This morning after I dropped my daughter off at preschool, I stopped at the local Starbucks for something warm as Los Angeles has finally decided it is winter. I was waiting for my order when I overheard a mother of a child from my daughter’s class talking to two of her friends. She didn’t recognize me, and I wouldn’t have recognized her had I not seen her drop her daughter off in my kid’s class just ten minutes before, so I was able to nonchalantly eavesdrop.
The three women were talking about their children in that quick, hyperactive manner of moms trying to catch up with their friends while they were thinking about the next 20 things they had to do. They were also quite competitive. Mom one had a kid who was excelling at violin. Mom two had a budding artist and academic. Mom three was trying to decide if dual immersion was the way to go for her soon-to-be Kindergartener. I listened, recognizing the one-upsmanship for what it was – good moms, proud moms, insecure moms boasting a little to assuage any doubts they had about their parenting. Haven’t we all done this at some point?
As I listened to them I started to develop my own inferiority complex. Should I be considering dual immersion for my child? My daughter is learning some Spanish from my side of the family, but is Mandarin the way to go as one of the Starbucks moms claimed? My child likes to bang on the drums and sing Joan Jett songs; am I a negligent mother for not encouraging her to take up a more classical instrument? Stop that, I scolded myself, as I grabbed my drink and made my exit. Being a parent is difficult enough without holding ourselves to some impossible standards set by no one yet enforced by everyone.
Parenting is hard – the hardest thing I’ve ever done by far. And at the end of the day, if you’re lucky, you get to feel like you did 10 percent of your job as a parent well and only 90 percent of it poorly. And you wake up the next day and you shoot for 11 percent. And the last thing we need is to level such harsh judgment at ourselves and at our fellow parents. Let’s give ourselves a break. We need it and we deserve it. We’re parents; we’re fucking awesome. The parents who go to work and are away from their kiddos making sacrifices for the sake of their families every day — they’re amazing. The stay-at-home parents who care for their families each day and dress up like Elsa for the fourth time in a row even though they have the flu — bless you. The parents who do it alone with little help from anyone — they are inspiring. The parents who are ill but hide from their little ones how much they hurt — their strength is moving beyond words. And the parents who feel overwhelmed with nowhere to turn — may some other parent who has been in your shoes reach out to you.
Go out there and kick ass today, parents! It’s what we do.