I’m going to take a little side trip here from my usual posts in honour of Mother’s Day. Sunday got me thinking about metaphors for motherhood. I landed on circus employee, but with what job specifically?
- A Lion Tamer? – Have you ever faced the tantrum of a hungry toddler in a shopping mall?
- A Clown? – Have you ever entertained a group of small children at a birthday party?
- A Contortionist? – Have you ever tried to hold down a screaming baby while diapering?
- A Concession operator? – Do you provide an endless supply of meals, drinks and snacks?
- A Juggler? – Are you able to hold a wiggly small child, a diaper bag, a bag of groceries and still get out the car keys?
- A Ringleader? – Are you able to organize homework, meal preparation, extracurricular activities and housework?
A mother is all of these things, but, the metaphor I’m going to use here is…..
Mothering is a job that requires walking a very fine line. We are all trying to find that perfect balance in everything we do. The problem is, perfect balance is basically impossible. Walking the line requires constant corrections this way and that.
- UV rays cause skin cancer. So, I slather my kids with sunscreen. Later, I discover one of the main ingredients may cause…wait for it…skin cancer.
- We know our children should eat whole grains and lots of vegetables and drink milk. My child would happily exist on packaged macaroni and cheese and juice and usually refuses to eat dinner. I must balance between his not eating, and his eating ideal foods.
- We clean our houses and our hands constantly because we’ve been told it’s the best way to prevent disease. Now we are too clean, and they say it’s causing allergies. What to do?
- Cloth or disposable diapers? One requires bleach and massive quantities of water for washing. There is also a higher risk of diaper rash and leakage. On the other hand, disposable diapers add to landfill, and come with a higher risk of disapproval from your environmentalist friends.
- Do you hang your laundry to dry? It adds a substantial amount of work to your already packed schedule of mealtimes, playdates and housework. On the other hand, it saves a lot of energy, and lengthens the life of your clothing.
- Do you have more than one car? This is often a case of balancing convenience and guilt.
- How does your family spend outdoor time? Is time spent in nature or time spent doing team sports more valuable? Balancing your family’s scheduled and unscheduled activities is not a simple exercise.
- How much screen time do your children get? None? I applaud you, but for me that would risk my own sanity at dinner preparation time. A little help from Elmo once in a while is worth it to me.
- How much freedom is too much, and at what age? What is an acceptable amount of risk? On the other hand, bubble wrapping your children limits their ability to engage fully with the world.
- Whose advice are you going to take?
- Who are you willing to offend? Your mother? Your friend? Your sister-in-law? Your doctor?
- How many compromises are you willing to make? On what issues?
Finding Balance (or not):
I guarantee that you’re doing something I think is wrong. I also guarantee I’m doing something that YOU think is wrong. We’re probably both doing something that the experts don’t recommend. The experts are probably at home doing things we disagree with too. Heck, they’re probably doing things THEY disagree with.
What you’re doing is good for the environment but bad for your baby’s health. It’s bad for the environment but good for your baby’s health. It’s good for both, but bloody inconvenient. It’s bad for both, but you’re exhausted and need a break. All the other kids are doing it, but it’s too dangerous. Your father-in-law doesn’t approve, but your grandmother insists. Your sister thinks you should do it this way, but your husband insists on the other.
We have all been there.
All we can do is keep walking.