Martorella: Mother's Day
Happy Mother’s Day! Wait, shouldn’t it be Mothers’ Day if it is for all mothers? Whatever, it is definitely a day we shouldn’t have to worry about proper grammar.
In fact, I am declaring this Sunday a day we moms don’t have to do anything properly. I want a day off from having to “mother” correctly. I should probably say a day off from trying to mother correctly since pretty much every day is a day off from actually mothering correctly. I know I’m screwing up regularly, but from the way our culture tells it, we are all doing something wrong.
Back when I was training as a family therapist, I was taught that there are four styles of parenting: Authoritarian (high discipline, low nurture), Permissive (low discipline, high nurture), Uninvolved (low discipline, low nurture), and Authoritative (the “recommended” style combining the moderate and responsible levels of both discipline and nurturing).
Now, with the proliferation of parenting studies, books, magazine articles, and blogs from experts with tones both academic and humorous, there are countless other styles that have popped up. And the one thing they all have in common is that they are all criticized.
What type of mother are you? Are you a “helicopter parent,” a “free-range parent,” a “tiger” parent, an “attachment” parent? Are you “overprotective” or “organic”? A “soccer mom,” “PTO mom,” “stage mom,” the “cool mom”?
When did it become so important to label our parenting? In my experience, labels and “styles” just seem to provide an easy platform for assumptions and judgments. Labels are limiting, and rarely 100% accurate. Humans, on the other hand are complex, and also rarely 100% accurate. Oh and by humans, I also mean the superhumans we call moms.
Listen, we are all just winging this job. Though there are many, many parenting books, there is no failsafe manual that can address every child and family dynamic. Again, humans are complex. Each child comes with a different set of traits, both internal and environmental. Age, birth order, temperament, DNA, sugar level/sleep/health at any given moment, external circumstances, and so on – can affect how an individual may react to any given situation. We are all doing our best to figure it out, but as we progress through the ages and stages as a parent we learn - it’s all a setup. Once we have something figured out, it changes. The Universe is having a laugh at our expense. There is no such thing as a parenting expert.
I’m clearly not the only one who believes that parenting has gotten more intense and competitive in recent years. The author/blogger Bunmi Laditan (Honest Toddler, @BunmiLaditan) may have summed it up best in this then and now post about parenting, which was the inspiration for this column:
How To Be A Mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, under-stimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced out at least two years apart for proper development. Also don’t forget the coconut oil.
How to be a Mom in Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.
Ok, maybe this is a bit extreme. Our parents did more than just feed us (sometimes).
But the expectations and possibilities for error are certainly higher these days. And so is the nerve of others who will point these errors out.
In past generations, there were a handful of key writers that encompassed the “motherhood” perspective on a national basis, usually in syndicated newspaper columns. The humorist Erma Bombeck comes first to mind, along with helpful hint givers like Miss Manners, Heloise, or Dear Abby. But now, the Internet and social media have given rise to thousands of “mom blogs” and the like where moms of all backgrounds share their perspectives. Some are humor-based, and others may highlight a spiritual, cultural, or professional slant. Many are humble enough to admit that their style, while best for them, is just one of many, and their advice is just suggestion. But the critics often show up in the comment sections of these articles and posts, inciting Mommy Wars from all sides.
Walk away from the critics. Don’t engage in these “style wars.”
And let someone else parent this weekend. To all of you who have mothers in your household, let them have Sunday to mother just themselves. Judgment free.
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.