Do you ever feel as if you have to be like Martha Stewart in order to be a good mom?
A post written by Defining Motherhood has got me thinking about this question. In Opting Out of Martha Motherhood, the blogger writes about how, somehow along the way, great housekeeping skills have become synonymous with great mothering ability. The quintessentially excellent mother, or a “supermom,” is someone who’s on top of everything, like Carrie:
“…even among her cohort of devoted supermoms, [Carrie] was a standout. She cooked healthful meals and concocted clever art projects, arranged play dates and drove to lessons, hosted creative birthday parties and planned inspired family vacations. She decorated her home for every holiday. She oversaw a large yet tastefully cozy house renovation. She did a turn in all the top parent leadership positions at her daughters’ prestigious preschool. And she made sure no grandparent went a year without an updated album of family photos…” [“The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In” — New York Times magazine]
As Defining Motherhood points out, it’s absurd to imagine judging a career woman’s ability to do her job by how organized/creative/clean her office is and whether her lunch is gourmet. So, when and how did it become appropriate to use “Martha” measuring sticks for moms, all of whom come so differently?
I struggle with this because I’m really bad at cleaning and decorating. Because I’m at home all day, I feel as if I should be good at those things. Sure, I keep the house moderately tidy, but I’ve never cleaned an oven in my whole life, I never vacuum behind furniture unless I have to move it, and I have no idea how to clean windows. As for decorating, there are times when I walk into friends’ homes and feel despair at the sight of their gorgeous paint colours, matching artwork, accent pillows, and decorative vases. Their homes have cohesive style, whereas mine is a mishmash of university leftovers and garage sale finds. When I think of doing something about it, I become paralyzed with doubt and not knowing where to start.
By contrast, my passion is cooking and everything related to it, from meal planning and sourcing local food to baking artisanal bread and preserving. The irony is that some moms might consider that to be very Martha Stewart, and intimidating, but just as interior decorating is someone else’s strength, cooking meals happens to be mine. I’m realizing that it’s absurd to expect a “good” mom to be good at everything she does because that’s simply not human, nor does it have anything to do with mothering ability.
Defining Motherhood’s post, and the original New York Times article that inspired her post, have inspired me. They give me the freedom to accept my individual abilities and shortcomings for what they are. I’m not going to feel guilty anymore about my house not looking like a spread from Better Homes and Gardens. So what if there’s no headboard on my bed and all our dressers are mismatched? So what if I’ve never printed and framed any family pictures for our walls? So what if I don’t have a good system for sorting hats and mitts? So what if my toilets get nasty before they’re noticed? So what if all my zucchini plants rotted because I over-watered them? So what if I dislike Pinterest because it only makes me feel awful about my home and all the projects I’ll never do?
From now on, I’m giving myself permission to be the woman I am, instead of striving to be a perfect Martha mom. I’m going to push back against the expectation that a stay-at-home mom should have a spotless, tastefully decorated house just because she’s at home all day. I’d rather my kids see me writing, creating, dreaming, singing, playing violin, and exercising than decorating, cleaning, and organizing. I’m not saying those things are wrong, but they don’t fit ME and how I see myself. On a practical level, this means I won’t be painting the stairwell or the kids’ room, as I’ve been intending all summer … because I don’t want to. What a relief!