There was never any question that once Gus was born, I would be a stay at home mom. It didn’t seem right to give my child to someone else to care for while I went and spent my days with other people’s children. I was able to find an online teaching gig which allowed me to be able to be at home with Gus without having to become a one income family. Granted, it made my life more difficult as I had to work and be a full time mom, but it was how I wanted it.
It didn’t take me long to figure out I could not stay in the house with Gus all day long. I was just not cut out for it. For decades my life had consisted of constant activity and being busy. Even when I’m at my house, I don’t sit still. I am the kind of person who always has to be doing something. A small space filled with me and my son for hours on end for days was a type of isolation I hadn’t expected and certainly wasn’t prepared for.
I had to have other mothers around me. I don’t know how previous generations did it. I don’t remember my mom having any other mom friends that she hung out with in the neighborhood. It was just her and she seemed completely content with it. Maybe it’s another thing that separates our generation from previous generations. All I know is that there is no way I could survive my life without other mothers in it.
I know there are mothers out there who spend a significant amount of time at their house and stay pretty isolated from others. They seem happy enough living that way, but I just can’t do it. I love hanging out and spending time with Gus, but I also love hanging out and spending time with grown-ups. I like to have adult conversations. I like to hang out with people who don’t start to cry if I tell them they can’t do something. I like to spend time with others who actually stop doing what they are doing when I tell them no. In addition, it is comforting and nice to know I am not the only mom out there. It gets lonely and I need social support. Some people can be a mom on their own, but I just can’t.
Hanging out with other moms is similar to going to an AA meeting. One of the main reasons people attend AA meetings is simply for the social support. There is something strangely comforting about hearing other people tell their own horror stories that makes you feel better about your own. Recovering alcoholics’ eyes light up when other alcoholics share their stories about the terrible things they did while they were drinking. I have seen the same light sparkle in mothers’ eyes when another mom shares something terrible she’s said, thought, or done. You find yourself relaxing a bit and realizing you are not the only one making mistakes and feeling like a failure.
Yet, I am continually disturbed at the amount of competition that exists among mothers. So many times I feel as if I have been thrust back into high school. The competition this time around is centered on trying to prove you are a great mother, you are the best wife, you love your life the most, and you are the happiest. In addition to the mother component, you must prove your kid is the smartest, the happiest, the most well behaved, and most well adjusted. The competition is unbelievable. And so unnecessary. And unbearable at times.
I have found myself getting sucked into it, but for the most part, I am in the crowd but opt out of the competition. I conceded the title of being the best mother a long time ago. Gus may be extremely bright but no one would ever mistake him for the best behaved. And I’m pretty sure no one is nominating me for the greatest mom on the planet. And the best wife? Not even close.
I wonder what happens when you win the titles… Is there an annual banquet each year that I don’t know about? Who’s responsible for the nominations? Anyone know?