There is a promo for “The Next Food Star”, a show I have never seen, which regularly interrupts my enjoyment of “House Hunters”. The promo features many quick shots of people frying, wokking, wearing white hats and crying. Then there is a woman who briefly interrupts the action to say: “I am in NO way mediocre!” She seems very emphatic and angry.
I’m going to shuffle out an old chestnut and tell you how Webster defines mediocrity: “Ordinary. Of medium-grade quality. Neither bad nor good.”
I recently read an essay about Dan Savage (I would link to it but the NY Times pay wall is now up) and in it, women are taken to task for idealizing their male partners. Savage doesn’t want women to think of their husbands in a romanticized way: he specifically states that he doesn’t like women bloggers who code-name their husbands after heroes in any Jane Austen book. Right, so I call my husband Darcy. Guilty. However, I MOSTLY think him similar to THE Mr. Darcy because he in no way censors his opinions. You get the truth from him, even if it’s ugly.
So last weekend we were having a rather heated discussion with friends about SAHMs, parenthood and other troublesome topics. The tone was fairly defensive: many parties were deflecting sore spots by attacking others’ choices. Finally Darcy declared:
“Jjiraffe and I are mediocre parents. I have accepted that and moved on.”
I was rather flabbergasted by this statement. ‘Tis true, I am struggling with aged three, daily and nightly. I often think I am failing. But to be declared mediocre? That I was NOT expecting.
I have asked him to explain himself in detail over the last week. He thinks exemplary parents wouldn’t yell ever, would play more games, read to the twins more, be more engaged, be more patient, do more one-on-one activities with both and most damning of all: they would have potty trained their children already.
It is my deepest, most embarrassing secret that I haven’t been able to accomplish this. The twins just don’t CARE. It’s not that they can’t do it: they can. They just don’t want to. And nothing I’ve tried (rewards, M&Ms, the entire Toy Story character kits, special underwear, peer pressure, “naked weekends”, potty dolls, special potties, big special potties) works. Also, I don’t bathe them everyday. Three times a week if I’m really on a roll.
As an infertile, I vowed to never be a bad mother. I would NEVER yell at MY kids in a Target, I would never let them watch TV (ha!), I would never let them eat anything non-organic (double ha!). I have been so worried about not being a bad mother that I never realized that I was in danger of being something else: a mediocre one.
I get why the woman on the “Food Stars” promo was bristling because someone called her mediocre. It’s a loaded word: one that brings images of George Costanza, Michael Bay, Nicolas Sparks and The Olive Garden to the brain.
My mother was an extraordinary mother. I never remember her ever losing her patience with me. She made tasty, well-balanced meals, she took me to the park and library every day, she taught me manners. When I was sick she would drop everything to make my chicken noodle soup, keep me comfortable. She expected a lot, but never made that seem daunting.
I fail to live up to this standard. Every. Day. The twins’ demands, the yelling, the fighting: it frazzles me easily. The pickiness around food, the rejection of all types of dietary matter except five things: it drives me nuts. I shrink into myself, I get on my iPad, I tune out the noise. This doesn’t make me a bad mother, but it doesn’t make me a good one, either.
Justine said something that reverberated with me a week ago: she said there are mothers she looks up to, whom she aspires to be like. I aspire to be like HER: she makes yummy-looking, healthy food for her son, involves him in the process and is generally very thoughtful about being a SAHM. Then there’s Mel, who goes on geo-caching expeditions with her kids and got a really famous businessman to encourage her son’s love of computing. Then there’s Lori, who is extremely open and accepting and delighted about being a mother. And Esperanza, whose joy in her daughter shines on everything she does and thinks. I could go on and on…and there are so many wonderful mothers, whether they have had children who have passed on, or their children are yet to be. There are so many extraordinary mothers in the ALI community.
I need to work on being one, too. I owe that to the ALI community.
Who are mothers you look up to? If you are going through infertility, do you think that when you become a mother you will hold yourself to a higher standard?