Good Mother: Amanda

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This post is part of a series of responses asking for thoughts on “good mothering.” Please email me at TheMamafesto (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to participate!

For me, being a good mother means balancing motherhood with the rest of my identity in a way that lets all parts of me thrive.

My husband and I never thought we wanted to have kids, and then suddenly, in my mid-30s, I changed my tune. Luckily, my husband – who, like me, performs improv comedy, and is comfortable improvising not only on stage but also in life – found his way toward changing his tune, too. When I got pregnant, we were thrilled…but there was ambivalence, too. Basically, I spent much of my pregnancy freaking out that becoming a parent was going to overwhelm the rest of my identity. There’s an entire chapter in my book about my fear of becoming, as I delicately put it, “a douchebag” – one of those moms who abandons all of the other interests and relationships in her life in favor of 100% absorption in Little Precious.

Now that my daughter is almost two years old, I look back at my prenatal fretting and think, “Why did I have so little faith in myself?” Sure, balance is hard – really hard — but it’s always been hard; being a mother just puts a new set of pressures on the scales.

I shouldn’t say “just,” because balancing the energy I put into parenting with the energy I put into my career, my art, my relationship with my husband, and all the other relationships in my life – it isn’t always easy. Not at all. But in some ways, spending my entire adult life pre-motherhood focused on attaining balance was the perfect practice for becoming a mom. It gave me self-knowledge. I know, for example, that if I don’t write, I turn into a restless, anxious mess.  Does my writing time look different now that I’m a mother? Sure. But part of being a good mother is honoring all of the other parts of myself — all my other needs — because doing so makes me ME, and that’s who my daughter needs. And then when I’m with her, I can be completely present. I can lose myself with her – and find new parts of myself, too – because I am not relying on her to feed all the parts of me that need feeding.

I think I’m making it sound easier than it is, and that’s not my intention. There are days when all that my husband I do is take care of her, and work, and collapse in a heap. But the further we get from her infanthood (and what a pang it still gives me to think that’s something we’re leaving behind), the more I regain a feeling of independence, and time and space and energy to write and socialize and dream outside of the role of mom.

And while motherhood definitely introduces new limits to my life (I can’t spend a Saturday afternoon vegging out in front of the TV, for example, and the money we might have spent on travel goes to daycare), I’m finding that it also liberates me in some very deep ways. Love does that. And I love being a mother. I love being HER mother. I love spending time with her more than almost anyone else.

Does that mean I don’t regularly need time alone with my husband, friends, or relatives? No way.

I’m reminded, as I so often am, of something I’ve learned from performing improv. It’s a notion that’s gotten more and more mainstream attention in recent years, so maybe you’ve heard of it: “Yes, and.” I won’t get into what it means for the art of improv, but the way I apply it to my life is this: We can hold two things to be true. I can need time with my daughter, and I can need time away from her. I can love being her mother, and I can know that being her mother also means being a woman who’s madly in love with her husband and needs time alone with him…and an artist who needs to feed herself with new experiences and the time and space to process them creatively… and, and, and.

What does it mean to be a good mother?

To me, it means simply and profoundly this: Being myself.

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Amanda Hirsch is the author of Feeling My Way: Finding Motherhood Without Losing Myself. She blogs at amandahirsch.com and Having a Ball Having it All and is on Twitter at @amanda_hirsch.

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Good Mother: Paula

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Paula Kamen wrote a piece in response to the “Alinea Restaurant Baby” scandal, where two parents were called out on Twitter by the head chef for bringing their infant to the upscale restaurant.

What is a good mother to do?

…I know some readers are probably thinking: Wouldn’t it be easier if I just managed my kids better? Before I had kids, I thought that parents whose kids misbehaved in public were entitled and self-absorbed, flippantly allowing their kids to run amok with no regard for anyone else. But now I see that controlling those kids’ every move, especially after a whole day with them at home spent constantly policing, is more difficult than one would think. This is even with taking every precaution possible.

Now my family’s main requirement for picking a restaurant is where we are likely to enrage the fewest people. I typically request that we be seated far away from others, even in an empty party room if possible. We go to dinner when restaurants are the least crowded, at early-bird hours so extreme that they would embarrass even the most flinty senior citizen. But no matter how well we plan, because of a series of other demands — like my husband’s or my work going late on a day when there’s slim pickings in the larder — it’s inevitable that once in a while, we land at 7 p.m. in a crowded pizza place.

Read more at Crain’s Chicago Business.

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Good Mother: Veronica

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This post is part of a series of responses asking for thoughts on “good mothering.” Please email me at TheMamafesto (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to participate!

When I hear “good mother,” I immediately picture a white woman tending to her children. I admit the color of the “good mother” because it is important. Culture in the USA has made it clear that white women are good mothers. In the 1980s, black women became welfare queens. In the 2000s Latina moms had anchor babies. Yet during the past decade, white women are security/soccer/Wal-Mart moms.They are the “good mothers” worrying about their children when they vote. Will the world be safe enough for their children?

Because of these depictions I catch myself trying to mimic what I “think” are white good mother rules. Am I spending enough time with my daughter? Shouldn’t i just buy her things that I can afford? Am I advocating for her enough versus letting her stand up for herself? Thankfully I have moments like when my daughter’s teacher comes up to me at pick up and can NOT stop raving about her. “She’s lovely have to have in class, such a leader, helpful, so smart…” to remind me that being a good mother is not about a set of rules to follow, but raising a good human being.

Veronica

Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist who writes at Vivalafeminista.com, her blog about the intersection of motherhood and feminism. She directs a support program for women majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at a Chicago university.

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