Sometimes I Miss Hearing “Mom” Everywhere I Go

Have you heard  – there’s a lot of pressure and competition among Moms these days. Apparently, way more than there ever has been before.

According to Heather Havrilesky, who wrote about Our “Mommy” Problem in the New York Times:

Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children, a role you play at home and at school, or even a hallowed institution. Motherhood has been elevated — or perhaps demoted — to the realm of lifestyle, an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s life.

I understand that Pinterest and all of its crafting projects, homemade baby food recipes and from scratch gluten-free meals may be off-putting. Pictures on Facebook of the genius Halloween costumes made by hand, the Elf on the Shelf insanity that grips the nation during the Christmas season (I am so GLAD I missed that) and the constant avalanche of information probably don’t make motherhood any easier for parents of young kids nowadays ( how old do I sound???). Nope, I wouldn’t want to be dealing with all of that, and I sympathize.

But you know what? It was hard when my kids were little too, pre-internet. And, despite the fact that the author’s mother apparently spent her time chain-smoking and eating cherry pie, I would bet her mother felt some pressure also.

Motherhood is hard.

So why make it worse by bristling at being referred to as “Mom,” as Ms. Havrilesky does? Why get defensive about the fact that, while amongst other moms (and a few grandparents and dads), the soccer coach refers to you as “Moms”? Why be bothered that the doctor calls you “Mom” when you bring your children to see him? This is what Ms. Havrilesky has to say:

The Mommy bow chafes because it’s at once cloying and rife with contradictions. On TV and in movies and in modern fiction, mothers are frequently portrayed as protective yet focused on the trivial, wise yet neurotic, sexy yet sexless, monumentally important but deeply silly.

Really? I don’t know. It seems to me that being known as someone’s Mom/Mommy/Mama is an honor, not an annoyance. “Don’t call me Mommy unless I’m YOUR Mommy,” is the battle cry of young mothers everywhere. Don’t demean me by referring to me as my children do, mothers shout. Don’t insult me by not calling me by my name, they plead. Don’t belittle me by forgetting that I AM A PERSON, not simply a Mommy, young mothers yell. This is what so many mothers, including the author, are upset about these days.

Motherhood isn’t easy. And in many ways, if you’re doing it right, you are giving up a lot of yourself. You have to, in order to give enough to your children. That’s just how it is. Your children can’t appreciate it when they’re small because it’s simply what they know. Being selfless and immersed in motherhood is a privilege, not a problem. If being referred to as “So-and-so’s Mom” is a downside, it’s not really that big of a deal, is it? There are lots of worse things that can happen to a mother than being known as…a mother.

There’s no rule that says these mommies have to be the committee chair, room mom, field trip chaperone or anything else. They may not realize it when their kids are little, but eventually, as they get older, and their worlds get larger, they’ll understand that they can lighten up. And they’ll start to miss those days when their kids were little and their lives were filled so completely with motherhood – maybe not all the time, but sometimes they will.

There were crazy moms when my kids were little, back in the dark ages of the 1990s. We may not have had Pinterest and Facebook, but we had friends and family, teachers and coaches and neighbors, TV shows, magazines, books and movies, all pointing out what a crappy job we were doing with our kids – if we chose to look at it that way.

Some days, I was such a miserable and horrible mother that I knew I was raising children headed for prison or bound to be unemployed social outcasts.

Some days, it seemed as if every single parent in the world was doing a better job and my kids were just going to have to muddle through life because I:

  • didn’t make dinner
  • didn’t iron their clothes
  • made them buy lunch
  • never learned to sew
  • yelled too much
  • ignored them
  • spoiled them
  • let them watch too much TV
  • talked on the phone for hours
  • didn’t take them to the park
  • forgot to check their homework
  • fed them junk food
  • let them skip their bath

I just basically blew the motherhood thing…some days.

In spite of it all, my kids are pretty great adults, even with my millions of mistakes, big and small. There are some days when I would give anything to have someone refer to me as “Mom” again – on a soccer field, in a classroom, at the pediatrician’s office, at the grocery store. I miss those two little people by my side, bickering or laughing or even whining, asking for more, better, extra, just one, just one more, even-steven. Those children were what gave my life meaning and purpose for a long time. Those children were everything.

There are some days when I miss being in the world as “Mom” to my young kids more than I ever thought I would.

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  • Blew this motherhood thing…think not with your two wonderful children. Your message that we need to go easier on ourselves is a wise one!

  • Oh, p=l=e=a=s=e! That whole mommy thing is so ridiculous. It’s a gift and a blessing to be a mom. I am SO glad I was a mom with a young son in the 1990’s as well.

    We did a great job with our kids (patting ourselves on our back about now, Sharon!) and as young adults they are conquering their worlds. As Frank said, we did it our way!

  • It’s not just this…it’s so many things. It’s like so many people are just WAITING to get offended by something.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older…but I don’t care either way.

