Society’s Perfect Mother

Remember this cover?

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I was thinking today about how narrow the societal view is of optimal parenting. What would society’s perfect mother look like?

Society’s Perfect Mother…

(Hold on tight people…this is going to be a ride)

  • Birth - She would have a hospital birth, but vaginally, because home births kill babies and C-sections kill mothers.
  • Body- She will be exercising soon after delivery. Light exercise with baby, nothing more than that, because that is selfish, and nothing less than that, because that is selfish. Her figure would be given a pass in society for the first six months after delivery because “She just had a baby”, but since this is the society’s perfect mother she will be told “You look amazing, you would never even know you just had a baby”, because the postpartum body is an acceptable defect for the first six months, but it is better to avoid it all together. This mom looks physically attractive for society’s standards.
  • Breastfeeding – She would breastfeed her baby for six months. No more than that, because that is abusive, and no less than that, because that is abusive. She will use a cover when in public, or better yet, find a private area whenever possible. She would also pump, because we all know fathers cannot bond with their babies unless they feed them bottles.
  • Sleeping – Baby would sleep in a crib in her room for the first few months of life, but not the kind of crib with the drop down side since those are now deemed dangerous and all recalled. This would be the new safe crib with the breathable bumper and a white noise machine that mimics the sound of the mother breathing, which is supposed to prevent SIDS, but isn’t really the mom breathing because that would mean the baby is in bed with her and if baby is co-sleeping in bed with mom and dad then she will get smothered and die. Then, after those first few months of life have passed baby will get moved into her own room because she is impeding on mom and dad’s romantic time together, and we cannot have that.
  • Sex – She will start having sex again with her partner as soon as she is cleared by her doctor and it will be with the same frequency and verve as it was before baby came, this is of course expected of her, but not discussed or alluded to outside of her home because this mother is poised and modest and dresses and acts like a mother now that she has a baby. You know that lady Ludacris mentions? “A lady in the street but a freak in the bed”- Yeah, he was singing about this mom. She is pretty, but not too pretty as to make other women jealous, and successful, but not too successful as to threaten her husband’s career. She has supplementary income to keep the family living the dream.
  • Career – And since we’re on the topic of career, mom went back to work at 3 months postpartum where she is expected to pump milk for her baby (because formula is poison at this age, didn’t you know that?) And do it without offending the sheltered staff or interrupting her day. She is like the Ninja of breast-pumping. No one knows she has done it, but she somehow manages to go home with a crate full of milk every day for her baby. (Stored covered in the refrigerator at work, as to not offend people from seeing human milk, because that’s icky…)

Whew, I am exhausted for her! And we haven’t even gotten out of infancy yet! Just think of the social pressures that come once her child hits toddler-hood and beyond.

This mom may exist and be very happy, but the fact that society puts this kind of pressure on every single mother- expecting that experience or needs should be the same for everyone (and the judgment that comes if it veers from the norm) is what I have a huge problem with.

I urge you all to make a list of all the parenting decisions you have felt pressured by society to make (whether you followed or not) and post them on here. What has fascinated me is that there are so many contradictory pressures society places on women, especially mothers, so that you truly are “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”.

So, if you are feeling like social pressures are getting the better of you, take a look above, read about that mom, and you tell me if you really want to be her? It is a lot easier (and healthier) to follow your instincts and listen to trusted experts and close trusted friends and family to lead you on the right path.


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21 comments

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  1. Stephanie 26 October, 2013, 09:50

    Yeah, that will never happen. It’s insane what society demands of us.

    Reply this comment
  2. Heather 26 October, 2013, 10:33

    Very well put! There is so much pressure (external) It often battles my instincts (internal) and leaves me wallowing in despair. I’m in the middle of a temper tantrum phase with my youngest and oh the pressure to be perfect when one happens in public! People stare and make clucking noises, sigh. Luckily I have a healthy belief in my own perfection;0)

    Reply this comment
  3. Shelly Cunningham 26 October, 2013, 11:22

    I felt pressure to have a VBAC after my twins and felt totally defeated when (after 24 hours trying) I had to have a c-section. Weeks later I found out I had an infection in my uterus & a vaginal birth would have harmed my newborn.

