Props of Motherhood

I read this article this morning, and thought it was excellent.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/parenting/2014/07/17/goodbye-to-cloth-diapers-and-ideal-motherhood/

It’s not about cloth diapers- not really. It’s about how we as mothers cling to these “props” of motherhood to carve out an identity for the world to see, and judge.

And nowhere is this more evident than in motherhood, where our possessions convey our sense of care and concern for our children, where our choices are vetted and second-guessed for a lifetime.

I am so, so guilty of this, but I think so is everyone to some degree. For me, nurseries and clothes have been my biggest “props”. I love to dress my children in precious little outfits, and I spent hours on their nurseries and have the “perfect” pictures to prove it. Never mind that Charlotte usually ends up just in her diaper by the end of the day and those crisp white shorts I bought Grayson at the beginning of the summer are now stained with post-IV antibiotic diaper blowouts. Never mind that Charlotte’s nursery is littered with clothes that I’m just too tired to put back in the drawers after the tenth times she’s pulled them all out. Never mind that Grayson’s room is taken over with syringes, prescription bottles, and feeding tube supplies, and in function is more of a medical clinic than a little boy’s room.

Our life is messy. Physically messy, situationally messy, and emotionally messy. But when we go out in public, my kids look cute, and put together. Yes, it’s a prop, but it makes me happy. I love picking out their outfits, dressing them, and putting a matching bow in Charlotte’s hair. It’s superficial and silly, but it makes me smile. And I can honestly say for the most part, I do it for me, for the fun of it. But sure, it’s nice when people compliment my kids and tell me how cute they are. Of course it is.

The more time that passes, other props of motherhood seem less significant and important to me. I’ve admitted to myself that party planning is not my thing, so my kids won’t ever have Pinterest-worthy birthday parties. Breastfeeding was important to me this time around for reasons that had nothing to do with other people or my image. I tried cloth diapering for 6 months and actually liked it, but when Grayson got his feeding tube, that was the end of that (I needed things to simplify). And while decorating two nurseries was definitely my thing, if we are blessed with a third child someday, I’m not sure that will be of any importance to me anymore. I’m kind of over it.

But motherhood isn’t just about my image and my choices and my identity. It’s a collaboration between who I am and the children I’ve been given…

So true. This isn’t just about me. It’s about these two little people with their own personalities, desires and needs. Those come first, before anything I think would help craft the identity I’m hoping to achieve. And I don’t think anything could force a person to recognize and hopefully accept this more than having a special needs child, who doesn’t fit in that ideal photoshopped picture of motherhood. Thank God for Grayson, that sweet little boy who taught me that cute little outfits and monogrammed backpacks are fine, and fun, but don’t make me a good mother. We are all just doing the best we can. And for the millionth time, can we all just chill out a little and let each other make the choices best for our individual families and stop judging each other when our choices happen to be different? I hope so.

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3 thoughts on “Props of Motherhood

  1. Amen Elizabeth. Our lives are just that, OURS. And we can only live ours, not someone else's. YOU ARE A GOOD MOTHER. You love your children. THAT is all that matters. Nothing else.

  2. I love this post for many reasons. One reason – I am a propped mom. I love dressing my boys and make no apologies for them having a different shirt for every day of the month. Nope. Dressing them makes me so happy, and B agrees that they're always cute and put together, so he goes with it. He even tells me when he thinks I need to check out a sale at Baby Gap. Win! I also love designing, planning, and putting together kids rooms. People roll their eyes at my kids rooms, but my kids love their rooms, and treat them like the sanctuaries I want them to be. No one is punished in their room – that is their safe, cozy, personalized space. I am a major lover of big parties, but don't use pinterest at all for my ideas. I want them to be my own, and enjoy the challenge of planning almost every detail. Does any of this make me a better mother? NOPE! Not one iota!

    The second reason I love this post is that it contributes to some of my thoughts lately on parenting. B and I parent differently, and his parents parent on an entirely different spectrum than either of us. I was very firm with Matthew after being relaxed many instances before, and B said my firmness made them uncomfortable because they don't believe in being firm with kids. He said he was embarrassed for me. I said, “well, I'm not embarrassed. He's our child. We're his parents. Our family isn't run like a democracy, like your parents family. What the parents say here, goes. Period. I don't need to explain my reasoning to Matthew all the time, let alone your parents. We are his parents – what we think matters to me. What anyone else thinks, is pure gossip.”. And that is how I feel about all of this parenting debate that goes on. All that matters to me, really, is what B and I think. The rest of it is just noise and gossip.

  3. Yes! I love posts like this… they are such a good reminder for me. We all try so hard to appear perfect, when if we could just share our trials we'd find out we're not alone and it's okay to not be so “perfect.” I honestly enjoy doing some of my “props” and do them just for me, because I love it and it makes me happy. But if I'm being all the way honest, I now find myself doing more of them, more and more for approval, because I started homeschooling and I don't want people to think we're freaks. LOL. I want to defy the stereotypes. I need to be more confident in my decision. It has been the best decision we've made for/about our family. It is the best thing for us, why do I care so much what other people think about it?

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