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Motherhood lie #11: You Are Your Own Harshest Critic.

Jill Smokler, a.k.a Scary Mommy

 

By JILL SMOKLER

Having a teenager in the house has been detrimental to my self-esteem. Sometimes, I want to treat her exactly the way she treats me, but that would be child abuse.

Scary Mommy Confession #252463

I’m a horrible mother. My kids watch too much television, they eat too much junk food, and they don’t participate in enough extracurricular activities. They have poor sleeping habits because Jeff and I were too lazy to put them to bed properly when we had our chance, and sometimes they wear shorts in November.

I’m a shitty wife. I’m always cranky and frequently take it out on my husband. I reserve my few moments of pleasantness for my kids, and so all my husband gets is “No,” “Are you kidding me?!” and “Do what I said.” Sex these days is like a drive-in movie: open for your viewing pleasure, but you’re on your own.

I’m so fat. I need a tummy tuck, and my upper arms have a better sense of movement than my feet. I vacillate between three different clothing sizes. And by vacillate, I mean I ONCE hit the smaller of the three in the last nine years.

I can’t even count the number of times that thoughts like this have raced through my head. I’m a mother, a wife and my own person, but it’s rare that I am satisfied with my performance in one area, let alone all three. My failures seem so obvious—I assume everyone must think the same of me. Strangely, though, every time I’ve ever voiced these feelings, I’ve been told the same thing: I’m too hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic.

Think you are your own harshest critic? Not so. Other people are judging you more.

This, my friends, is one of the most pervasive and pernicious lies of motherhood. I’ve said it, you’ve said it, and it’s just plain bullshit.

There is nobody harder on a mum than her fellow mother. It starts bright and early with pregnancy. As if the symptoms you’re suffering weren’t bad enough, when you are expecting, everyone’s mission becomes to knock you down. Not literally, of course, because that would be attempted manslaughter, but knock you down nonetheless, they will try. They will insult your appearance, question your choice of lunch meat, and casually note just how much weight you have gained.

Once the baby comes, it’s like you’ve signed on a dotted line agreeing to put every decision you make into the public domain for open critique. Your baby’s name, your decision to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, the sleep habits you’re enforcing . . . everything is simply an opportunity for people to stick their noses in your business and judge away like it’s a spectator sport.

And that’s just what we say to each other’s faces. The behind-the-back talk is even harsher. But because we’re mothers, we find a way to mask our judgment in feigned concern and helpfulness.

We once lived in a neighborhood where, on the first night under our new roof, the queen bee of the subdivision gave us an illustrated list (I kid you not) of our surrounding neighbors. Each house had a little notation next to their name: #2703 hosts the Easter egg hunts and fights loudly; #2708 are going through a divorce, but it’s amicable; #2714 babysits, has a Fourth of July bash, but passed lice around to the whole Girl Scout troop. As she walked in with her tray of brownies and neon nails, I wondered what notes she was taking at my place. #2601: Appears not to have showered in three days, bottle-feeds her infant, and lets the older one watch too much TV—SHITTY MOTHER, her note likely screamed.

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Unfortunately, the critiquing doesn’t end with other mothers. Kids can be just as brutal, especially our own. I’ll be innocently showering first thing in the morning when a midget body will barge into the bathroom, and upon seeing my figure in the shower, run out screaming, like I have scarred him or her for life. It’s not uncommon for the child, whoever it is, to fall into a fit of giggles and call for his siblings. “Lily! Evan! Ben! Mommy is naaaaakkked. Come see!!” If I’m really lucky, all three will stand outside the shower pointing and laughing like I’m a zoo animal taking a dump.

Once I get out of the shower, time permitting, I slather myself in lotion. Should I be lucky enough to have an audience, they will inevitably point to my thighs. “What’s that purple squiggle, Mommy?” A spider vein, I sigh. “That one, too?” Yes, that one, too, honey. “Over here, too?” Yes, my darling, that’s what they’re called. Let’s move on.

“Okay. What’s this?”

It’s a stretch mark. That’s a scar. That’s a vein. That’s cellulite. That’s hair. That’s a wrinkle. That’s a bruise. That’s . . . crap . . . what is that? Just let me get dressed alone, all right?

Speaking of getting dressed, Lily, my child who scoffs at J.Crew’s Crewcuts and lusts over the Justice catalog, frequently greets me with equally colorful commentary on my clothes. She tells me my clothes don’t match, my clothes make me look “flat,” or the color of my sweater is “kinda ugly.” She is the Joan Rivers of the house, and she is ruthless.

The patch of white hairs, the stubble on my legs, the heels in need of exfoliating . . . nothing goes unnoticed by my lovely children. At the end of the day, as I read the boys bedtime stories,  Evan inevitably focuses on my face. “What’s that dot?” he will ask, pointing to the tiniest pore or a birthmark or a chicken pox scar. One by one, he counts them like he’s counting sheep, falling asleep to the comfort of my imperfections.

It’s a miracle that any mother has the slightest bit of self-esteem left after the criticism our children and peers put us through on a daily basis. If men were treated like this, I’m quite sure that they would just crawl back into bed for the rest of their lives and mope about their feelings being hurt. But not us. We can take whatever the world throws at us and power on. Our skin isn’t thick, it’s impenetrable. Or getting there, at least.

And, may I just say, you’re way too hard on yourself. We all think you’re doing a great job.

Jill Smokler, founder of blog ScaryMommy.com, has written a book called Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies), in which she attempts to debunk parenting myths – in her trademark, tell-it-like-it-is style.

The above article was originally published in Jill’s book. The book is available for purchase here.

Do you think mothers are too hard on each other?

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