    I felt pressure to breastfeed my twins, and after twelve days on this blessed planet, I stopped breastfeeding them & felt like the worst mother ever. I had my sanity back… but with it came my first bout of mom-guilt.

    I felt pressure to move our infant singleton out of our room & feed him sooner than I felt comfortable. I am grateful I didn’t do so before I was ready.

    I currently feel pressure to potty train my nearly two and a half year old, even though he shows no signs of being ready; and I feel pressure to sleep my three sons in separate rooms, even though my mama heart feels right having them together.

    I absolutely loved your take on perfect motherhood. Thank you for sharing this and getting me thinking about listening to society versus listening to myself.

    Reply this comment
    • Renny 29 December, 2013, 16:31

      I’m not a mama – one day hopefully! So I speak from the experience of having shared a room with my little sister until I was 15 (and a bed till I was 11 -she was 9) It’s the best thing ever. We argued and fought. We stayed up late talking and playing. We learned to listen to and respect each other. And we learned to work out our disagreements. After all, it sucks to be in a room with your bestie and not be mad at them! When we got our own rooms – we still spent many nights in the same room just cause we wanted to. That said – do what feels right for you and your boys. You’ll know when it’s time to separate them, just like you’ll know when it’s time to potty train. Being a mom is tough. Being a great mom is tougher but being super mom is impossible. Super heroes are for comic books and movies and that’s where society should leave them!!

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  4. Carrie 26 October, 2013, 13:49

    The perfect mother would have a baby that sleeps 10-12 hours/night by 6 weeks of age because we all know that if the baby wakes often, the mom must be doing something wrong.

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  5. Elizabeth 26 October, 2013, 19:10

    The worst pressure I felt was getting a career. Being a Stay at home mom, wasn’t good enough. While I did go to school and start a career my entire family fell apart my kids where awful and unhappy . And my marriage failed. So I guess it’s a good thing I have this career now. Also people kept giving me different advice and opinions so contradictory to what I felt was best for my family it loweredy own self confidence in what I was successfully doing as a mom , that I lost sight of the fact that I was successful in my real chosen career. Being a wife and mother. On a happy note, I no longer work and I stay at home and take care of my family with my husband ( same one ) and family now supporting me. I will gladly give up the extras my career afforded my family in order to be a better parent and wife .

    Reply this comment
    • michelleeeee 4 November, 2013, 10:38

      THANK YOU! I’m feeling the same situation. How dare I stay home with my 10mo old when my husband works! We can’t have a lexus and go to Hawaii all because of me and my selfish wanting to chase my son around all day and make his food!
      Thank you for giving me a wiser perspective, I’ll keep that in my head when my in laws are giving me greif.

      Reply this comment
  6. jelly 27 October, 2013, 19:07

    circumcision was good enough for Jesus.
    if you don’t vaccinate, your child and all the other ones will die and it’s all your fault.
    you’re embarrassing the boys breastfeeding in the same room without a cover (because the men and boys of my family should never know the real purpose of boobs.)
    ” you’re so tired all the time, maybe you should try something different with your kids sleep routine. I did cry it out and we’ve never been happier.”
    almost all direct quotes.

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  7. Practical Mama 28 October, 2013, 14:03

    Very well put. Unfortunately we can extend this list. I also feel this pressure exists mainly in the US and it comes from our own peers. There isn’t a race for the perfect father, is there? Maybe this is the reflection of the “patriachal” society in the modern world. As women have rights but we have to be perfect in everything.

    Reply this comment
    • Jamie Lynne Author 28 October, 2013, 16:48

      Yes…yes, yes! I agree 100%! I think we all need to let out a big sigh. I do think there is a shift happening in our culture, though. That kind of hope makes me excited for the future.