  • I was infertile for several years. Getting pregnant and being a mom to my 4 children is one of the greatest joys of my life. I feel the happiest even now when they are around. I say, “Never take life’s blessing for granted”. Nods my head at all you had to say!

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Thanks Shelley. I agree, even when I was the most frustrated or bored, I never once wished my life was any different!

  • I too believe it’s a privilege to be a mom. Call me mom, mommy, mutte. I wear it proudly just as my mom is proud to be called grandma by even her sons-in-law (who never figured out what to call her until they had kids- another story!). I’m still me – but a big part of ME became all my children taught me to be. And I agree with Michelle – maybe it’s just getting older… and realizing what matters and what does not.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Definitely getting older and becoming more comfortable with “mommyhood” helps to relax us all a bit.

  • Your response to this article was much more coherent and even-toned than the one I wanted to write. I felt the EXACT pressure Havrilesky feels now. It was such a wrought time for me and I could hear my own voice in her’s: “I’m not just MOMMY!! I have a name, please use my name.”

    It kind of cracks me up this new generation of mothers fight the same battles we’ve fought since the 1980’s or maybe before. Attachment parenting, detachment parenting, shared bed, bottle, breast, disposables, cloth, stay-at-home, work outside the home, Waldorf, Montessori,..on and on and on.

    Ms. Havrilesky, sorry to disappoint but The Baby Boom Mommies and Gen X Mommies did this before and we made hash out of it, too with overthinking.

    I’ll never forget what one of my mommy friend’s mother’s said to us twenty-four years ago: “You girls are just professional Mother’s aren’t you? In my day we just took care of the children the best we could.”

    • Sharon Greenthal

      So true, we have all been under mommy pressure for generations. The only difference now is it’s so visible on social media.

  • The whole Mommy thing is often more about the Mothers and less about the kids. It is the competition Mommy race! The bottom line is time, when the kids are grown and are self sufficient adults or not!

  • Wow if that’s not about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! I have friends who would love to be called mom, mommy, momma or all of the above. Sounds like some people need to get their priorities straight and be very thankful for the privilege. Loved the “dark ages” of the 90’s. I’m sure looking back this will definitely be something she’s not proud of writing!

  • I remember feeling like a terrible mother a few times for forgetting to make pack lunches for the kids and sending them to school with a dollar in their pocket instead for the school lunch. Now I look at this Bento Box craze and think. “What the WHAT?” I’m soooo glad I am no longer the mother of small children. But you know what? I love the role of being a mother, and of being referred to as a mother, and I wouldn’t trade it for any special job title in the world!

  • I was a great mom… who sucked at the job each and every day. But I prefer to think I was pretty damn awesome because my kids were okay. Not perfect, but okay. (Who wants perfection anyway?) Everyone needs to lighten up, I think, on themselves and others.

    And to complain about being dubbed MOM? Sheesh. What kind of lunatic is that woman. I wonder how her kids would feel upon reading that, now or later. I’ve not read that post and won’t. Who has time for such negativity?

    This hits it on the head: “It seems to me that being known as someone’s Mom/Mommy/Mama is an honor, not an annoyance.” That writer/blogger should take your words to heart. If nothing else, she needs to realize they’re her greatest blog fodder, right?

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Yes, no one who is writing about their kids – or being a mom – should be complaining about it at all.

  • Well I must have been under a rock because I missed that article. And can safely say I’m not devastated by that fact either. I have had so many friends face infertility, I have a brother whose son died, I lost a baby while pregnant. Children need to be cherished and loved, what is wrong with people. The best reward of all those years is baring witness to the incredible unfolding of their adulthood. I’m with you Sharon, there are days where I miss those little guys by my side too. But boy do I love the grown up ones that still call me mom., and if one of their friends, drys, bosses, whatever think of me as their mom? Well how nice to be thought of at all.

  • Thanks for your commentary. I was so annoyed by this “mommy’ article in the NY Times this past weekend. I feel like the author just wrote it to be controversial and she knew she would get a big reaction from readers. That’s likely why the Times put it on the front page of the Review. Wish they had put Frank Bruni’s piece on turning 50 on the front page – it was so much better and more deserving.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      I agree Judy, his piece was amazing. I get tired of all the controversy about the non-issue of the word “Mommy.”

  • I felt shamed in an early mommy & me class for not making my own pureed baby food. (I was feeding them pre-made organic.) Wasn’t it enough that they were alive, clean, well fed, and happy?

  • Laurie Sotro

    Well said Sharon! My kids are grown and on their own but some of my sweetest memories are of times when their friends would come over, walk in the door, give me a hug and then head straight over to the frig open the door and say “I’m hungry Mama Sotro, what’s cooking”.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      I loved cooking for the kids and their friends when they were growing up – they enjoyed it so much! Thanks for commenting.

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