Perfection, Martyrs & Mothers: What Does It Mean for the Kiddos?

Perfect Mom?

Lately, I’ve marveled over the attention motherhood is receiving in the mainstream media.  Was it first the shock of the Tiger Mom? Then the tome on french parenting perfection? Then came the Vogue shocker about putting 7-year-olds on a diet, then came Hilary Rosen’s gaffe reigniting the “mommy wars?”
It seems every Sunday, in particular, I eagerly open my New York Times (yes, I read the PAPER version of it and delight in every minute of it) and much of the Sunday Style section is devoted to parenting articles. Really, they are about motherhood, but I simply can’t stand the word “mothering” and “parenting” fits the tense better. Seriously  – does anyone actually use the word “mothering?”
“I had such a difficult day mothering today”
Then today, the NYT rolled out Room for Debate “Motherhood vs. Feminism” in their opinion section. I almost fell off my chair. Here’s the slogan of this new section: Has women’s obsession with being the perfect mother destroyed feminism?
Then I rolled my eyes.
Not just once.
And then wait, again. See, I can do this because I minored in Women’s Studies.
Then I wondered this: are they getting desperate for web site traffic over there at the NYT?
So let’s break it down: are YOU obsessed with being the perfect mother? Or are you just trying to get through the day, keep the peace, pay the bills, make sure the dirty laundry isn’t taking over your house and raise good human beings who follow the law (I, apparently, am failing in that department because my 3-year-old might officially be a petty thief).
I was, on the whole, pretty disappointed that what this new page is really about is attachment parenting versus what – non-attachment parenting? What is the opposite of attachment parenting called “Those of us who sleep without our children so we can actually sleep or have sex on the off-chance we want too?”
Or are we considered people who aren’t attached to  our kids if we don’t practice attachment parenting? Am I a non-attached parent?
And why is the NYT opinion page dedicating an entire section to discussing whether this form of parenting reinforces or undermines women? Isn’t that the real question?
Oh wait – my other real question was this – who the hell is really obsessed with becoming a perfect mother?? What does that mean? Does that mean you only exclusively breastfeed for a year? And your baby sleeps next to you or you run to him the second he cries because god forbid he ever experience sadness and you use only cloth diapers and you make only his or her organic food?
Is that what it means?
Does the husband help in this process? Cause isn’t he part of the equation too? Or is that where the question about feminism is meant to come in?
But then I have more questions – if by doing all of these things, it tells the world and your child that you are the perfect parent – then what is it that you expect from the child? Mothers who spend their days trying to be perfect – do they also expect perfection from the children?
Because if you are expecting and striving for perfection in your own self, are you willing to accept what you view as anything BUT perfection from your children?? This is what I wonder when I read all about these women who so desperately are striving for mothering perfection. Actually, what I really wonder is – do all these women actually exist? Personally, I just don’t know women who are striving for perfection. I know women who laugh at bad days, joke about parenting failures and also give their kids formula. For what it’s worth,  I actually couldn’t care less if you breastfed your kid for an entire year and am yawning if you’re telling anyone about it. I also couldn’t care less if you hated nursing and gave your kid formula from the second he was born. I don’t think what you do with your boob has anything to do with how good of a mother you are or aren’t.
So I suppose I really am curious to know: does this quest for parenting perfection exist beyond the mind of the media to generate web site traffic? And if these women do, in fact, exist – do they allow for imperfections in their children? Can you tolerate imperfection in others if you seek it so intensely for yourself?
Please – speak up – I am genuinely very very curious!!!  I honestly read this stuff and think the media makes it all up.
Here’s what I’m shooting for chez moi:

That's about right. Photo Credit: Someecards

Weigh in on the Wired Momma Facebook page if you don’t want to weigh in here. Are American mothers really obsessed with perfection?
3 Responses to Perfection, Martyrs & Mothers: What Does It Mean for the Kiddos?
  1. Sam
    May 1, 2012 | 7:34 pm

    I LOVE reading about kooky new ways people come up with in their parenting. When I see a 7 year old with a pacifier or a 6 year old breastfeeding (really, only read about this) then I am delighted. I think people who come up with new restrictive styles that they feel are they only “healthy” way to parent are amazingly entertaining and I am quick to judge, jury and scoff. Really, if you can’t judge someone elses’ parenting what’s the point? I’m not Ghandi or Mother Teresa for christsakes! The media and then NYTimes regurgitates this stuff for the same reason I do, and you do Wired Momma, it’s fun and entertainment. I don’t think there is a deeper answer than that and the idea of perfection is simply trying to attach some deeper meaning but really it’s the same vein as reality tv.

  2. Valerie
    May 2, 2012 | 7:39 pm

    I figured I was doing great when neither child turned out to be serial killer or psychopath.

  3. suburbancorrespondent
    May 7, 2012 | 12:28 am

    I think we mothers fare best when we spend our time supporting each others’ choices and not judging them. Take it from me, after 2 decades of parenting, there is no one right way. The right way for you is what makes you happy and doesn’t make you want to kill your own children. It’s that simple.

    And would that we actually had that much influence on how our kids turn out! People who think they do wield that influence are just kidding themselves.

    Enjoyed your piece at LTYM today!

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