      Reply this comment
  8. relyssa 28 October, 2013, 18:19

    Love this. Hilarious and sad at the same time.
    I feel like your description of a mother getting back into shape is spot on. I was never very big before I delivered (in fact, they got concerned about the baby maybe not growing as it should or not having enough fluid, he was just fine and a good weight a week later when he was born), I’m a smaller person with a great metabolism and worked out all through my pregnancy. After the baby I hardly had a pooch at all and it went away very quickly, and now you would never be able to tell I had a baby 4 months ago. But every time someone said something to me about looking great or not looking like I had a baby it made me a bit sad. (I think it was you about things say to “small” mothers if I remember correctly.) Because mothers come in all shapes and sizes and I just don’t know how to respond to people who say that. They wouldn’t say the same things if I hadn’t been so small and recovered so quickly, and sometimes I believe that people don’t think I’m his mommy because I don’t look like I just had a kid. My sisters say things about “wanting to lose 10lbs” and I just feel that they should not even worry about it, they just had a baby! They’re beautiful. I feel odd about people complimenting me because I absolutely don’t care what my body looks like, I just had a baby, it’s beautiful! (this got longer than I had intended, oops)

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  9. stephanie 28 October, 2013, 19:43

    you forgot the pressure to leave your baby with others (grandparents, aunties, uncles, even dad) jus so you can have some ‘me time’. you know, go get your hair done, get your nails done, go out on the town with your friends like you used to, get drunk, dance, be hungover. oh and also,leave your baby overnight with others even thiugh he is still breastfeeding multiple times a night. this may work for others, but i didnt have a baby because i wanted to act like a single girl. and i dont want to leave my baby with anyone, no matter what the occasion. i have the rest of his life for ‘me time’ when he isnt quite as dependent on me.

    Reply this comment
    • Meagan S 2 November, 2013, 21:40

      I totally agree, Stephanie! I find it odd that the people who are the most adamant about needing “me time” and having to physically remove one’s self from the home in order to maintain a great relationship with one’s spouse (in my life at least) have HORRIBLE intimacy issues! My dh and I can be alone together after the kids go to sleep. It doesn’t make us “too attached” to our kids and it doesn’t take away from our relationship! Aside from a few months after having our first where I had painful vaginal dryness due to brestfeeding/hormonal issues, we have had no problems being intimate. If the kids were in our bed & we were downstairs…not a big deal! Where do people get off on these ridiculous assumptions about what constitutes romance for every other human being?!

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    • michelleeeee 4 November, 2013, 10:49

      Oh I’m not alone! I never understood this one, I love my baby why would I want to miss out on him? My father in law literally yelled at me for not dropping off my son with them at 5months old, I’m staying home with my son, why would I drop him off with someone else? Especially someone who’s going to yell at me for spending too much time with my baby. Pffffttt!

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  10. Kelly 3 November, 2013, 08:44

    I feel pressured to stop nursing my toddler because to most people she shouldn’t need it anymore.
    I feel pressured to put my kids in public school and not homeschool.
    I feel pressured to go back to work because my kids shouldn’t have a mother that gives something up so that I can finally start to see my kids grow up.
    I feel pressured to stop having my kids effect my world when so many parents are saying that kids are not the center of their world. Instead I believe that your lives just become intertwined into a life you figure out together….

    Reply this comment
  11. Maggie 4 November, 2013, 06:07

    Yes!! I also felt pressure to leave my daughter for me time, or me and my husband time- she has been eating out with us since she was 2 months old; I hated leaving her side- on that note we also co slept from birth, after doing the research and adjusting our bedroom (four inch mattress on the floor, ect) and I have been told repeatedly that I am endangering her life, despite my back up arguments that there are numerous precautions we have taken, and that it is perfectly safe and actually beneficial under normal circumstances. Then I’m still bf though my daughter is about to turn two… We as society need to spend less time judging and more time just loving our kids! Love this list

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  12. Allison 29 December, 2013, 16:42

    Put more clothes on her. She’s cold.

    Get her out of your bed now of you never will later (3.5 months old!)

    Why don’t you just give her a bottle?

    Just let her watch tv while you clean?

    Why don’t you put her in the stroller?

    Is that a nipple shield?!

    Did you get a flu shot?

    Reply this comment
  13. Ginger 29 December, 2013, 19:32

    I think we all do the best we can with what we have. I know I’m not the perfect mom but I try to do what I feel is best and you know what? I make mistakes. But I also learn. And you can offer me advise and I will listen. If you push it on me, I will pretend to listen and then never want to tell you my stories again. Everyone has their way of doing things and that is what makes us unique. So don’t judge or guilt a mom for her choices because you don’t know her story. In the meantime, offer your support. I don’t know one mom in the world who would turn down a free meal, a sitter for a date night, or a play date for her kids. All moms need support because we are all doing our best and want to the best for our kids.

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