Sep 16, 2013

Raise the Bar, Mom!

When I read posts like this one, called "The Class mom friendship questionnaire" on In the Powder Room, I have a number of reactions.  1. I have to laugh, because that's funny.  2. I find myself feeling defensive.  3. I really start to think... "what is this post REALLY communicating?" {besides the fact that Kim Bongiorno is a funny lady}.

I recognize that posts like this (I will refer to them as the "It's okay to fail Mom posts") are written with the intention of communicating, "Hey, none of us are perfect, it's okay that you don't have it all together, I accept you just like you are."  Recently, though, I have found that these posts are becoming increasingly judgmental toward moms who are "succeeding".  Moms who manage to shower every morning and bathe their kids daily and keep their homes in a semblance of tidiness are called "Over-achievers", or "Perfectionists".  The way they are described reminds me of the Stepford wives, creepy yuppy looking women with sweaters knotted over their polo shirts and pressed slacks.

I really do believe in encouraging other momsEncourage defined is: "to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope; to spur on."  Nowhere in that definition suggests that it is encouraging to look at a mom who is wallowing in self-defeat and say "You are doing a wonderful job!  Just keep doing what you're doing!"  How is that inspiring courage, or spurring her on?

Being a mom is hard work.  I only have two kids and I find it {glass-of-wine-at-the-end-of-the-day} exhausting on the best day.  There is no job that one can do that will simultaneously fill you with joy and intense frustration; pride and the feeling of abject failure on a daily basis.  AND we do it for FREE.

Yet, you will never hear me say to another mom "What? You did some housework, made dinner, helped kids with homework and made sure they were bathed today?! Wow, talk about overachieving!"  That is absurd.  I am no more energetic than the average mom nor my kids more well behaved than the average kid, yet those are the minimum expectations I hold for myself.

We teach our kids to try their hardest, to do their best, to strive for excellence, and yet, as a culture, moms are offering excuses instead of their best effort.  I am not saying you're a bad mom, I'm saying you can do better, we can ALL do better.  It's OKAY to do better.

I am recognizing that the popular culture seems to be glorifying doing the bare minimum and making fun of those who strive to do more.  Why?  I believe it comes down to the "mommy wars".  When one mom is being "Super Mom" (you know, feeding, bathing, cooking, cleaning, and finding time for creative cuteness), the other moms feel judged by her, EVEN IF SHE IS NOT JUDGING THEM.

Suddenly, they see that another mom is doing more, and realize maybe it's possible to do more, and therefore there is something wrong with them for not doing more.  Rather than deciding if they either want or need to do more, they respond defensively and say "Geez, she's such an overachiever.  She must be judging me."  And maybe she is, but so are you. 

I hold myself to a relatively high standard, but not so I can impress other moms, but rather because I am compelled to strive for more. I sew fabric napkins and control the amount of television my kids watch and clean my house before people come over.  I do these things because I feel responsible to take care of the earth, I love my kids and want to protect their brains, and I take pride in my beautiful home, and want to show hospitality to my friends by honoring them with a clean home.

Do I think people who use paper napkins hate trees and are trying to kill the earth?  No.  When other people allow their kids to have unlimited hours of screen time each day, do I assume they hate their kids and are trying to make them brain damaged?   Nope, I assume it works for their family.   If I go into a friend's home and it's messy do I feel dishonored?  No, I figure they must've been busy, and/or they are comfortable in a messy house.

Listen, this isn't school.  There is no bell curve.  No one is grading you, and if they are, who cares?  Who are THEY?  I encourage my kids to be the best possible version of themselves, because God made them to DO something amazing. Success will look different for each of them.  This is true for moms too.  I think the most important thing that any of us can do is RAISE THE BAR.  Just keep trying.

I am not trying to mess up the imaginary bell curve, I am being genuinely me.  I am not trying to make anyone feel inferior or judged or trying to impress anyone with how "together" I am.  I am a mess.  Inside and out.  I am not perfect, nor am I doing anything that I do to show anyone that I am better than they are.  I hate cleaning.  I would rather be sitting in my PJs.  Yet, I am compelled to do better, to BE better, than I was yesterday.  I am attempting to do the most with what I've been given.

Hey Super Mom: You just keep on soaring mama, you keep on doing it all!  I know you are doing it because you love your kids.  Don't worry about the moms who are making fun of you for trying "too hard", they are only making fun of you because you are threatening their status quo.

It's okay to do the best you can do, and not worry about what the other moms are doing (whether they are high-achieving or not).  It's okay if some days you don't feel like trying.  We are only human, we all drift toward selfishness and laziness all the time, it's a personal daily battle.   Good for you for fighting that drift!  Good for you for following God's call on your life.  I hope I can get there one day!

"Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."  Romans 12:2 (The Message)
Kim Bongiorno
Kim Bongiorno

So, do you prefer the "It's okay to fail" posts?  Am I the only person who has recognized this cultural phenomenon? 

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  1. so crazy needed to read this today. just to be happy to be me. the best mom I can be.

    Thanks for joining the momma melody. We would love to have you join us again. Anything mom, from vacation pics, encouraging words, to recipes. I jot some notes on Mondays, but it's a come whenever you can kind of party. Just moms. Sharing our notes. Creating a melody.

    Be blessed bunches,


  2. I know I am guilty of judging at time... as everyone is. But I think you're right, it is becoming the new fad of "Mom Wars" to start to judge the over achievers as you call them and put them down :-( Not cool, I am trying harder just to recognize what works for one doesn't for another, and that's okay . Great Post :D

  3. Excellent post. At the end of the day, I think it is vitally important to keep competing. Not with others, but with yourself. To keep, as you say, raising the bar - and improving and doing better than what you did yesterday. And to balance that with enjoying life and you God created you to be. And yet, at the same time, to extend grace to those who may be battling a little more than we are at the moment. God didn't make us to be mediocre, He created us to be sensational. So, let's be just that - SENSATIONAL.


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