I’m in the hallway of our clinic, walking past a physician I work with and know well.
He stops me, asks a work question, then asks about my weekend.
“I went to Cabo for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. It was amazing.”
“Where were your kids?” (A one and four-year-old.)
“Home,” I say. Did he picture them drinking margaritas?
“You’re a bad mom,” he replies, absentmindedly typing away on his laptop.
Now, one must understand this particular man to not want to jump through the screen of this story to throat-punch him. He likes to joke and he talks quickly and often before thinking, not unlike my four-year-old.
I knew, with 75 percent confidence, he was joking. I also knew this fella had zero clue as to the internal reaction of most females to this brazen comment.
I have struggled with the “bad mom” mentality since becoming a mother. I wrestle with how much daycare is too much. I wonder how to get my 13-month-old to stop pinching. It hurts so bad and he just laughs at me.
I have to drink wine to get through putting together a Lego set with the four-year-old. I feel shooting pains of distress when asked the same question three times.
Most of the time, I believe my family is better off with me as a full-time working mother. It’s safer for all of us.
I’m in a peaceful place regarding the choices my husband and I have made thus far.
I found myself replying to this man who just called me a bad mom for taking a trip sans-kids:
“Listen. My children are a part of my life. They do not define it.”
He looked up, swallowed, thought hard, and wisely replied, “Wow. I like that.”
Stand down, sir. Also, perhaps consider practicing the pause?
From my perspective, it didn’t matter one way or the other if he liked it. It was factual and true. And it’s okay. They were words that screamed to be released.
A rebuttal to a cultural belief system rooted subconsciously in so many of us:
Mothers love their children fervently, whether it is from the laundry room, the office chair, Cabo San Lucas, or via spiritual energy when their bodies have long passed on.
We figure out the best way to love for ourselves. That is our only obligation. We had lives before these Tasmanian blessings barreled into our worlds, and we have many years to live when they leave home and leave us broke.
When I returned from maternity leave with my firstborn, an emotional wreck, prepared to vomit at any moment with anxiety, another (male) physician commented, “Ah, so you chose this over motherhood, huh?”
It was nearing the end of the work day and I had not cried. I stared at him, wondering how somebody who completed a medical degree could be so dense, and the tears silently began to fall. He sheepishly backed out of the office. My (female) boss at the time touched my shoulder and shooed him away. “What was he thinking?” she wondered out loud. A mother herself of three grown children, she got it. Thank all that is holy for the ones who get it.
One click into my Instagram scroll serves as a quick reminder that others are choosing to do it a different way. If I’m feeling particularly self-destructive, I may analyze the commentary to the point of certainty that their “Great day at the local cat-petting event with little Johnny” is a direct attack on my life choices. Insta-paranoia is real. Perhaps we should investigate therapist-supervised social media activity only. It could be a thing.
Eventually, I move into a spiritual place of surrender, shaking my fists at the heavens, wondering if it will always be this hard. It feels a constant challenge to stop tormenting myself with comparison charades and insurmountable expectations. I must break from it all, disengage from the negative energies, and reboot with cuddles and runs out on a nature trail near our home.
I pray my kids become decent humans and lead super interesting lives that help a lot of people. I hope when people talk about my kids, they use words like “kind” and “brave” and “funny” and (fingers crossed) “not offensively smelly.”
Mostly, I hope my kids think of me fondly, as a mom who worked and a mom who loved and a mom who laughed and a mom who cried.
A mom with mediocre cooking skills but killer Friday-night snack party picnics.
A mom who doesn’t know how to sew but sure knows how to dance.
A mom who really did try.
A badass mom.