Recently I read an obituary written by a woman before she died. At the end of the brief overview of her life she had written in capital letters DID HER BEST. Her words struck me. As a child I was always taught that doing my best was enough, but as a mother I have to be careful about the pressure to do more.

All it takes is a quick skim of popular women’s magazines, parenting advice blogs or professional recommendations and I begin to feel like my best is somehow lacking. Images and headlines from popular media suggest that women are meant to make sensational side dishes, prepare chicken stock from scratch, know how to apply this spring’s pastel make up, revamp vintage furniture, “lean in” to our scintillating careers, copy Kate Middleton’s “mom style,” and practice this mind-blowing sex tip (tonight!).

According to parenting experts we’re supposed to be playing with our children every day, feeding them whole grain, plant based homemade meals made from local or organic ingredients, creating crafts worthy of the art gallery, organizing the best birthday parties on the block, reading with our children every chance we get and teaching them (gently) that boogers do not go in the mouth.

Meanwhile, my feminist ideas make me feel like I’m somehow deficient because I rely on my man to change the tires on the mini-van, fix the leaky tap and put up a shelf. Hop on Facebook and I see photos of beautifully groomed children, vegetables from backyard gardens and exotic vacations. Check out advice from marriage experts and my husband and I are supposed to be going on weekly dates where we don’t talk about finances or the children and have the kids tucked safely at home with a babysitter who has won a Rhodes scholarship and can juggle fireballs while changing a diaper at the same time. Just once I’d love to read a headline that says, “Sit on your Stained Couch and Admire Your Child’s Eyelashes (Tonight!)” or “How to Do Absolutely Nothing and Feel Good About It.”

Of course I can choose to ignore all of these headlines and advice. In the end, the pressure that I feel is only coming from myself. As a 21st century mother I am lucky to have all of this information at my fingertips, but at the same I must be savvy about how I let it sink into my consciousness. I need to be aware of how it influences my ideas of what a good mother should do and look like. I need to choose what is important to me and forget about the rest.

And I do prioritize: I believe the way my family feels, thinks and behaves is somewhat related to what we’re eating so I do spend a lot of time on food (also I just really like to eat). Reading is one of the great loves of my life so I have no problem fulfilling that daily requirement with my children. But having a tidy, beautifully decorated home? Not at this stage of life. Ensuring my footwear is on trend or my handbag is this season’s latest? Not me. Learning how to do car repairs? Not interested. 7 crafts for the 7 days of March Break? No thanks. Playing every single day with each of my 3 children? Oh the guilt.

In the months after my third child was born I remember complaining to my aunt about how messy my house was. She looked at my young children and said, “Just take care of them. That’s enough.” I keep those words and remember them during moments when I am overwhelmed. It’s enough. What I do is enough. I don’t want to be a super mom. I just want to DO MY BEST.

Image credit: Jimmy Baikovicus

17 Responses

  1. Beth Lambert

    Great post Kelly! You have reminded me of my own early parenting days. My husband was behaving like a rarefied jerk (as was typical) when it came to the domestic chores. I stressed and struggled to keep things top notch daily although I had two demanding and energetic little boys at my feet. One day, when I was feeling particularly sensitive to his remarks and displeasure with me, I quietly went on strike. For an entire week I only took care of and played with my sons. No cleaning, no tidying, no laundry, no errands, meals only for the boys, no yard work, nothin’. When my husband finally put it all together he come to me and said, “I have been an a$$hole haven’t I?” At that comment I got back to a more relaxed program. The interesting thing to me was that during the strike week I had little to no behaviour problems with the boys and I was eerily relaxed considering it was anxiety that had fuelled my over achieving domestic pursuits just prior to the strike. At least we could laugh about it later on and we each learned a lesson: he, in gratitude and I in balance.

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