September 14, 2013 in Washington Voices

Parenting is unique, not competitive

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Once, when speaking to a roomful of moms, I admitted I didn’t scrapbook.

“When I remember to take pictures they usually stay on my camera for months. If I order prints I frame a couple and put the rest in a box,” I told the women, pausing when I noticed a few horrified stares.

“But I enjoy looking at other mother’s scrapbooks,” I continued. “Some of them are works of art and love.”

After my talk one of the moms came up to chastise me for my no scrapbooking stance and evangelize me to her favorite hobby.

“You really should scrapbook their childhoods,” she said, adding. “They’ll want those scrapbooks someday.”

I laughed and explained my reasoning. “I’m not crafty or artistic. I don’t enjoy gluing, cropping, stamping or stickering. There’re a million things I’d rather be doing.”

Time is precious, I should have added. Why waste it on a hobby I don’t enjoy?

She shook her head and implored me, for the sake of my children and their memories, to reconsider. With disappointed disdain she made it clear that in her eyes I was failing one of my motherly duties.

I don’t see it that way. I don’t think motherhood is a one-size-fits-all T-shirt.

Not only is each child unique, each mother is. And each day we make countless decisions for our families. The complex combination of personalities and history means that even if a mother makes a parental decision that turns out well, that same choice might be completely wrong on a different day or for a different child.

It’s a crapshoot, where most of our decisions are estimated guesses rooted in love, fueled by personal experience and immersed in hope. At the same time they’re limited by time and resources.

Most moms understand this. They trade parenting stories with sympathy while catching up in school parking lots and grocery stores or on the sidelines and bleachers. They commiserate, encourage and offer a different perspective without expectations.

But a few moms have turned parenting into an I’m-better-than-you competitive sport with penalty calls more plentiful than a football game.

You see, my mom-to-mom scrapbooking conversation wasn’t an isolated incident of you-should shaming that goes beyond the old mommy-war hot buttons like education and discipline.

As a mom, I’ve been taken to task for how I spend my time and money as well as what my family wears, eats and does in our free time.

Apparently, we’re all supposed to be scrapbooking, blogging, cookie baking, art class taking moms who go to Zumba, yoga and the gym before work, volunteering and staying home with the kids. Or after driving carpool to piano, karate and soccer. Or in between cleaning, ironing and making meals from scratch served by candlelight on the wedding china.

The list goes on and on.

I admit it. I’m no Supermom. Other mothers may sport superhero spandex under their blouses but if I had such an outfit it would probably be in the laundry with a stubborn spaghetti stain and a stretched-out neck.

For the record, I sometimes feed my children cereal for dinner. If I bake cookies there’s a 9 in 10 chance they’ll burn. I skim, rather than read, all the forms and emails sent from school. I rarely help with homework. I yell. I’m sometimes late to carpool and I don’t scrapbook. I will never scrapbook.

I’m also deliberately doing the best I can. Aren’t we all?

Parenting is a passionate endeavor with high stakes. We want to help our kids become happy, productive members of society who move out and maybe give us grandchildren.

That’s why I sort of understand how these Supermoms give candy-coated advice like a Pez dispenser. I’ve probably done it myself without meaning to.

Our task, which never quite ends, is filled with uncertainties, inadequacies and mistakes. So, when we find joy or success we want to pass it on. We want other parents to share our victories while sparing them our pain.

But that’s like asking someone to wear our body-hugging, tailor-made, custom-fit T-shirt when they have their own one-of-a-kind outfit to wear. That’s like asking me to scrapbook.

Contact correspondent Jill Barville by email at jbarville@msn.com.


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