About a month ago, sibling kinship was fading and moments of peace and tranquility were few. Incoming was a surge of sibling competition, shouting, and a general need to bug the hell out of each other. Tensions were building, the battles were on the rise and I was, quite frankly, sick of it.
We’d had some bouts of flu (including my own) at our house which meant there’d been a few too many days of planted butts and under-stimulated minds. I’d exhausted our Horizontal Parenting Kit and turned a few too many blind eyes to bad behaviour.
Sing- along Fun
There we were. My three daughters and I. Cruisin’ along in the minivan, radio on high, having a little sing-along:
Me: I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it.
Take it girls…
Ava (age 9): Sex in the air, you know I love the smell of it.
Zed (age 6): Sticks and stones may break my bones.
Mini: (age 4): But whips and chains excite me.
Together: nana na na na. Come on, come on come on. I like it, like it…
Fret not, this didn’t actually happen. Because when songs, like Rihanna’s S & M, come on the radio, I change the station.
The Bubble Protection Program
I casually switch from one station to the next, trying not to let sex, drug and violent lingo permeate the bubbles of innocence that are around my kids. I work hard to maintain these bubbles.
I know the lyrics would simply go over the heads of Zed and Mini but not Ava. She loves singing and she hears the words. I don’t want her singing about sex, hickies and drunken Friday nights.
It should still be about unicorns and rainbows, when you’re nine, shouldn’t it?
I miss the innocence of my own youth when Madonna was the only one hooching it up and songs, like: Me so Horny and Boom, Boom, Boom (Let’s go Back to my Room), could be counted on one hand.
Those were the days, huh?
I’m with Annie Lennox on this one…
Music videos today are a whole other topic of agitation for me, as a mom. This is why they’re never on in our house. Sure lots of performers have talent, creativity and vision.
Lady Gaga is half-naked in the name of art. Katy Perry adorns her boobs with ice cream sundaes because who doesn’t love a cherry on top? Robin Thicke is pervy, gropey and creepy.
Whenever I give MTV a chance I see women degrading themselves – selling their sexuality all in the name of entertainment because simulating a blow job is artistic expression, not porn, right?
Annie Lennox described such pop stars perfectly when she described them as: “pimp and prostitute at the same time.” She views their behaviour as: “a glorified and monetised form of self-harm.”
I’m with Annie here and I don’t want my kids looking at this and thinking it’s okay, or worse yet, that it’s something to aspire to.
Long gone are the days of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany with their big hair and tucked in sweaters.
I miss Cyndi Lauper, in her side pony, singing Girls Just Wanna have Fun…
So, you can sing and you’re gorgeous but how’s your finger filacio?
According to the music industry girls have to be slim, beautiful and capable of carrying a basic tune. This isn’t news; it’s been this way for years. But it now seems that this is no longer enough. It turns out that in order to qualify as a successful female singer you must be willing to set free your inner porn star.
Performers from Britney to J-Lo are giving us a pseudo-glimpse of what they look like when they’re actually having sex. They writhe around solo on a beach or on the ground wrapped in a sheet. They’re basically having sex with themselves while mouthing the words to their songs.
J-Lo wants us to see that she’s still “got it.” Miley wants us to know that Hannah Montana is dead and that she’s been replaced by a twerking, giant-tongue wagging, Mistress of Seduction…
And more sex.
No, actually, my name isn’t Agnes…
Sometimes, when I share my opinions about current pop culture, I sound like my name is Agnes or Enid. I come across as old, out of touch and closed minded, like the perfect BFF for the pastor in Footloose.
I use words like: appalling, distasteful and disgraceful.
Inappropriate is my favourite descriptive word to use, when referring to that which I deem to be unsuitable. It’s a versatile word that can be applied to a range of categories from swear words to YouTube.
I use it when Ava comes downstairs while I’m watching Orange is the New Black.
I use it when she tells me that “all” the kids in her class are allowed to watch Walking Dead.
I say it so often that Ava has started using it. Witnessing her saying it to her sisters has allowed me to see what kind of message it sends out.
When she says it, it sounds closed and final. It makes the topic seem beyond the reach of the recipients. It shuts the conversation down, like a door in the face.
I used it last week when Ava asked about the Wrecking Ball video.
My needle is out and I’m ready to start popping…
Ava was curious about the video. She said that some of the kids at school had seen it. I was about to close the door on the topic but I stopped myself and instead, I said: “Actually, let’s go watch it.”
With a look of shock and bewilderment, she agreed.
We googled Miley’s video. We sat together and we watched it. Ava produced a few scrunched up faces and let out a few “ews” and when the video was finished she said: “I like her music but I don’t like the way she acts.”
We chatted a little more about it and then she went off to play with her sisters.
You hear that?
Those are the sounds of bubbles bursting. I can’t maintain them forever and if I try, I’ll end up creating a barrier between me and my kids instead.
