The other day, a friend of mine who is also in the legal field and is about my age (mid-30s) told me that she is expecting her first child early next year. After all the congratulations were said, she relayed to me a recent experience that had perplexed her.
She said that another friend of hers, who uses the same doctor, asked her, “Did you save the sticky note?” She didn’t know what “sticky note” the woman was referring to. “The sticky note they put on your paperwork with the big smiley face that says ‘pregnant’,” her friend said.
No, she said, she had not saved the sticky note. “Am I really supposed to be saving sticky notes?” she asked me.
I told her it was perfectly ok not to save small squares of paper with adhesive on one side. It also compelled me to give her a bit of advice, although she didn’t really ask for it.
I told her, “Sit down. I’m going to tell you about something you need to be prepared for, but it has absolutely nothing to do with your kid.” She looked puzzled. But she sat.
“One day, you will have had a really draining day in court, then you will go home and do all the ‘mom’ things you need to do. Then, you will go to some ridiculous meeting someone decided would be a good idea, because, you know, it’s such a good idea to have a meeting to plan meetings about things involving kids. And another mom will look you straight in the face and say, ‘What? You haven’t had time to make a scrapbook for every month of your child’s life? So sad.’ or ‘I ALWAYS feed my kids organic snacks. Oh, is that a pack of goldfish crackers sticking out of your purse? Yeah, just too much salt for my conscience’ or ‘You used a box cake mix for those cupcakes? How…kitschy!'”
Or “you didn’t save the sticky note?”
Then I told her what it will do to her. “It will, emotionally, bring you to your knees. It’s called ‘mom guilt.'”
Another attorney friend, a mom to a terribly cute preschooler, was privy to this conversation, and joined in. We commiserated about how, although we have managed to save some of the more memorable creations our kids have brought home from school, we don’t have them in scrapbooks. We have them in random boxes. Boxes of (s)crap. (And yes, I love every single piece of crap that I’ve managed to save.) I did make an attempt, though. I bought a scrapbooking kit. It’s still in the box on the top shelf of the junk closet we call the “utility room”.
I use boot boxes. Every couple of years, when I get a new pair of dress boots, the kind that come in the big, long boxes, I convert the box to a file of sorts. I have managed to put one child’s stuff in different boxes than the other child’s, but I can’t promise you some stuff hasn’t gotten mixed up in the wrong boxes. I mean, if I was that organized, I’d have scrapbooks.
This is so silly, right? And, as my very smart mother-in-law pointed out, it’s more than likely also fake. “I bet if you open up their pantries,” she said, “they’ve got all kinds of boxes of cake mix.” Seriously, no one is that perfect. And goldfish crackers are a classic American snack.
And how much of that did I actually hear, other than in my own head?
In case you’re wondering, mom guilt is an equal opportunist. I’ve been on the other side of this coin, too. There was a time that I was a stay-at-home mom. As much as I was enjoying my time with kids when they were small, at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but be envious of a friend who, when we met for lunch on a weekday, was dressed to the nines (or just in normal clothes with a really cute pair of heels) while I was checking to see if the baby drool on my shirt had dried yet. And even then, I felt like I wasn’t “doing enough”. Because my friend across the table had more disposable income to spend on her kids or maybe because she had quality time with her kids rather than quantity.
Here’s another one: breastfeeding. I nursed both of my children, one for almost a year, and the other for a full year. (I am not to be given all the credit in this – baby boy absolutely would not GIVE IT UP.) Bottom line, I made a personal choice. I’ve got plenty of friends who made the same choice, and plenty who made a different one. Both are valid choices, but sometimes, there seems to be a divide between those who do and those who don’t. The divide is caused by self-righteousness masquerading as helpfulness, and insecurity dressing up as condescension.
It’s ridiculous. Trust me, in my line of work, I see children who are actually in danger either at the hands of their parents or because their parents can’t or won’t protect them from real dangers. There are some things that matter, and some that don’t.
Working moms and stay-at-home moms, breastfeeding moms and bottle-feeding moms, moms who home school and moms who don’t, moms that allow kids to eat in the car and moms who don’t (yes, it really gets absurd, the things we sometimes criticize each other about) …guess what? WE ARE ALL DOING A GREAT JOB!
(By the way, don’t get me started on the battle for self-worth faced by women who, either because they choose not to or can’t, do not have children. Please, for the love, DO NOT ASK IF OR WHEN SHE IS GOING TO HAVE CHILDREN if she doesn’t bring it up herself. You run the risk of being annoying or hurtful or both. Just don’t do it.)
So why the rant? Well, if you haven’t figured this out yet, sometimes I write about certain things that I need to reinforce TO MYSELF. And right now, myself is on a journey, in part, to discern what is important and what isn’t. That’s not to say that the reasons that I (or any of us) made the choices we did are not important. They are, of course. (I really do believe we can have useful, helpful conversations about putting our best feet forward when it comes to our kids without tearing each other down in the process.)
What’s not important: obsessing, guilt, self-loathing over the inconsequential things I didn’t get done (someone told me the other day that it’s been said that if, at the end of the day, you find that you didn’t have time for everything you wanted to do, then you aren’t doing what God wants you to, and/or you’re adding lots of other things), and comparing myself to to others (which by human nature, as a defense mechanism, inevitably leads to criticism of others, even if it’s not voiced).
What is important:
God’s will for my life. And your life.
My kids. Your kids.
All God’s children of the world. All of them. All of us.