a freakin’ break), butt out and STOP JUDGING.
Enough with the “mommy wars.”