Why I’m Glad I Never Have to Be a Mom

May 14, 2014

This last weekend, we celebrated moms.

This mom is clearly better than you.

This mom is clearly better than you.

Being a mom is hard work, so it’s good that we celebrate them. They are pretty important.

But I also have heard a rumor that being a mom is pretty fulfilling work. Somehow, between the late nights, the laundry, the messes and the noise, there is a lot of joy.

My wife and I have been trying to make her into a mom for a long time. But she worries that it’s not the joyful, fulfilling job that all the moms make it out to be. And I say, “Honey, look at the moms we know. They don’t go out to nice restaurants anymore. They have baby food stuck in their hair. They look frazzled and sleep-deprived. Their lives are by every measure worse now that they have kids. Yet they say they wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

That is amazing that kids can make moms give up everything and be glad to do it.

But I’ll tell you ladies something.

I’m glad I don’t have to be a mom. No matter what happens to me, I’ll never have to worry about accidentally becoming a mom.

And it’s not that I won’t someday help with midnight feedings and poopy diapers.

I don’t think I could take the sheer, competitive nature of the sport that mothering has become.

A Flood of Expert Opinions

When I was being raised in the glorious 1980s, the decade of big hair and shoulder pads, my parents read their share of parenting books. There were a lot of resources for nervous parents from proven experts, on everything from potty training to discipline.

There were also plenty of moms who got along without a ton of expert advice. For moms without books, there were grandmothers with no shortage of advice and home remedies.

And when mom felt confident enough, she put the books on the shelf and dealt with her kids as she saw fit.

Today, it just seems to be different. The experts aren’t just the people on the bookshelf.

Today, there are tons of parenting experts because in the age of social media, anyone who is a mom can be an “expert” on the art of mothering. It’s not just the seasoned doctors and counselors who get to share their opinions. Everyone gets to tell everyone else what is the “right” way to be a mom.

What A Good Mom I Am

Now, the flood of information sharing and advice isn’t all bad. But here’s where I see the pressure really ratcheting up for you moms.

For most of our moms back in the day, their mothering decisions were made in relative privacy. Whatever kind of diapers they chose was between them and our butts. Whatever kinds of foods they provided for us was their business. Mothering was a humble, gentle, private affair between mother and child.

Today, mothering is a much more public affair. It isn’t just that moms of all stripes are sharing positive information. It’s that every aspect of mothering, every decision a mother makes is now a badge of honor, a point of pride, something to add on a Facebook profile to prove to the world that I am a good mom. 

You use sustainably sourced cloth diapers? Better put make sure everyone on the internet knows it. What’s the point of using crappy diapers if no one knows your good deeds?

You can afford to buy only organic food? That belongs on Facebook for sure.

What’s that? Your husband’s salary is enough to support your family, allowing you to homeschool your kids? Great. Make sure everyone in the world knows you’re the best mom ever.

Today, the mark of being a good parent is not so much in the godly children we are raising, but rather the food we can afford to put in our kids’ stomachs, the clothes we can dress them in, whether they sleep in our beds or we let them “cry it out.”

In essence, parents are able to make a big show over all of the external aspects of parenting and make them out to be “the right way.”

The Secret Is No One Feels Like a Great Mom

The thing about moms is that I know you are sensitive.

It takes sensitivity to be a mom.

And all of this boasting about everyone’s good mothering doesn’t inspire you to be good moms. It only adds more pressure to you. It makes you feel inadequate. It makes you feel judged. Because you see how you really are as a mom, and you get to compare yourself to the filtered, Instagramed, internet version of all the other moms.

I suspect that very few moms out there actually feel like great moms.

They are just trying to keep up with all the other moms who they assume have it all together. They are wracked with doubt. They hope they aren’t screwing up their kids.

I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I could take the pressure of everyone saying “This is the right way to do it” and knowing that I’ll never measure up. If I were a mom, I don’t know if I’d believe my reassuring husband and be able to ignore the flood of superior mothering that I’d be comparing myself to.

I’m lucky that if I’m ever a parent, I’ll be a dad. Everyone will just assume I’m incompetent, so there’s no pressure.

What do you think? Has mothering become more pressurized?

4 responses to Why I’m Glad I Never Have to Be a Mom

  1. I definitely think that the media puts more stress on mothers, whether it is social media, podcasts, or news articles about the latest “danger”/fad. I think we can put pressure on ourselves when we compare our family against another family that *seems* perfect. I remember with my first born being a bit focused on perfection, though that is also my “go-to” sin. Most experienced moms that I spoke with told me to relax and enjoy the kids, don’t get them involved in too many activities and choose to focus on what is right for your family. And DEFINITELY don’t compare your family with another’s because God has a plan for each family. BTW, I thought that “Mom’s Night Out” addresses those issues really well and is really funny.
    tandemingtroll recently posted..I want to be a Tsaddaqim

  2. I don’t know, Matt–I really disagree with you on this. I don’t think all this pressure is something we have to consent to. Early motherhood I consented to it, but I don’t anymore. And a lot of us mothers let our sisters off the hook.
    Truth is, I am happier, by far now as a mother than I was pre-kids. And I don’t judge anyone for whom that is not their reality–parenting is hard–but I only say it b/c for me personally parenting has been the right spiritual discipline. I see myself maturing as I learn from my kids. It is joyous. And it is tremendously healing to be with kids all day. (And I am not naturally a kid-lover).
    I think it’s like being a Christian: for a long time I was in a space where I consented to letting other people judge my faith. And then I realized I didn’t have to do that–and funnily enough started rejoicing in Christ right about at that moment. But being a Christian was not the problem–it was my own internal monologue about what people thought.
    I would also be careful: I agree with your message (let’s not ratchet up pressure) but telling us moms how hard we have it, and what we’re doing wrong sounds a little, um, paternalistic. Moms are pretty resilient, and not a monolith. There are a lot of narratives out there, so it’s worth questioning whether you have really nailed down the only one.
    Heather Caliri recently posted..Beyond safety nets to Shalom

  3. I agree with Heather in that we don’t have to join the competition. For some of us, it isn’t even an option to consider some of the things others are able to do, because of our own situations. When my girls were small I did ask advice from other moms who had more experience, and even if I received advice unsolicited, I took it, weighed it and used what I thought I should. I tried to focus on the One Thing needful, and prayed. a. lot! –Actually, I still do. . .and my girls have survived to be great teens! :)
    Holly recently posted..Life is Learning and Learning is Life

  4. Really enjoyed this, Matt. This is one of the negatives to social media. It’s interesting because it’s not very obvious how things have changed for moms since the rise of social media, but you’ve been able to put it into words here. Thank you!

    I wrote a post last week that was a letter to moms who are too hard on themselves (really just a letter to myself): http://www.canigetanotherbottleofwhine.com/2014/05/letter-moms-trying.html – I mentioned the cacophony of moms telling you the “right way” to raise your kids – that’s mostly thanks to social media.
    Kate Hall recently posted..Power-Walking Is My Favorite Form of Exercise…When Combined with Consuming Chocolate Bars