Taking Mom out of the Spotlight

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by Angela Hedges

Another day begins with the predictable sounds of motherhood. The screaming. The tears. The lectures. The tantrums. The thud of a parenting book being thrown against the wall. All those vows to be a calm, firm mom fade against the reality of mushy cereal stomped into the carpet and permanent marker scrawled all over furniture. On days like this – and there are so many – I wonder why I thought being a stay-at-home mom was a good idea. If my life were a movie, people would be walking out the theater by now. And then there are grandmas at the grocery store who smile and tell me what wonderful, well behaved kids I have. Friends compliment me on my cool and collected parenting. Even my mom, who never holds back with her criticisms, tells me I’m a good mother. Are they blind? I’m clearly a mess. Or maybe I’m just like every other mother: Way to hard on myself.

There’s a quote making the Facebook rounds that recently stopped me in my self-pitying tracks: “One of the reasons we struggle with insecurity is because we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else’s highlight reel.” We do that all the time, don’t we? Our daily breakdowns are held up against our cousin’s perfect family portrait. No wonder beat ourselves up about our parenting.

I’m reminded of a German friend from my mommy group, a neat and precise woman who always seems calm, with sweet kids who never make trouble. I pictured her joyful evenings at home, dinner on the table at six every night and the whole family chatting together happily. So different from me, a hot-blooded woman who screams across the house for everyone to get their butts in here and eat already. I was shocked when this friend asked me for advice because she was constantly yelling at her kids. It turns out her home life was a whole lot like mine. I made up an ideal little fantasy for her and compared myself to it. What a relief to learn that no one has it easy.

Motherhood is hard enough without holding ourselves up to a false idea of perfection. As modern moms we face so much pressure, mostly from ourselves. In the past mothers had a small circle of family and neighbors. They certainly have compared themselves, but amount of information was small because their world was small. Today we are constantly connected to data about how our behavior will impact our children’s development. The food we give them, the words we choose, the toys they play with, the shots they get and so much more all impact how they will grow and learn. Our every move seems loaded with great importance, and this modern village is vast and unknown. Every action seems like a misstep. So we read more and worry more and notice all the ways in which we are doing it wrong. The thing is, we’re the only ones who notice.

Turning off that spotlight on ourselves isn’t easy. It helps to remember that for every heartwarming movie moment there is a blooper reel. Moms of generations past made all sorts of mistakes and their children usually turned out fine. We can’t raise perfect kids. They’ll have to go out and make their own way in the world. My kids are going to have great stories about their crazy screaming mama. I don’t think they’ll care about late dinners or unfolded laundry. So why should I?

Angela Hedges put aside a successful career in social media to pursue her passions: family and writing. Since earning her Communications/Journalism degree from Santa Clara University, she has found the written word to be central in both professional and personal expression. As a mother she is inspired to explore the struggles and joys found in the ever-changing landscape of modern parenting. Her blog With Fail chronicles her journey as a writer. Angela is currently working on novel based on the remarkable life of her grandmother.