Photographers: Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello
Mother’s Day is on the calendric horizon. The Mother of The Year Awards have begun. These lucky women will have a celebrity chef deliver their breakfast in bed, take an exotic trip to Bora Bora, or win a year’s supply of Tide.
To The Video:
-Morning show – “Our Mom of The Year, Shelia, broke her back in a car accident five years ago and still managed to deliver her fourth child. She never stopped working her full time job, manages the household, maintains the finances, gets the kids to school and coaches her son’s soccer team. All of this while she endured years of excruciating physical therapy.”
Cut to Husband Dave – “There’s nothing Sheila won’t do for her family. She’s always putting everyone else ahead of herself.”
-Afternoon show – “The winner of our Best Mom in The Bay Award, Tory, is a single mom who hasn’t slowed down for the last nineteen years. She’s adopted nine children from abusive situations and works the night shift so she can homeschool them during the day. When the kids wanted a trip to Disney, Tory took a second job for a full year to save up the money for their trip.”
Cut to Grandmother – “I don’t know when she sleeps. And she’s showing the rest of us to stop thinking about ourselves. There’s always someone who’s got it worse than you.”
-Local news – “Our Best Mom Award goes to Kimberly. She’s dedicated her entire life to children. When the kids were in school, Kimberly became a deacon in her community church, started a foundation for children on the street and manages a nonprofit business providing babysitting for parents who are looking for work. Even after she was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer, Kimberly never slowed down. She never missed a school function, sporting event, church meeting or a day of work with her foundation. The day after her last chemo treatment she was in the front row at her daughter’s wedding.”
Cut to Video of Kimberly cheering her son’s wrestling meet with a colorful scarf wrapped around her thin head.
Am I supposed to aspire to be like these mothers? Is this the modern role model of American motherhood: consuming, sacrificial, ultra-selfless, tireless? How high are we setting the mommy bar? At that height, I can safely project a generation of moms will end up energetically blown out.
STOP ROMANTICIZING MOTHERHOOD
I’m not taking anything away from these women or the lives they are leading but STOP broadcasting them up as the epitome of motherhood. The few women I know who live like these award winners are in one of two categories: hyperactive helpers or a mominista.
There is a good chance these shows are confusing typical mothers for natural born mothers; ladies who live to have a child back to back to back. They enjoy taking seven children into the women’s clothing section. They aspire to fold laundry, teach algebra, prepare dinner and organize a community street party during the witching hour.
Everyone has met a woman like this. She’s that chipper gal sitting in the baseball stands all weekend with her packed lunches, drinks and sunscreen. She’s that woman in the grocery aisle whose six kids are calmly filling the cart. The woman who throws backyard pool parties on a weekly whim. Comparing them to the rest of us is like comparing my roast to Julia Child’s beef bourguignon.
I find all of these award shows are sending a detrimental message. The “everyone else first” marker being one of the greatest. It’s not enough that our careers take a hard hit. Apparently the great moms sacrifice their dreams, pleasures, down time, and personal care to meet the needs of everyone else too.
I’m here to call a Capital B, BULLSHIT!! June Cleaver is 60 years gone, folks. The notion that a mother’s value is measured in how hard she serves everyone else is unhealthy, unrealistic and delusional. We carry enough emotional baggage trying to balance our job, kids, marriage, homes and (don’t mention it) ourselves. Do we have to have cancer or lost limbs to float to the top?
If you want a Mother of the Year to feature, find authentic women who are struggling every day to balance the fullness of their lives with their children’s. Having children was never our passion. I mean, there was a reasonable chance we would discover we hated parenting. This mothering business was a huge pleap (pink leap) for us. It’s one of the bravest choices we make.
Here are the mothers I know:
To The Video
“Mother of the Year Brenda – Even though the father of her two girls has abandoned them financially, physically and emotionally, Brenda still manages to provide them with food, a roof, cute clothes, shoes and health insurance. On an honest day she’d admit she regrets having kids and then buries herself in the guilt of such thoughts. After an eleven hour work day, getting her youngest to the dentist, a drive thru dinner and dance practice she has no energy left to play with them as she should. She needs to pay bills, fix the leaking toilet, water the back yard, make a grocery list, go through email and load the dishwasher. Her heart wants to lock itself in the garage and paint through the summer. Instead, Brenda sits down with her oldest to go over phonics coding, biting back her frustration that she’ll be up past midnight once again.”
“Mom of the Year Gina – She always dreamed of running a Bed and Breakfast but not in this way. She’s got 1,000 square feet of grout to scrub, breakfast to clean up, the garage is a disaster, beds to remake, gym class, and a shopping date with her girlfriend. She debates which credit card to put it on because she’s spent too much on shoes already this week. She hates shopping but it’s the only thing she can think of doing between her 11 am workout and 2:30 school pick up that doesn’t involve housework. Luckily, she’s too busy the rest of the day to give it much thought. Between 3 and 10 she taxies one of the four kids to their practices and play dates, gets the van cleaned, makes dinner for the kids, helps with homework, manages the baths, makes dinner for her husband, folds laundry and walks the dogs. When she falls asleep at night she no longer dreams but she does have this nightmare: her family, and her reason to get up each day, burns in a fiery car wreck.”
“Best Mom in The Bay winner, Gretchen, still finds time to take care of the dogs she’s fostering since they bring her the greatest peace and joy. Many days she has to juggle between her 9-5 job, her 2 teenagers, and her depressed husband who lost his job after the crash. They’ve had to cut down to one car and may have to move in with his parents, which would be the end to her fostering but she tries not to worry about that or how long it might be before their marriage is happy again. There are days she is angry, hurt and frustrated. Days she yells at her kids and then yells at herself. But she wakes up fighting for their family and the hope that good times will return.”
These are authentic mothers, whose roles don’t need to be supersized or glamourized. They give up their summer family vacation so they can play on a softball team. They do the laundry with all four limbs as their kids watch a crappy cartoon. They struggle to balance, to grow, to learn and to be a bit better each day no matter what life throws at them.
Motherhood is not a total sacrifice of self or a consummation. It’s a topsy turvy, human relationship reflected in the shiny eyes of our children.
So I’m asking these shows to be mindful of who you pick as Mother of the Year. Be mindful of how high you set the bar and why. Are you going to inspire or overwhelm the rest of us?