Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts about Moms

I have been having this ongoing email discussion with some of my girlfriends about mothers. Our mothers, to be exact. And the ways in which they were brilliant, and the ways in which they were horrible. I’m lucky, I have nothing to contribute to the latter part of this discussion. But geeze-o-pete, some of these girls have got some serious stuff to carry around with them from mom’s who were manipulative and cruel. Or distant. Or addicted. And it breaks my heart to see them still hurting or shielding themselves from their moms’ critical and destructive behavior. In fact, it really pisses me off.

Then, yesterday, one of the girls in this same discussion group – who is a fantastic mom by the way - had a really tough thing happen to her. Her little guy was asked to leave his daycare after only 9 days at a new center. (He was biting, much to my friend’s horror and consternation.) And while that in and of itself would be upsetting, the stupid Yatch who did the dismissing made my friend feel like this was about her and her parenting. When clearly, it is not. It’s about teething and trying to acclimate to a completely new environment. So today, all of us girls have been sending this friend emails about how she’s a great mom, and it’s unfair, and she’s doing the right things, etc.

So in the midst of that email storm I had this question jump out in front of me like a big blinking neon sign. And I have no answer for it. Or, maybe I don’t like my own answer.

The question is this: If one of my girlfriends was behaving in a way that we all knew was messing up her kids, would we confront her? We’re pretty quick to tell each other what a great job we’re doing as moms. Is our friendship strong enough that we could be critical too?

I don’t mean different parenting styles that we don’t all agree on. Like co-sleeping, or demand feeding, or cloth vs. disposable, or all those things that you can jump on one side or the other of. And clearly, if one of my friends was putting her kids in harms way, we would be having a chat. What I mean is…like, if I had a friend who was overly critical. Or, talked to her kids like they were stupid all the time. Or wasn’t handling stress well, and taking it out on her kids verbally. Or going out all the time and leaving her kids with nannys and sitters every night. Stuff that chips away at their self esteem over time. Stuff that molds who they become in subtle and not so subtle ways.

It’s easy to read the Dr. Phil columns of the world and know that you should address the situation in a way that shows caring and support and uses messaging like, “I noticed that when Timmy put his shoes on the wrong feet, that really made you angry. How about I take the kids for a while and give you a break today so that you can go wash your mouth out with soap you filthy mean witch.”

But come on, the reality is that there are mom’s who don’t need a break for an hour. They need a complete personality overhaul. And they very likely don’t even see that. So how do you address that in a way that is caring?

“Gee Gail, I totally sympathize when you demonstrate how this parenting gig has ruined your life. How about you just give me your children so that you can return to your picture perfect life of boozing, ladder climbing, and vicious gossiping without so many inconvenient interruptions?”

And even if there was a better way to say it (that was pretty Hallmarkish if you ask me), once you start pointing out faults in someone’s parenting they aren’t very likely to keep you around as a friend for long. Right? So then have those kids lost you as an ally? Does Mommy Dearest just cycle through friends until she either has none, or has a few who are mean to their kids too?

I dunno. I’m troubled by this. I like feeling confident about a course of action. And in this situation, albeit a hypothetical one, I am lost without a compass.


1 comment:

Loverbutt said...

Unless I was witnessing actual abuse, I would keep my lips zipped. Do you have any idea what good it would have done me to have someone try to talk to my mom when she was hormonal/crazy/in-need-of-medication/mean to me? None. In fact, I imagine it would have done more harm than good. My mom wasn't abusive; she just wasn't... nice. That has shaped who I am in a lot of ways, and it has given me a lot of baggage in a lot of ways, and sometimes I don't dig my mother so much. I love her, but the love is not all sunshine and roses. BUT, to this day, and even when I was a little kid, I would have been pissed to the OFF at anyone who would have criticized her her or her parenting. That's something, isn't it? As much as I can find fault with her parenting, and as much as she drives me BAT.CHIT.CRAZY nowadays, I would defend her with everything in me.