More than likely your answer to, "what kind of mom are you?" will vary, but in most cases, we have a hard time answering in anything above "great," simply because of all the pressures we put on ourselves, as we are constantly comparing our parenting to others.
There is a fine line for mothers when it comes to seeking out help and then facing our own selves in the mirror thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?" "I should already have tried that months ago!" Or maybe even, "I already did that and it didn't work. Maybe it's just me?"
Sadly, this competitive era we live in has become somewhat contemptuous that we find rivalry in the most contradictory areas.
"How many children do you have? Only two? Well I have four. You have no clue how crazy my days are." And "Does your baby sleep through the night? I don't believe in the cry-it-out method, since that is just plain cruel. You're so lucky you get to sleep."
We almost find ourselves in the battle of whose children can make our lives more tiring and difficult.
As we try to survive in this competitive society, it can do one of two things for us. It can be a great thing if we use this to motivate and push us towards the parent that we want to become. But comparing ourselves also can be extremely detrimental, as it can make us feel so defeated, so unworthy of the praise that we actually deserve.
Because the truth is, we're all great mothers.
Most of us put our needs at a distant second, third, fourth and fifth at times, and we know, at the end of the day, we really wouldn't have it any other way. If everyone else in the house is happy, somehow that is more than sufficient.
The mothers who bottle feed and those who breastfeed a pat on the back to both. Who are we to judge what works better for each baby?
The women who go to work each day and have to drop their children off at childcare. It truly may be one of the hardest things you'll ever find yourselves doing. Kudos to us - the working moms - I feel like we should be called superheroes. Our heads spin with the hundreds of things we must accomplish in a day and at the end of it, we ask ourselves, did I really just do all of that ... today?
And to the stay-at-home mothers, the women who never leave their jobs. For those that think that this is a 'cake walk' deal and your feet are propped up, eating ice cream and watching cartoons all day while your children are smiling and happy and being great listeners, you are sadly mistaken. To be able to sneak away to the bathroom without anyone pounding on the door, would be nothing short of a miracle. Stay-at home-mothers, too, are superheroes.
The mothers who use cloth diapers or disposables props to both! We all combat the same battles and conquer the same messes. And after some diaper changes, I feel like we should be awarded a medal. But to those of us that change our baby four times an hour or in the wee hours of the morning, we're doing what needs to be done.
Do you co-sleep with your baby? Do you let them cry it out? You've read books and articles on the pros and cons of both. You are ready to wrack your brain out as every other person is telling you what is best for you and your baby that we forget to trust ourselves. Every family and child are different. A mother with multiple children will quickly tell you that what worked for one may not work for another. Sometimes we don't always want to listen to our gut, but it's always right. It's just not always that easy to follow it.
The mothers who get ridiculed for sometimes making time for themselves or their partner. How selfish of them, right? Wrong. I wish I were brave enough to make more "me" time and create more time for my husband and I alone. It's so easy to get caught up in the daily chaotic race of trying to make it from one drop off to the next pick up, dashing off to the next event while your mind is on the 15 things that need to get done once you get home.
The ironic secret that actually results from this is 9.9 times out of 10, you are going to return home a better parent for it and your children are going to see a stronger couple raising them. To those women who remember 'me' and 'partner' time, you are not a bad mom. You're a wise mother who is trying to remember that all areas of your life need attention.
What about those who are able to maintain perfectly organized, clean homes? And what about those who have a pile of toys in every spot of the house and stacks of dishes and laundry? Do these homes have 'bad' mothers running them? Certainly not.
For those who are able to maintain it all, flawlessly, and play with your children and give them the attention they need while meeting all of the day's demands - incredible job. I only wished I fell into that category.
Although I can say the days I go to bed after a day filled with chasing babies, legs aching from wagon rides, sunburnt cheeks from playing outside and babies who whisper in your ear as you tuck them in, "This was the best day ever, Mommy!" Those are the days that I feel more accomplished than any amount of housework getting completed.
The truth is, the minute we stop comparing ourselves to the rest of the world, and actually give ourselves a fighting chance, may be the first time we are open enough to see ourselves for who we really are as a mother.
Evaluate ourselves fairly and weed out what's not working; give ourselves a fair amount of time to make the changes and transitions we need to, and most importantly, encourage each other and remind one another of the incredible things we are accomplishing every day.
The next time you are asked what kind of mother you are, smile, hold your head up high, and confidently say, "I am Super Mom."
Long is a local author and mother of three. Her column will be published on the first and third Sunday of each month.