There are plenty of things that I don’t want my kids to watch, learn and hear but I can’t conceal those things forever and when they do watch, learn and hear them I want my girls to feel like they can come to me.
No doors. No barriers. No Agnes
Naturally, as mothers, we compare and contrast ourselves to other moms. Every day, as we go about our lives, we are consciously and subconsciously assessing the way we live in comparison to others. It’s subtle and unintended most of the time and its effects depend on where we’re at in that moment…
Taking it all in…
We are observers, not by choice, by the simple act of being around others. We watch. We take it all in. And then we process it. This processing happens somewhere between emptying the dishwasher, buckling your kid’s seatbelt and cleaning shit from one of its many locations. Sometimes the process results in a sense of confirmation or even a connection to another mom. And other times the process stirs up insecurities, envy, judgement.
We watch how other moms deal with their kids’ behaviour. We note the food they feed them and how they relate to their husbands. We observe their level of success in the workforce or their choice not to have a career. We watch as other moms balance what’s on their plate and then we assess how we’re doing, in contrast.
In some ways, comparison can be a positive thing. It can keep us on our toes and in the loop, opening our eyes to new ideas and approaches. But in other ways comparison can be the killer of a mom’s confidence.
Some of us are hard on ourselves. Some of us are hard on each other. Some of us are both. While some of us are neither. And wouldn’t it be great if we were all neither? I think it’s possible to work toward this, with a few slip ups here and there, because nobody’s perfect.
I think it’s possible to be neither (most of the time) because, at the end of our long, hectic days, we all know how it feels to be a mom. Could this be the glue that bonds us together?
The kids are in on it…
We aren’t the only ones making assessments. Our kids are comparing us to other moms, too. The problem is: they’re wearing rose-coloured glasses. Couple that with a good dose of imagination and they’re convinced that other kids are living it up, utopian style!
They think Suzy’s mom is so hip and happening simply because she’s younger. And Tommy’s mom never shouts! And Ringo’s mom lets him watch whatever he wants on TV. While Roxy’s mom makes the best ham sandwiches. Way better than the ones you make…
Yes, we moms need to have a thick skin.
The men are in on it, too…
Even the other grownups in our lives, the men, can add to our insecurities! They throw a wrench in our ability to unite as moms. And it happens in an unsubtle flash; a quick comment on how laid back Bob’s wife, after you’ve just been “a nag.” Or admiring words of adoration at how organized Bertha and Tony’s house is while you’re sitting there up to your eyeballs in partner-less socks.
They may point out what great shape Carl’s wife is in, when you’ve just polished off the last of the chocolate ice cream. Or what about how stylish Jerry’s wife is? Meanwhile, you’re sitting there in a pair of ratty-ass yoga pants, trying to recall the last time you wore “real” clothes. Or what about how careful Claire is with money. Isn’t she just so frugal? And let’s not forget the Phantom Wife, you know the one. She’s always up for sex. Anytime. Anywhere.
Look at all of that green grass!
Sometimes we lash out…
Yes, after comments like these we moms might feel compelled to point out the dog shit there, in that green grass. It depends on the moment, really. In our times of self-doubt, we offer up an unappealing truth or an unnoticed flaw, something that is clearly not visible to our family members due to their tinted glasses.
“Carl’s wife is slim, yes, but… I hardly ever see her eating. It’s concerning, really.”
“Bertha’s house is like a museum not a home…”
“And as for Jerry’s stylish wife, well… must be nice to have a disposable income like that!”
“As for frugal Claire. Ya, she’s a barrel of fun. Isn’t she?”
“That Phantom Wife? She’s a faker! Total lying faker. OR he is. Something isn’t right there…”
It’s weak of us. But we do it. We stoop and we spout drivel because we feel the need to defend our worth and because our insecurities are getting the better of us.
Other moms understand this position because they’ve been there too. It happens to them in the same way.
Other moms get it…
They know that there’s no such thing as perfectly green grass, a perfect wife or a perfect mother. They know the demands and the weight that come with the role. They know, simply, how it feels to be a mom and to be compared to other moms. Even if their way of parenting is different from yours, they can relate to how hard you try and how good your intentions are.
Try as they might, dads don’t get it and neither do the kids. They may have moments of appreciation but they cannot and will not ever know how it feels to be a mother.
So, let’s stop imagining that other moms think they’re perfect because they don’t. Instead let’s not try to connect with them as members of this motherhood club that we’re all in.
Let’s DO THIS!
Yes, we’ll always be observers but instead of giving into our insecurities or judgments, let’s try to relate to each other by what we have in common. Let’s give ourselves and each other a break, say a few Stuart Smalley-inspired self-affirmations and rise above it all. Because you are good enough. You’re also smart enough and, dog- on-it, a lot of people like you. Especially the important ones who, despite the rose coloured glasses, wouldn’t trade you for the world!