Mothers’ Movements

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From my Mothers Book Bag newsletter: “There’s an attitude among many mom bloggers that if you make money via your blogging, you’ve sold out, pimped your kids, or you’re not a good mom because you’re ignoring your children while you write. Or that if you blog about your family life you’re putting you and your children at risk from pedophiles, kidnappers, and stalkers or that you’ve invaded your children’s privacy.

“I believe that this feeling from some parts of the blogosphere is due to jealousy, especially of the “rock star” bloggers like Heather Armstrong of Dooce. But it’s also wanting to put others down because women do not feel confident in their roles as mothers and women.”

There’s a lot of truth in these statements. There are many movements and websites nowadays attempting to organize mothers but I believe that’s an uphill battle. Because there is no one who is as judgmental about other mothers than a woman who is a mother herself. We’re all so insecure about what we’re doing that we look for any scrap of evidence that we’re going it better than other mothers.

Of course we’ve picked up the attitudes of society here. But it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re constantly hearing that the mother is the one primarily responsible for the welfare of her children and the happiness of her home. Men get judged if they’re deadbeat dads–and rightfully so–but they’re not held to the same standards as mothers are. Conservatives especially like to blame everything that’s wrong with society on mothers who work outside of the home. Well, might as well give up then, because mothers aren’t going en masse back into the home any time soon. They can’t afford to for the most part, and even when they can, they often don’t want to. And why should they have to? Isn’t the problem really that mothers don’t get enough help in their quest to be better at what they do?

Just being in the house 24/7 doesn’t ensure that women will cure all of society’s ills. That’s an assinine assumption. Society has always had problems even when almost all women were in the home. Because when they were, they’re weren’t sitting around reading child psychology books and forming mother support groups. They were working–hard! Anyone who works at a paying job from home with children in it knows how hard it is to be a “perfect” mother while doing so.

Hey, it’s even hard to be a perfect mom if “all” you do is be a mother (oh, and a homemaker, and even a wife). Imagine that. I think one reason why motherhood is looked down on in this society is because so many people (read: non-mothers) think it’s so easy to be one. They pooh-pooh the idea that what a woman does when she stays at home is in any way comparable to what people do when they work all day outside of the house. Sure, she’s with her kids 24/7, but she’s not actively interacting with them all that time. (Oh, no?) And besides, how hard is it to have to interact with your kid? That’s nothing more than talking with them. How hard is that?

That attitude makes me crazy. I’ve never done anything so hard in my life as be a mother. Especially when my kids were younger (but it never stops). Even if all a mother had to do when she stays home with her kids is interact with them, she’d still be exhausted. Even when/though she loves her kids. Who said being with someone you love can’t be exhausting??

Some people think that being a mother is easy because, after all, you’re the grown-up: you just make them mind. (Again, non-mothers.) Others think it’s easy because you can make your own schedule. If you want to watch Oprah every day, you can. If you want to eat bonbons or drink margaritas, you can. Yeah, sure you can. Like your kids will let you do what you want! Even if you do manage to find a minute or two to yourself, that doesn’t even begin to make up for all the time you have to spend “off the clock” taking care of your children.

And how many mothers are off the hook with housework? Even if you have a maid, you’re still in charge of everything. (And really, how many of us have maids?) Motherhood is stressful; there’s just no two ways about it.

So why do mothers add to their own stress by belittling other mothers? Wouldn’t you think that we’d be empathetic and stick up for each other? Instead, we constantly measure each other by how many batches of cookies we baked, how clean we keep the house, and mostly by how our kids turn out. We look for weaknesses in other mothers so that we can ignore our own, instead of standing together to pool our strengths.

But does it have to be this way? Of course not. Just imagine what power could be unleashed if mothers could overcome their differences and come together to work for the good of their families. There’s a great deal that can be done when former rivals become partners. All we have to do is find our common ground and have enough faith in ourselves so that we don’t have to spend our energies putting each other down.

You don’t have to join a movement in order to join in solidarity with other mothers. Just let yourself become more aware of what you can do to help support the mothers around you. It’s a tough world for mothers. We need to do as much as we can for ourselves and each other.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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