I don't know about you but for me, this mothering job of mine is somethings extremely hard. Yes, there is just the daily managing and the busy-ness and the neediness that can be so very draining and there is the fact that sometimes, I feel a bit as if I have ceased to exist as my own being. That is overwhelming sometimes. For me, though, there's another side that is even harder - the managing of how my children "should" be.
In theory, I will tell you that I believe that we need to allow children to develop into the humans they were intended or designed to be. Your child may be gifted academically (I'll write another post someday on how strongly I object to that term). My child may or may not be a strong student but he or she can be a passionate, kind and loving human being and that is equally of value. I would tell you that we, as adults, can't impose our own desires on our children (or, as I know I do so often, try to correct flaws in myself by directing my kids). I have told countless parents over the years that it is about how the child is improving and developing, rather than how he or she compares to others that matters. I would tell you that on the report card, it's not the grades that matter but the learning skills and the effort that the child is putting forth. I honestly thought that I believed all that.
I've come to realize that while I would like to believe all that, in practice, it's not how I feel with my own kids. And it is a hard thing to face in myself. Very hard. I am so jealous of the moms I know out there who don't care and who accept their kids for who they are.
Almost the moment my daughter was born, I began to face it - the weight of the expectations and the comparisons. Is she a "good" baby? No, she was a horrible baby in the scale of the "good baby/bad baby" spectrum. She never slept, she had colic, she cried all the time, she wouldn't nap. Other moms offered advice (particularly on sleep training) and the ones whose babies had come home from the hospital sleeping through the night on their own were the greatest experts. There were the moms at play groups who would talk about how their babies were starting to talk, rolling over, walking and doing all kinds of amazing things that Pk wasn't doing. I tried not to let it bother me but honestly, it was overwhelming. I felt like such a failure. In my life to that point, I had always been able to control things by working harder. Now, it didn't seem to matter how hard I worked, it was never good enough and never got me the desired results. It didn't help that Dh was no help - me, the person who worries about what everyone thinks, is married to the man who really doesn't care what anyone things as long as he feels he has done his best and his constant refrain, when I mentioned my concerns, particularly those based on what other mothers were saying, was, "Well, you know this from teaching - parents lie." I would argue that he was being unfair and he consistently answered that they might not be intentionally lying but that they were inflating, imagining or didn't really know what they were looking at. It didn't help and I found that I only had one friend who I could really talk to about this stuff and she would understand and she was far away and trying to manage a schedule as crazy as mine so we didn't connect much. She's also much saner than me and better able to see through crap than I am. What a lonely time.
For a while, it got better. I got back to work, we had LB and life just got so busy that for the most part, I was able to just keep pushing forward and ignoring other people's expectations. I saw a counsellor who really pushed me to stop, in her words, "buying into everyone's perfect PR". She said I bought too whole heartedly into what other people put forward as being true, rather than seeing that we all have flaws and that everything comes at the expense of something else. I thought I had come to terms with trying to please and be good enough.
Then, PK started school. Ouch, that hurt. (As an aside, I will say that it has completely changed how I approach things like writing report cards. I really didn't grasp the impact that that evaluation had on families before - now, I know). It happens that we have friends whose kids are MENSA candidates, it would seem, and they were always quick to share how brilliantly their children were doing. Pk did well and her teacher kept telling me that she was bright and doing just fine, but I wasn't hearing the raving praises that these other moms were and they were constantly posting on Facebook and raving about. I got to the point that I dreaded report card time and all of the comparisons. I was having a hard time not feeling like everyone thought Pk was a lesser shadow of their own children and I am ashamed to say that I think we put a LOT of pressure on her to achieve. I was still telling other parents that character mattered more than academics, that straight A's don't necessarily lead to a happy and fulfilled life rich with friendship and love but somehow, yet when it comes to my own children, I have a different set of values.
It just keeps getting harder for me. Grade 1 is the year that actual letter grades are introduced here and I've been listening to these friends going on about how brilliant their children are. I go to the church women's group and I hear about how several of the mother's kids are just doing SO WELL and there is always the unspoken idea that other kids are somehow lesser. I encounter other mothers whose children's report cards were PERFECT (whereas for us, the report card marks were strong, we were a little shocked at the learning skills and discovered that Pk has a major problem with talking non-stop - something that should not have surprised us). I've been hit hard with the knowledge that Pk is not the dedicated student that I want her to be and then, this past week, her teacher mentioned that she was having trouble with a friend in class because the friend says she is too bossy. Ouch again. I really, really want her to be that kid with all the friends who gets the straight A's and is the all-around perfect child. And she's not. And it bugs me so much more than it should if I believe what I say I do. (For the record, I also know that the "perfect" children are not so perfect - I can think of several who definitely have "issues" that their parents aren't willing to see). I still can't shake the fact that Pk should be more of what she "should" be in my mind. As a teacher looking at how she's doing, I should be able to see that she is doing very well academically and she is doing well in terms of social-stuff, too but she does have some things to learn because she is only 6. I can't believe that, though - she's not doing well enough compared to everyone else, is how I am feeling (which upsets me a lot).
It's kind of ironic really - I'm upset with myself because of all of the "shoulds" - Pk "should" be more of the perfect child and yet I believe that I "should" not be so concerned by the "shoulds". I'm trying and failing to deal with all of the "should-ing" in my life. I don't really have the answers and it's a hard thing to talk about with people because I feel guilty and like more of a failure for feeling the "shoulds". Part of the "should" as mom is that we "should" accept our kids for who they are and we "should" never compare them to other kids. I can't seem to help it and I know it's bad for my kids. I guess that all I can do is to try, as hard as I can manage, to just let go, pray a lot and try to model and support her in being who she is and in developing the character that we believe to be so important.
I know that I should but it's easier said than done. And it's painful sometimes.