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[Guest Post] 21st Century Motherhood: No Right Choices for the Modern Mama

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This post is part of my Mother's Day series celebrating 21st Century Moms. Please support these guest bloggers by leaving some thoughtful comments.

No Right Choices for the Modern Mama
By Christa Terry aka The BabbyMama

A friend of mine was recently going through a crisis of conviction… she loves being home with her daughter, but she feels the pull that only a born educator can, drawing her back into the classroom. On the one hand, she knows the toddler years won't last and she doesn't want to miss a thing. On the other, she loves her calling and doesn't want to get left behind. There is guilt swirling around every path she considers taking.

As we talked about her conundrum, I thought about the other mamas I know… the ones who love work and couldn't imagine staying home with children all day and the ones who can stay home without having to worry about paychecks because the bills are taken care of and the ones who, like me only recently, work with a baby in their laps. The ones at jobs who wish they were home. The ones who are desperate to find jobs because they don't have a choice or are missing the challenge of careers they love.

Nearly all of those mamas, doing the best they can every minute of every day, feel guilt, feel shame, and feel confused. Regardless of their choices.

Modern motherhood? It's all about contradictions. Contradictions, I'd like to point out as an aside, that I'm not sure most fathers ever face-at least not externally in the form of omnipresent criticism.
Contradictions caused in part by that old trope: 'Having it all' and in part by the world around us. Contradictions that are external, and contradictions that are internal.

The culture of the U.S. values employment and income – if you're not making money, you're not worth much. And at the same time, our society claims to value motherhood above so many other things, but there's no support structure in place to make full-time motherhood an accessible primary vocation for many, if not most, women. Many SAHMs are flustered by the common question 'What do you do?' – as flustered as working moms are by the question 'What do you do with you child every day?'

Maybe it's not intentional, but sometimes it seems people do their best to make moms of all stripes feel terrible about their choices. People ask moms at home when they'll be going back to work, assuming they will be doing so shortly. They ask working moms directly and without tact if they feel guilty about letting someone else raise their children. They poo-poo daycare because it's not family and the lack of socialization children at home supposedly experience.

The modern mother cannot make the right choice, because there are no right choices open to the modern mother. According to the world around us, every choice we modern mamas makes is wrong, and too many of us internalize that until we end up second guessing everything we want and every decision we make, from whether to work to whether an all-organic diet is doable to nursing vs. formula to public school or private. It's a huge part of why modern motherhood is, for many people, a stressful and exhausting occupation. In other words, it's not the day-to-day, it's the emotional drain caused by the cloud negativity that surrounds mothers from pregnancy onward.

So what's the takeaway? I believe it's that we 21st Century mothers all just need to do our best. That means making the best choices for ourselves, our families, and our circumstances. That means no longer looking to society to tell us what's best. Throw out some of those contradictions that eat away at us, no matter what choices we've made. And finally realize that there are no overarching best choices; there are only the best choices for you, the best choices for me.

Christa Terry is a writer and editor, a published author, a blogger at Manolo for the Brides and I Know How Is Babby Formed, and of course, a mama. Christa has made it her mission in life to live how she wants to live instead of how the world expects her to, and advises others to do the same whenever she has a venue to do so.


Cyrene Kazandra said...

A very powerful post! To each her own indeed! :)

Unknown said...

You are so right! There isn't just one right answer!

Quiana said...

Fantastic post! Especially agreed w/ "Contradictions, I'd like to point out as an aside, that I'm not sure most fathers ever face."

septembermom said...

Amazing post!! We do have to give ourselves a break as mamas. It's tough work but we're trying our best every day. We fall down here and there but we keep getting up and mother with love.

Mama Up! said...

Thanks for the kind words, all!

And Quiana, I actually talk a little bit about that on the post that went live on I Know How Is Babby Formed today.

Kim said...

It's true, no matter what you decide, stay home, go back to work, it comes with a price. Well written!

Debbie said...

That is so true! The best we can hope for is to make the right choices for each day and each stage of life we find ourselves in.

Darcel said...

Great post! I completely agree that our society does not value motherhood.I am so glad I went with my instincts all of those years ago with my first child.
I found my own way, not the way someone else wanted me to go.

Alexia said...

You captured such a honorable double standard for all of us mothers out there! We can't win for staying home and we can't win for working either. But you're totally right, we all just have to make the decision that is best for our family and situation and accept every other mother's choices as well.

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