Saturday, May 2, 2009

my neurosis is better than your neurosis

The other day, when I took Charlotte to the preschool screening, I overheard a rather interesting conversation in which a mother detailed her house hunt.  She told her friend about a house in a neighborhood with a nice little park a block away.  Then she said, "But let's be honest.  I would never let my kids go to the park alone until they were like 16.  I am just not THAT kind of mom."  The conversation continued for about 15 more minutes during which she repeated several times, "I'm just not THAT type of mom.  I am not a relaxed type of mom."

The weird part of this exchange was how proudly she made this statement, as if it were a major accomplishment being a seriously overprotective mother.  (And please, keep in mind we live in a pretty safe little town.) On top of that, she implied that THOSE types of moms, you know, the ones who actually ~gasp~ let their kid walk around the block, are somehow inferior to her.

Fast forward to today when I dropped a meal at a friend's house.  She just had a baby a week ago and told me how she was going to have to take her newborn to Wal-mart this week for grocery shopping.  I asked her why she couldn't leave the baby with her husband.  She responded with, "Patty, I can't LEAVE the baby.  I just can't do that."  Apparently, she thinks it is wiser to expose her newborn to the scary flu germs than to leave him with his father.  While I disagree with her logic, that was not what mystified me.  Like the mother at the preschool screening, J was totally smug and condescending.  Her tone implied that I was either incredibly stupid for assuming she would leave her son for an hour (with his father, for pete's sake!) or I am a totally negligent mother, since I regularly place my children's lives in the hands of their father.

I am not a stranger to women who are competitive, especially when it comes to motherhood.  We all know that mother who looks down on us because she thinks her mothering skills are far superior to ours.  But when did it become en vogue to believe the most neurotic mother is the best?  I am not judging people who are neurotic.  Please.  I definitely have my fair share of neuroses, but I have never looked on them as a badge of honor proving me to be a stellar mother.  I have always been a bit sheepish and embarrassed when my neuroses have been revealed.  I hoped they made me quirky and charming, but I never thought they demonstrated my superiority as a mother.

If you are going to judge me, base it on something important.  Look down on me because I let my kids eat way too much sugar, or because I yell at them regularly.  Judge me for my impatience or my grouty shower.   That would all make sense. But to assume you are a better mother because your kids are going to need years and years of therapy because you won't let them go to the park?  Just doesn't make any sense at all.

11 comments:

Amy Jane said...

As always, my friend, very well said! I can't believe your friend won't even leave the baby with its Dad for one hour! That's mighty freakish. And rather sad, to boot.

a Tonggu Momma said...

This is the sound of me giving you a standing ovation. Just so you know.

Denise said...

Well said, as usual, my friend. Of course, I was thinking this BEFORE I read Amy Jane's comment. So...just know I would NEVER judge you because you, of all people, KNOW my mothering weaknesses!

See you soon....and don't tell anyone I let my kids walk around the block, down to the park at the church, AND HOME ALONE for an hour or so.

It's bad enough to FEEL like a horrible mother, having others speak so condescendingly about me is a major bummer. We mothers need to stick together....we compare ourselves too much...when really we need only to worry about our families and how we are doing in relation to love and God.

Mrsbear said...

So what's wrong with sugar and shouting? Are you criticizing my parenting? ;) I just recently started letting my kids walk around the block...in a group...with my oldest daughter carrying a cell phone. But in all fairness I've grown up in a big city and the stuff I hear on the news makes my blood run cold, truly. I know people who take their new babies to a crowded restaurant the minute they leave the hospital, and I also know mom's who won't take their baby in public for the first six months of life. I might look at them funny, but that in no way makes me a better or worse mom. We do all have our neuroses, but you're right, I don't walk around broadcasting mine.

Laura said...

As I read this, I have no idea where my four children are.

Laura said...

ok, so that was a joke..they are at the pool...with their father...just don't want social services knocking on my door.

I learned very quickly that no one judges a job more than the job of mother. And no one judges mothers harder, than mothers, themselves. And I can say this, because I have felt the judgement...and I too, have judged.

But in my defense, when I DO judge you..I will do it IN MY HEAD...never out loud to you...I am not that TYPE of mom!!!!

thanks for the great post....

HeatherPride said...

Well I must be the worst mother. When I was on maternity leave I'd sit at home cooking up any excuse in the book to ditch the kid(s) with dear old Dad the second his car hit the driveway! Heh. It kept me sane. AND it forced my husband to take the reins now and then. We ALL know those dads whose wives are control freaks and the second dad is forced into a situation where he has to take the wheel? He can't even locate the Cheerios. For the love...

goodfountain said...

I'm fairly neurotic but have never thought of it as something to brag about. I thought I was supposed to overcome it, or be ashamed of it.

Hmm, maybe I'll try out this new approach. Broadcast my neuroses in a judgmental way. LOL Just kidding.

Great post, Patty!

Elizabeth Channel said...

I'm with Goodfountain...this is a great thing to blog about!

lonestar said...

well said... it's kind of funny what moms can find to be competitive about.

but I'm one of those crazy moms who is ok with leaving my children in the care of their father, so you may not want to listen to me :).

MOM-NOS said...

too funny and oh so true!
love it.