A look at the pressure mom’s face in the role’s they juggle and expectations they face.
TIME magazine recently released a provocative cover featuring twenty-six year-old Jamie Lynee Grumet breastfeeding her nearly four year-old son Aram. The picture raised eyebrows and generated debate over “attachment parenting” a controversial approach to raising children. The article discusses ideas presented by Dr. William Sears in his book, “The Baby Book” that emphasizes the importance of the parent-child bond and suggests that parents follow the cues of the infant/child to determine when to wean the child off certain dependency behaviors such as breastfeeding or sleeping with parents.
In my view, TIME’s primary motive was not to raise debate on radical parenting approaches, so much as it was to bolster sales among its anemic readership. Be that as it may, the strategy did stir up discussion about parenting and the expectations placed primarily on moms to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. According to Dr. Sears, a mother must be prepared to realign her priorities in order to be on call 24/7, giving full attention to the attachment needs of her children. Women who work and raise children may feel guilty, if not worried that some how their partial absence is damaging their children’s development.
Juggling Act for Moms
My purpose in this article is not to discuss parenting strategies. I’ll leave this topic for another issue of the newsletter. Instead, I would like to address the enormous challenge mothers face today juggling the various roles they assume on a daily basis. The pressures on moms today is much greater than in my generation when most women stayed at home to raise children while their male counterparts went off to work to provide for the family. June Cleaver of the “Leave It To Beaver” TV show portrayed the role of the ideal mom, home all day cooking, cleaning, and ironing clothes perfectly attired in a dress with pearls. She made the role look so easy.
Today, many women juggle the responsibilities of managing a home, children, a spouse and work simultaneously! Early on they start off in a career and may have to step out of it when a baby arrives. In some cases, the bonding time is compromised by the demands of the job and the potential loss of employment once maternity leave lapses.
Moms are in a no-win situation
I think women are in a “no-win” situation. If they stay at home they are criticized for giving up their careers. If they work they are criticized for delegating their parental responsibility. Women are often made to feel guilty no matter what their choice is: stay-at-home mom, or working mom. Everyone has an opinion on what they should be doing.
For those who choose to stay home, the adjustment from a career identity to mother can be difficult on many levels. Yet, the expectations on a woman to perform well in all these roles doesn’t change. It can be daunting, if not overwhelming for women to meet the needs of children, spouse, employer, not to mention school, church, and other groups or activities in which their kids participate.
Among my female clients, I often hear working moms express mixed feelings of guilt and fulfillment about their dual roles. Some work out of necessity, while others chose early on to have a career and be a parent. Those who choose not to work during child-bearing/rearing years privately express feeling empty or isolated after giving up their careers. While they love being a mom there is a part of them that feels disconnected from their career identity. Moms confess feeling alone even though they are so busy engaging others. They feel sapped of their strength, with little or no energy left to do anything for themselves.
Exhausted from another days work, they collapse in bed hoping to fall asleep without worrying about what tomorrow brings.
Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. This is a common cry among many mothers, those who have careers and those who stay at home. Yet, being a mother is intended to be a deeply meaningful and rewarding role, not fraught with guilt and anxiety.
Some food for thought
You own the right to choose your path
If you want to be a career mom or stay-at-home mom, it is your prerogative.
Success as a parent is not based on what others say about the choice you make
You may choose to have a career and parent simultaneously. Or, you may decide to stay home and raise your children. Because you own the right to the decision other people’s opinions are just opinions.
Being “mom enough” means being happy with yourself
Doing what makes you happy, filling your emotional tank, will help keep your mind and attitude in a positive frame. If you are happy with yourself you will be a happy mom for your children. Happiness is infectious! Spread your happy germs all over your kids. Check for symptoms of a happy smile, great attitude, and more cooperation.
Filling your emotional tank will keep guilt and worry from tanking you
Develop a routine of doing personal things to fill your emotional tank. At least one thing you can do every day. It might be as simple as relaxing with a cup of coffee on the couch. Having a full emotional tank will keep guilt and anxiety from ruling your thoughts.
Avoid taking on more than you can handle
Moms are notorious for taking on too much. On the surface it may seem that it is because a lot gets dumped on you. Yet, on a deeper level, it may be because of some mistake beliefs you have tied to your self-worth. For example, the issue of responsibility. If you have placed unreasonably high expectations on yourself, you may find it difficult to say “no” to requests for support.
Your fear of being viewed negatively may lead you to take on something you did not need to do. A negative thought can be as subtle as, “If I don’t join the support team then they will say something negative about me.”
An alternative response could be, “I am unable to join the group at this time due to the number of responsibilities I currently have to before me.”
Do not overload your kids either
Being “mom enough” does not equate with how many activities your kids participate in weekly. Pare back the amount of activities you schedule for your children. Enjoy time being a family at home vs. being stressed as a family on the run. Read my article: Family on the Run or Family Having Fun
“Are You Mom Enough?” is a question only you can answer for yourself. Avoid allowing others to set the bar for you. While ideas, feedback, and coaching are all important, you are the best judge to know what is “enough” for your family. Once you have this figured out, then be a mom within your parameters. You will feel much better about yourself.