I spent a lot of time worrying when my kids were small about everything. Even now I’m sure I fret over details that don’t need fretting. Through most of my motherhood years so far, and I’m going on almost two decades of it (wow that’s a stunning thing to see in print), I have poured a whole lot of energy—energy that might have been useful or good or uplifting, but wasn’t because I chose to channel it in other ways–into worry, doubt, insecurity about what kind of mother I am and whether my kids might be ruined in some way by my maternal fumblings. I think mostly I was convinced of two fallacies.
One fallacy is that I could ever in a million years measure up to the impossible standards for mothering perpetuated glibly by my culture (even as that culture puts, or fails to put, policies, ‘norms,’ and practices in place that impede my efforts at every turn to measure up). But I can see a little more clearly now in retrospect that, by and large, the standards for ‘good mothering’ that surround me are not grounded in any true need that children have but in need that my society has to sell me products, limit my freedom as a woman, and release men and government in general from their responsibility for caring for children and families. So I don’t try as hard to measure up to those absurd standards any more, and guess what. I experience less a sense of failure as a result. And I have more time to do the kind of mothering that I believe in, that my kids respond to, and that works for my family. Oh the advertisers and school teachers and mothers who are invested in those standards have a different view, you can be sure. But I’m not in charge of mothering them so they’ll have to work through those issues on their own.
A second fallacy is that children are exceptionally fragile and always teetering on the precipices of mental health and personal safety and one wrong mere exhale, by me, could blow them over the edge. But I can see now that kids not so fragile. Kids are not at perpetual risk, they are not going to crumble because of some choice you made here or there. They tend to be rather solid, capable beings who weather life’s storms quite courageously and with firm footing. Human life is tough and human beings are equipped to live it anyway. It’s a beautiful thing really. Plus, kids are not living in a world that matches what we see on TV and in newspapers or online news updates. Face it; much of life is pretty mundane. Mostly bad things DON’T happen, and kids are safe, and they grow up to be functioning, contributing adults. But that’s pretty boring stuff in a newspaper headline or a video clip. I’ve also come to see, as my children grow, that children are astoundingly resilient. They have plenty of practice deflecting the seemingly negative impact of being completely surrounded by and cared for by wholly imperfect people. They have plenty of practice because these are the only people who make up their world, or anyone’s world. Luckily, having perfect parents is not a pre-requisite to making it through life with some measure of success. I’ll wager that the people reading this post (like the person writing it) are living proof of that.
So I’m wasting less energy now on nonsense. Maybe that’s just a natural part of being…let’s just say not way young anymore. But I sure hope that somebody somewhere could do that earlier than I did, like when the kids are little. I hope they can redirect some of their maternal worry, doubt, and insecurity energy into something cool and useful and uplifting instead. It’s such a tragic waste otherwise.