Thursday, January 16, 2014

Parenthood: My Humble Opinion

Every month or so, I see a popular new blog post or article about motherhood that is shared all over social media. The articles usually have a clever title that evokes emotion and perhaps some mommy-war type self-doubt. If I choose to click open any such article (wincing, with one eye open), I immediately wonder what it will tell me about how inadequate I am in my role as master-ess of my children's universe.

To be honest, I usually don't click into those articles, choosing instead to believe that I'm doing OK no matter what someone who doesn't know me thinks about my family's situation. (Effort must count for something, right?) But, sometimes, I get sucked in. 

A few months ago, I got sucked into reading a blog by a writer-dad who I had never heard of (Matt Walsh). Cue the provocative title -- "You're a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?" -- and cue the responses from "working moms" and "stay at home moms" all over the country, both in support of, and viscerally angry about what Mr. Walsh had to say. 

I remember sitting in the waiting room before my last infusion and talking about this blog with my mom and Brian. I hadn't had much of a reaction one way or another to the article, although I had been fascinated by all of the emotion it evoked in so many people around me. Personally, I thought most of it was a bit dramatic ("Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives."). True, but Yikes.

I agreed with other parts ("It’s true — being a mom isn’t a 'job.' A job is something you do for part of the day and then stop doing."). And I disagreed with yet other parts, or at least, with what seemed to be implied by them ("The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period."). If this last point implies that time spent by mothers at jobs outside of the home is time spent not raising kids, I think it's a bit ridiculous. Like Mr. Walsh said in that second point, being a mother or a father doesn't turn off when you walk into work in the morning (or the night) and the effort Brian and I put into making sure our kids are safe and happy while we're away from them is most certainly time spent raising them. Plus, we've got such good people watching them that I hate to upset Mr. Walsh's little apple cart, but my kids really may be better off when I'm at work. Oops...there I go...getting sucked in again. 

Anyways, I didn't sit down tonight to talk mommy wars. I sat down tonight to write about a realization regarding parenthood that I have arrived at recently, as I continue to work outside the home (gasp), and as Brian and I continue to contemplate adoption.

I think that I, like many men and women, had an innate instinct to want to have biological children. Brian and I were blessed when a baby boy and then a baby girl came to us relatively easily and, thank goodness, wonderfully healthy. 

Even though I've been open in my writing about our cancer-related fertility issues, I've only recently started to talk more openly about it with friends and family. A group of very reasonable and wonderful people in that group have said things to me like, "You already have a boy and a girl. Why complicate things with another child?" I don't fault them for saying things like that. I know that what we already have is a perfect fit. Two kids is totally logical for our three-bedroom house and our non-minivan cars. We're so close to being rid of diapers and sippy cups and being able to leave the house without a huge production. Sometimes I think that I shouldn't want more and that when I do, I'm being greedy and pushing my luck. But I can't help it. I know there's more.  

I’ve found that exploring adoption has forced me to think about what it means to be a parent more than choosing to have my own biological children ever did. In so many different situations, the potential of becoming an adoptive parent has lead me to think about parenthood--what I like about it, love about it, and what I find so difficult about it. 

For instance, last weekend I stood at a small hockey rink watching a bunch of five, six, and seven year olds skate around in something that now actually resembles a game. The mother of the goalie on the other team was standing nearby. The one set of bleachers in the small (repeat, small) rink is so close to the glass that you can lean over it if you so choose. This lady so chose. For the entire game, she stood over that glass, her beat red face literally in the rink, screaming intensely, and even angrily, at her son who seemed to prefer to lie down in net rather than stand up. (Yes, I admit that I considered slipping the woman some of my Effexor.) 

Thank goodness, this woman is an anomaly, but she helped me think about what hockey means to me, even considering that my husband kind of, um, loves it. Hockey is something that I hope brings my kids joy and fulfillment, life lessons and friends. I don't care if Teddy (or Annabel, if she's interested) is good at the sport. OK, I admit, I'll care if they care but I don't care for myself. I honestly just want them to be happy. 

Teddy's game last weekend was surprisingly exciting. It went back and forth and Teddy's team ended up losing in the last few minutes by a score of 8-7. After the game, Hockey Mom looked like her son had just won Olympic gold. On the other hand, when Teddy skated off, he was clearly disappointed. I patted his helmet and congratulated him -- "Hey buddy! What an awesome game! So much fun to watch! You guys did great going back and forth and hanging in there." Teddy looked surprised that I was excited and happy. He told me they lost, figuring by my reaction that I must not have known. I told him I knew and repeated that it was so fun to watch such a great game. Teddy didn't say anything else to me about it but I could tell, my reaction changed him. It allowed him to feel proud. 

I know that I often lack control over my almost-six-year-old (he often ignores my requests or just flat out defies me). But still, I know that I do have a special power over him -- the power to make them feel proud when instinctually, he feels like he just lost the gold. That's one example of what I love about being a parent. 

That day last October when Brian and I were sitting in the waiting room talking about the Matt Walsh blog and the arguments it raised, my mother interjected. She said that being a good parent has nothing to do with whether you work or don't work. "You can stay at home and be a bad parent just like you can work and be a bad parent," she explained, before she reminded us once again how bored she would have been at home with us as babies. I couldn't agree more, and assuming my siblings and I turned out OK (yes, a big assumption), I don't worry about admitting that. 

In the end, I know my mom is right. To me, mommy wars about whether women should or should not have careers are as useless as Hockey Mom's angry cheers for her son as he lay on the ice enjoying, or perhaps just plain bored of the game. 

Being a good parent isn't about careers or hockey wins or even logic. To me, being a good parent is really just about whether we have a whole lot of love to give to another human being. I don't know if or when or how Brian and I will become parents to our next child or children. But I do know that despite the overwhelming love I feel for my kids now, I've got a lot more love to give. And in my humble opinion, that's what I think is most fundamental about parenthood. 

1 comment:

  1. Tara, I love your observations. That blog by Matt Walsh got over 12,000 comments! It is such a hot issue among women, whether or not to work. But one thing I love is a completely polarizing blog post that pinpoints a controversy. Here is another one in a parallel universe that you've got to read: It brought this woman a lot of grief!! (And in my opinion, it should have) However, she voiced what I think are the real feelings of some women out there over what you might call the "body wars" instead of the "mommy wars". This wasn't so much about bodies, though, as it ended up being about race. Here is a rebuttal that seemed to nail it (and was so angry that it made me chuckle here and there): (end was cut off) No matter what the issue, we women do not seem to help each other out, we seem to be "mean girls" all grown up. But Tara - we are way overdue for a lunch! Let's plan it...xoxo Jen