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New York Times Misdiagnoses 'Mommy Problem'

Heather Havrilesky has a thing or two to say about the word “mommy,” and she shared a few of those things in a recent article in the New York Times. In some ways, I get it. There’s been a paradigm shift (a few of them, even) in the world of parenting in the past 40 years. It used to be that you had kids and earned the title of "parent." These days, how you actually parent seems to take center stage. Gone is the noun as the verb takes over.

In the early days with infants and toddlers and never-ending needs, parenting does change you. Isn’t that to be expected? One minute you’re only responsible for your own well-being, the next minute a tiny little life is screaming out for you whenever you turn around. That can certainly feel all-encompassing, and it does alter your identity. But, like many experiences throughout parenting, that feeling ebbs and flows as one stage bleeds into the next. When they’re little, you conquer the world in state of mild to moderate sleep deprivation. Then they head off to school and leave a hole in your heart that you don’t know how to fill. But you find a way to fill it. Because as your kids learn and grow, you do, too.

“Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children, a role you play at home and at school,” writes Havrilesky, “Motherhood has been elevated—or perhaps demoted—to the realm of lifestyle, an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else is a woman’s life.”

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Is this how the vast majority of mothers feel? Does motherhood eclipse all else? I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I certainly don’t feel this way.

I am married to a musician. Whether he is on the road for 18 months or back home doing studio work, the majority of the parenting falls on me. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost myself to a lifestyle of motherhood. I run almost every day. I work. I burn through books at an alarming rate, because I prefer literature to television. And one year ago while he was on the road, I reached a lifelong dream when I signed a book deal. I would argue that, through motherhood, I found my way.

According to Havrilesky, “The current culture demands that every mother be all-in, all the time.” She references over-the-top birthday parties, Facebook images of perfection and Pinterest-worthy crafting at home. In that case, I can understand the resentment. It’s hard to live up to that kind of parenting perfection. But, then again, who says she has to?

I don’t throw huge birthday parties with live music, petting zoos and professional crafters, because that’s not what’s right for my family. (Also? My husband would pass out). But I don’t judge those who do, and I don’t spend time worrying about whether or not others are judging my homemade birthday parties. (They’re not; they have better things to do.)

Are you looking to get out of the motherhood rat race? It’s simple: Stop judging yourself against the actions of other moms. Let them live out their motherhood dreams while you live out yours.

The problem is not the word “mommy” or the current culture of motherhood. The problem is self-esteem. We all yell “don’t judge!” when the mommy wars heat up over one thing or another, but we forget to yell that to our inner critics when we judge ourselves against the actions of other moms.

One thing I’ve learned over and over again in this parenting gig is that I can’t possibly measure up to every other mom out there, because we’re all different. We all have different needs, different styles and different goals.

I’ll never set up crafts worthy of Pinterest in my home, but I will have kids covered in glue, glitter, paint and smiles. I won’t spend the big bucks on huge parties with fancy gift bags, but I will have a few kids over and bake really amazing cupcakes. (I won’t, however, decorate them in a Pinterest-worthy fashion. I’m just not Pinterest material, and I’m good with that). I won’t volunteer for every single PTA position that comes my way, but I will volunteer in their classrooms and coach a soccer team. I will do what works for me.

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Motherhood is what you make of it. You can get wrapped up in Facebook perfection or PTA stardom and worry about whether or not you’re getting or right, or you can delete the Facebook app from your phone (seriously, do it, that’s freedom) and enjoy your version of motherhood on your own terms.

We are generation surrounded by white noise, and sometimes that white noise negatively impacts our self-esteem. Are you looking to get out of the motherhood rat race? It’s simple: Stop judging yourself against the actions of other moms. Let them live out their motherhood dreams while you live out yours.

Or, to simplify, mom and let mom. It’s the only way to do it.

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