Who Wants to be a Super Mom?
There is a Jewish expression that says: “God could not be there all of the time; therefore he created mothers.” Oy. I blame the Talmudic scholars for creating the original Super Mom and all of the meshugas that goes along with it.
Today’s moms have it easier than our own moms in so many ways. Yet moms today seem so much more overwhelmed. Whatever decision we make we’re often left feeling guilty or conflicted. With a smorgasborg of choices available to us, motherhood has become much more complicated. Our mothers had fewer options, lower expectations and often a simpler life. For the most part, they had children in their 20s and then moved into their careers, or didn’t. They did things serially; we do them simultaneously with cell phones ringing, and the blue light of the BlackBerry beckoning. Technology has created a 24/7 work week with longer hours and no boundaries. No wonder why it just feels harder than it used to. It is.
My friend Angela, coincidentally a rabbi, told me that was struggling with how to balance her nutty schedule and care for her two small boys. She said that she felt like a failure because she clearly couldn’t juggle it all as effortlessly as her own mom had done. Angela’s mom apparently not only raised three children but taught English, founded the Korean women’s association, the Korean library and a Korean school in Seattle. She did all of that AND managed to be home by 5:30 pm and cook massive six-course Korean dinners each night. Angela could barely get the chicken nuggets in the toaster on time.
Most of us don’t want to become our mothers, but we can’t escape their influence. We see ourselves through the prism of our own mother’s experiences and it sweeps into every corner of our lives from career and family to a sense of self worth and identity.
On every birthday since I can remember, my mother has recited the dramatic story of my birth. As the story goes, after giving herself a pedicure, my mom got to the hospital just in the knick of time to deliver me. As they rushed her down the corridor to the operating room (in the days before plush delivery rooms), she called out to my dad who was unwrapping a cigar and settling in to watch a basketball game and announced, “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to have a baby!” But after she delivered me in the pioneering style of natural childbirth sans epidural, she changed her mind. She swears I was the most beautiful baby in the world and it was love at first sight.
But soon after arriving, I stopped breathing. Obviously, I survived and they let my mom take me home from the hospital but warned that if I cried I could suffocate to death. My dramatic birth tale is always punctuated by my 22-year-old mother leaving the hospital wearing her Hot Pants (it was 1971). Apparently, her waistline had contracted to its pre-pregnancy size in a matter of days.
So my mom’s life’s work for the nine months until I healed was making sure that I didn’t cry. She held me and rocked me and didn’t leave my side. Wow…that mother-daughter love story is hard stuff with which to compete.