Over the past 6 months I have come across several essays, publications and blog postings regarding a common theme. The theme is about the Super Moms/Soccer Moms/"Those" Moms. The typical theme goes like this :
It begins: A story unfolds about two mothers: the Laid Back Mother (who narrates) and the Super Mom; You know- "those mothers" who brag about their kids, put them in sports too early, push them academically, compare and compete. The obnoxious Super Moms who haunt suburbia, are on the side lines of the 4 year old soccer fields, and whose perfect children menace your own at the playgrounds.
It continues: The narrating Laid Back mother starts lamenting; "Am I a bad mother because I don't send Johnny to the best Preschool, have him in sports, and don't push him to read and write or learn French?" She struggles with guilt and insecurity as she compares herself to Super Mom's kids, and questions if she is doing right by her child.
The revelation: Then the narrating mother begins to conclude that it is best to let her little Johnny just "be a kid." She refuses to get "caught up with" such competition and the implications peak from between the lines: Those Super Moms are doing their children a possible disservice. She shouts proudly that she has opted out of the Suburban Soccer Mom life! The crowds relate and roar enthusiastically!
And the Lifetime Original TV Movie ending: Said story always ends with poignant pan out... While the rest of suburbia races off to soccer practice, little Johnny and Mommy are doing an art project or playing pirates (and the Mommy is not yelling and Johnny is not melting down or whining annoyingly). Johnny will grow into a secure, grounded young man while surely those other saps will need therapy due to their pushy, overscheduled, competetive childhoods.
Laid Back Mommy no longer feels she is inferior because in affirming the way SHE chooses to do things, she ends up putting down the Super Mom's way.
Psych 101: You always feel better after you've put down (consciously or unconsciously) some other person or group.
Is this really fair? And, is the "Opting Out" mentality necessarily the RIGHT or more loving one, as it's always portrayed? I mean, if we were so 'pushy' and 'over acheiving' as a nation, why do U.S. children continue to rank far below children of other nations in terms of intelligence/academic success?
Now I know I'm running the risk of alienating any one (and I do mean ONE) who may read this by 'defending' the Super Mom types. And, I'm honestly not even one of "those" mothers. I just believe that fair is fair, and the Quintessential Suburban Soccer Mom/Super Mom needs some defending.
The funny thing is that these stories all start out with a Laid Back Mom feeling like she is being "judged" because she's not "doing what the other moms are doing." Ironically, in the end, she kinda ends up judging those moms right back. When anyone makes fun of, puts down, or judges another group, even when it's in good humor, it makes them feel better about themselves but it's always false and temporary. The real issue is that no one can MAKE us feel inferior. We do it to ourselves. We don't feel the comparisons and competetion from others unless we allow the comparison and competition to take place. When we don't bother, it doesn't affect us. We just live and let live and feel no better or worse in the process.
To be honest, I am kind of in the middle of being Laid Back Mom and Super Mom. Therefore, I have friends in both camps. We ALL want for our children what I think any parent wants - For them to be able to be exposed to many different things : the arts, sports, the outdoors and nature, and academics. My kids go to Pre-K because that is pretty much the expectation when they enter kindergarten, and I want them to be ready and I want them to work toward their fullest potential. If that makes me pushy and focused on overacheiving, then I question the very definition! I certainly don't push them or over-extend them. But yes, I think it's okay to encourage them to excel, have them in activities, and take pride in all their accomplishments - from sharing a toy, to creating a picture, to writing their name and counting to 100. And, yes, I think they can do all these things AND just be a kid at the same time. It's a little thing I like to call balance.
I don't want or need them to be the best or brightest. I don't need to brag about them or compare them to other children. But, if I'm sending them to preschool, I'll pay a bit more to get a school strong in academics. That's just me. I don't judge or categorize those that opt for Montessori schools, home-school, no school, or a pre-school that focuses more on socialization and less on academics. I always hope that no one is judging me for my choices and I try to return the respect. Everyone has a different style.
I guess I'm just full to the brim with the "I opt-out of the typical competetive suburban family rat-race and aren't I great for doing so" stories. With the exception of a few statistical outliers, most parents are just trying to do best by their kids,and all kids have different needs and personalities. It's never up to any of us to project our own experiences, values, and opinions on another group. I am a Soccer Mom. I am a Suburban Mom. I wouldn't call myself a Super Mom, but perhaps someone who doesn't know me might categorize me as such based on outward appearance. My husband and I both have advanced degrees and we value education. We also value play, the arts, and nature. We're not an overscheduled family, but we do have the 'stereotypic' suburban activities. I don't push, but I do believe kids should do their best and have as many enriching experiences as they can - academics being one of them. I don't ever feel like I need to apologize for that, just as no one should apologize if their 3 year old isn't reading yet.
I want what every mom wants - children who are happy, social, well rounded and comfortable in their own skins. I want them to go to museums, draw, play indiscriminately, make friends, develop a love for learning, and grow into wonderful human beings who love to help others. I can do it "opting in" and I can do it "opting out." It's my choice, as it is for every mother. Where does insecurity, competitiveness and feelings of either ineptness or superiority come in to play???
It's hard enough just to be a Mom without feeling like someone is categorizing, judging, teasing, or questioning you - whether you are a Super Mom or a Laid Back Mom. We should never feel like we need to compare ourselves or our children to each other. When we do compare and feel inferior, we need to look within ourselves not at the external factors we erroneously believe are causing such feelings. When you don't question who you are as a person or mother, no one and nothing will ever make you feel inferior or insecure. Let's look at OURSELVES more and OTHERS less. All of us. When we do, we find that most of the time the only one holding a measuring stick up to our lives is the person staring back from the mirror!!
I don't need to hear one more story "downing" the Super Mom. Let's cut her some slack, shall we? She may be in lipstick and heels, but I guarantee you that she's just a loving, flawed, vulnerably human woman; wiping the same poopy tushes, crying the same salty tears of frustration, and trying her best to get through the day - same as the rest of us.