The controversial cover of Time Magazine and its even more provocative question, (“Are you Mom enough?”) have taken our Mommy heads by the hair and plunged us again into the cold, dark waters of judgment. (This is becoming a cultural OIympic sport.) Who’s Mommy enough? The article (which I confess to only having read about) features mothers who adhere to attachment parenting, and those mothers might make the case that you’re only mom enough if you’re nursing as many children as you can for as long as you can, if you carry your baby in a sling, and if you co-sleep with your children.
I don’t have a problem, by the way, with any of those choices. I can honestly say that by the time the twins were born (they were the 4th and 5th babies I swaddled, nursed, diapered, and napped), the only real metric that made sense to me was the question, “Does it work?” And if that sounds hopelessly spineless and horribly pragmatic, let me tell you: it was.
Are you Mom enough? There are a lot of Mommy bloggers working their fingers raw to insist that you are, no matter what your choices are about how you feed your child and whether you work or not.
But I find the question terrifically unfair and loaded with all kinds of presumption. Mom enough according to whom?
When I walked into a friend’s home last summer to attend the first meeting of our church’s mom’s group here in Toronto, I expected a house swarming with sticky-fingered kids and crying babies. I waddled in with my five ducklings in tow and panned the room: there was hardly a kid in sight, except for the occasional baby sleeping in his car seat. Where were the children?
Some of the mothers worked, and they’d stolen away from the office for a couple of hours to attend the meeting. Others were on their maternity leave for their second child, having kept their childcare arrangements for the first child. No one has as many children as I, and certainly no one had their children home all summer, as I did. (Hadn’t I ever heard of day camps?)
Suddenly, my standards for “Mom enough” were set on their head. In the more suburban, American, Christian landscape I’d left behind, “Mom enough” had come to mean nursing your children and choosing domesticity over career. And for the extreme moms, who loved Jesus incrementally more and willingly laid down their lives with the extra inch of heroic surrender, they bore more children and kept them home for their schooling.
By that standard, I’ve earned my mommy merit badge. I nursed. I’ve stayed home. I’ve borne five children. And I’ve homeschooled.
And as it turns out, I’m still not mom enough.
If ever I needed proof, I only have to think about the animal instinct that rises in my throat when a friend (a friend!) posts the most adorable pictures of her son on Facebook, and for Mother’s Day, posts the song she’s written and recorded to celebrate his first year of life. I listen for fifteen seconds.
The truth is, the song, the pictures, the status updates like, “My little angel, what would my life be like without you?” feel, at every turn, like the gavel has dropped on my own parenting. What is wrong with you? The truth is, for the ways I really and treasure my children (see, there it is – defensiveness), I could never write what she writes and don’t even feel what she feels.
I am not mom enough. Not according to the relentless comparisons I find myself making every day. With the inbred sonar system by which I track and plot the actions of other moms, I am found wanting, at every step. I am not as patient as other moms, who’ll stoop sympathetically when their children wail at the top of their lungs because they’re scraped their knee and there might be blood. I do not have the volunteer spirit of other moms, who will gladly sign up to accompany their children’s class on their annual outing to the zoo. I am not as spiritual as other moms, moms like Ann Voskamp who write blog posts like, “The Manifesto of the Happy Mom.”
I write whiny posts like this one and announce to the world the real truth behind these four walls: I am not mom enough.
And thank God, I’m granted this glorious freedom, by the grace of the living Jesus, who loves me and knows all the ways I’m pocked with selfishness and sin. I don’t have to accumulate an impeccable Mom C.V., dazzling you (or God) with the heroic feats of my motherhood. (Oh, the cookies I’ve baked!) I am not mom enough – and won’t be, even in spite of the herculean efforts to make you and myself believe I am.
What will have to be enough today is this: a real commitment to love, which is the sticking with it, with them, and with the senselessness that is me and my failed intentions. What will have to be enough is finding and drinking from a reservoir of strength in the great Someone Else, whose time and energy and wisdom and mercy are always – ENOUGH.