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.
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.