The Time cover! The Time cover! It is the buzz in media today, which must make the limping magazine quite happy. I’m not in any way interested in debating what age you should breastfeed until or what attachment issues mean. (I will confess to feeling my jaw hit the floor when a friend recently nursed her four-year-old in front of me, but I digress).
So all this “are you Mom enough” got me thinking. I’m past 25 years in my mom cycle, so I absolutely now have the benefit of hindsight. And I have to say, it wasn’t about “being mom enough.” Rather, for me, it was about saying “Mom up!” When I had to.
“Man up!” is well enough known. Here in Boston, we all wish the Sox would just “Cowboy up!” already. So what is “Mom up?” For me, I think it was always making sure I thought considerably about the decisions around raising my children, and then stuck to my guns (but also tried to know how and when to realize I had to change course). I tried hard to Mom Up all these years, and even though both my girls are legal adults now, I still have to remember to from time to time.
I have so many mom friends who know how to Mom Up! with style. Cheryl, who is raising a girl with so many medical things going on most of us would faint. And she does it in a way that makes her daughter just another happy, funny, lovely young lady. Maggie, who worked her way through a pregnancy while recovering from a horrible crash and gave birth to an amazing boy (now amazing man), then finished up her college work with honors, and with him on her hip. Leanna, who woke up one day to find her husband gone and her three kids ready to start the day. She carried on, putting her own anger aside to focus on building a new but awesome life for her kids. They are all super moms who Mom Up! Every day.
I’m no super mom by any means of the imagination. I don’t look like a model and I have more than my fair share of entries into the “Bad Mom of the Week Club.” (Forgot to bring the kid to best friend’s birthday, anyone?) But I’ve tried to Mom up. Times I had to Mom Up! Included:
*When I decided to not send either of my girls to preschool. You cannot believe the grief I took from other moms. “She’ll never catch up!” “She’s going to be so far behind, it’s going to freak her out.” “She will lack necessary social skills.” I heard it all the time. But in my heart, I just felt like I wanted to color and paste at home. I knew we lived on a quite street where kids were always playing; I had them in reading time and dance and art class and whatever. They had plenty of socialization. I read a billion books a day (or was that just the same one over and over and over and over…..whatever! I read to them). By the time my second one got to that pre-school age, I found a way to deflect the critics. I’d just look at them all serious and earthy and say “I’m home-school pre-schooling.” Oh and by the way, both my girls thrived in school. So there.
*When I went back to work when my second one was still in NICU and was going to be there for a while. I had no choice. Before she was born, I knew I’d have to go back to work full time when she was three weeks old, and it seemed like it would be fine. I had no idea she’d be sick when born and way off in Boston on life support. But you know what? My kids needed to be fed; our bills needed to be paid. I Mommed up and made it work; working all night on a news shift and then spending time with the baby and my pre-schooler (who of course was being home school pre-schooled.) Was it easy? No. Did we all survive? Yes. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do for your family.
*I never once helped either of my children on a school project even when I knew they were actually competing with other parents. When they complained that other kids were getting their parents help and how could they outshine an adult, I told them that in the real world, they’d have to do their own work, fair or unfair. Me helping them now would not help them later. Sure, sometimes their projects paled to some others (although my first daughter’s project finesse was rid-dunk-u-lous!), they learned to stand on their own and take pride in their own best work, no matter what others were doing. Was it tempting to compete with the other parents? Yes, but I Mommed up and let the chips fall where they would.
*The years I had to just let my then teen girls hate me. Okay, they never really hated me, but they sure were, ummm, vocal about their dislike of some of my rules. Like the time one of my girls asked me if she could go to the co-ed slumber party. In ninth grade. I’m not sure you know this, but apparently I was the only mother in town who was not allowing her 14-year old daughter to go to a co-ed slumber party. Since she stated this over and over and over, as we walked through the local mall that day, I decided to stop any parent I saw walking with a child around my girl’s age and ask “Oh, I see you have a teen. Do you allow them to go to co-ed sleepovers?” Of course they all said no, and of course my daughter was DYING of embarrassment. I’m surprised the mall alarms did not go off, with all the steam coming out her ears. The good news about all that “Momming up” that they disliked me for is today, they both thank me. Often.
*And the biggest “Mom up” of all: spending the last 15 years raising a child with Type 1 Diabetes (and the sibling of a child with T1D) in a way that kept them healthy, happy and feeling as normal as possible. I’m sorry but as much as that mom on the cover of time may be giving off a “look how tough I am” stare, I ask you to look in the eyes of the mother with a child with diabetes in her family. She’s studied advanced medical procedures and done them, on her own, over and over. She’s sent her child off for something that’s just fun for most kids but a crazy, detailed plan for her child, and done it with a smile on her face. She’s rushed her child to the ER and found a way to do it that make it all seem like a fun adventure. She’s glanced into the future and insisted on thinking “It’s all good.” She’s won epic battles against insurance companies, sub-par substitute teachers, ignorant neighbors, well-intentioned big mouths who say the wrong thing, and done it with style.
To you moms of the world: Thanks for Momming Up. My hat is off to you today.
Please feel free to salute someone you’ve seen “Mom Up!” Below. And hey, Red Sox: Mom Up already.