Without speaking the delicate framework and beautiful matrix that is community, and ultimately security and mental health, I wanted to note a trend that I find alarming and concerning.
This new thing in which new moms claim to the world that they are doing something for their child that is ultimately a thing they are doing for themselves. That thing in which they reframe every act they make in order to shed any vestiges of selfishness in the act.
You know the drill
“why ME time is actually good for the family”
“I exercise to model the way for my baby!”
“I hike to get my newborn back in nature”
Look I appreciate that a happy mom makes a happier baby which makes a happier baby and perhaps a happier world. Like I said, the world owns a matrix of codependencies.
That being said, what really bugs me about all of this is the implicit and barely hidden notion that mothers should be wholly and completely selfless.
I mean what if you are getting a pedicure just because you like having nice feet
What is you are exercising just to feel healthy?
What if you are hiking because YOU like nature?
Why is that a crime? When did it become essential that every single thing a mother does has to be wholly engineered around the greater happiness and development of their child.
Also you will note I say Mom, not parent. And yes yes yes I know there are stay at home Dads and yes I realize that this is not just a mom problem. Except for the part where what I just wrote is complete fucking bullshit because no one ever asks a Dad to say to he is going to the gym as further proof of his dedication to his offspring. There are other pressure that they carry.
So I am going to bring this back to the disturbing trend that part of being a good mom, in the increasing atmosphere of doing it all (career mom! Attachment mom!) is that every breath, every movement, every choice needs to be justified by proving oneself a subset to a child.
Which is cruel and anxiety producing when you consider just how innately parenting makes most focus on the general wellbeing of their children. I mean, come on, if you have had a kid, you know how it goes: you get this new, dependent, beautiful life form and without even trying half your brain is taken up with their survival and wellbeing. You want them safe, you want them happy, and you want them to grow up into amazing humans, or, at least, not assholes.
So it is there, every moment, every hour, every second of the day. Whether you like it or not.
I was fond of saying, when I first had a child, how I hadn’t changed. I was just me, now with baby! But that wasn’t true. My brain changed, my architecture changed. I was never alone, never without the sense of how my actions affected the thing that mattered most to me in the word: my child. And sure and yes, my partner and other loves matter, but this was different. It was part of me in a way I can’t explain, and it changed the way I responded to work, life, world affairs, news, and other love. It changes my scope and it changed my depth. It turned out me, with child, wasn’t the old me, at all. And that is okay. But I can tell you one thing the new me did not have to struggle with: caring about the well being of my child. It was up and front and center and I didn’t need constant reminders that I must take a backseat in the order of priorities and demands.
And to be clear, I think all parents experience this: male and female, biological and through the many other pathways parental bliss might descend upon them. I don’t think THIS instinct is unique to the sexes.
What I do think is unique is this instinct to not just demote, but completely destroy the self in the construct of your values.
Which is to say that just because my child matters to me more than life itself, doesn’t mean that I don’t matter at all.
Or to make it more clear: I will work as hard as I can to make changes that do not negatively impact my child, and ideally, generally positively impact my child. But with that overarching prime directive, it doesn’t mean the point or driver of every choice is their happiness. Put more simply, sometimes want the chocolate because I want the chocolate. I am not having that to model happiness or body positivity for my child. I just want the chocolate. And if having the chocolate will not hurt my child, or! Even better! Makes my child happier by witnessing my happiness, all the better. But even in a neutral who the fuck cares, my child didn’t even notice I had the chocolate, I can still WANT that chocolate. For me and me and me and me.
I can also want to work out because it makes me feel and look better, or I can want to take a walk in the woods or want to go to a concert or want to travel the world (or NOT) for my own sake. It is already a forgone conclusion that the ultimate manner in which this effects my child will be considered, need they also be the motivation for every whim and move and instinct?
I guess I am saying: I think we already suffered through multiples generations of cultures that encouraged women to be absorbed into the family at the ultimate subsequent expense of societal unhappiness, not to mention generations of women feeling lost in how to establish an identity of their own.
Now that we are moving towards generations of women who are used to having their own ambitions, tastes and goals, need we subvert all of that work by doing gymnastics to justify their every need the moment they have a child?