Laying the Blame

It may be a few days before I get back to Facebook. Although I knew this was going to happen–in time of a tragedy, our natural reaction is to find someone to blame. Guns. Criminals. The mentally ill. The health care system. And finally, yes, it came down to: Mothers. “His mother was rigid.” “His mother was too strict,” the comments read on the killings in Connecticut.

perfect-womanYes, there are mothers that don’t do a good job. Ones that probably shouldn’t have had children. But there is a much more pervasive problem here–a culture that demands that moms take care of kids, have money-producing jobs, take care of a house, make sure the kids have play dates and are in sports, music and summer camps. (And do it smiling in heels and coordinated outfits). Add to that the clothes and food shopping (better comparison shop or use coupons), homework supervision and religious education, and then, don’t forget yourself, so we can be the woman who has it all. And if you are not a mother, you better do a lot more, because there is an obligation to be a mother, as well.

You can’t have it all. You can’t be all things to all people. Not at the same time, maybe not all in your one lifetime.

The messages we get from our magazines (cook like the Barefoot Contessa! Be

organized like Martha Stewart! Run a blog, take care of a farm and farm hands  like Pioneer Woman! Run an empire, write books and take coaches on training sessions like Martha Beck! Look and dance like Beyonce!) are constantly showing us what we are not and need to be.

Sure, some moms get help from the children’s father. As they should. But even with help, meeting all those expectations is impossible. The effort alone is exhausting.

We wake up and our first thought is “I’m late,” or “I didn’t get enough sleep,” or “I didn’t finish that report for work.” The first hour of the day, the one in which we are most creative, is spent giving ourselves messages of “not enough,” and “hurry up.” No wonder creativity gets shoved into a corner as a chore rather than as personal growth.  No wonder we are tired, frustrated, and chronically at the end of our rope. The demands to be everything, have everything, and do everything is constant.

Instead, we are not enough of anything consistently. We take a dash at creativity by assembling a kit, we hand our kids a video game instead of reading to them, we put preservative-loaded food on our table and we worry about our family and our image all the time.

Playing along with a culture of perfection, fear and blame doesn’t make us perfect, courageous, and bold. It makes us shaky, angry and scared. It makes us look around for someone to blame when a corner of our world crumbles. “We have met the enemy he is us,” Walt Kelley wrote in the long-vanished comic strip Pogo. It’s time to change our culture, and it starts with you.

Quinn McDonald helps people through re-invention and change. She is a life and creativity coach and far from perfect.

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32 thoughts on “Laying the Blame

  1. It is definitely a struggle juggling the many different hats a woman has to wear. It’s a struggle that is actually unecessary. Women should strive to be the very best versions of themselves first and foremost. If you’re a mother try to be the most nurturing mother to your children as you can be. If you’re a business woman learn how to balanced your work life with your personal life in order to achieve success. We don’t need to look to celebrities for a mold on how we should be living our lives. They’re doing their thing in trying to be the best version of themselves and we should do the same. Beyonce may be a great entertainer but I wonder how she’s dealing with her new role as a mother. It isn’t easy.

    • Celebrities are our new heroes and the ones we want to emulate, although we don’t know their real lives. I’m sure Beyonce has a lot of hired help, which most regular people can’t afford. The really hard part of being a woman is setting your own expectations according to your values, not the values of others. Peer pressure, which we learn in kindergarten, and strengthened our whole life long, makes it almost impossible to say things like, “I’m not doing Christmas this year, I need a break,” or “I don’t have the time to make a required dish for your party, I am spending more time with my children. Am I still invited?” Those stands are not considered acceptable in our culture.

  2. Quinn…I wish you were my next door neigbour and we could pop in for a cup of tea now and then! What hope you give me everyday….you just say what I think so much of the time….and it reinforces my believes in how I see the world and know I am not alone. You have a wonderful way of saying it. I am inspired to start a blog next year……one of the things young mothers have to content with is the technical revolution ,I feel it makes families very disparaged,but without it I would not have you as a virtual friend and all the wonderful posts that follow…so I am not going to complain. We need to use all our tools wisely. I don’t think we have it easier than our mothers and grandmothers….society has changed and motherhood with it. I am an older mother with young children..my choice. I just think if as mums we can Go to bed at nite and know we have done our best each day…and we know when we have and haven’t…….we shouldnt beat ourselves up. We are only human after all,not super heroes. Thankyou.
    I hate the word blame. I am working on it.x

    • Every gift has a price–whether it’s technology or a new idea. None of us is a superhero, I just wish our culture wouldn’t keep hinting that we should be. I wish you were my neighbor, too. I have some great teas for winter!

  3. Hello Quinn, Our society has been and is judgmental and as a society we are always looking for someone to blame.
    I was a supermom of the 80’s. All the things listed on your post (and more) made up my life. For our family it was more about surviving than about creating a lifestyle. I think women have been and are surviving in a world that is unbalanced. Although we (as women) are better off than (for example) my own mother we are still underpaid and undervalued. And on top of all that we are the first to get blamed when something goes wrong in the family!
    Voltaire, who stood up for the underdog said “with great power comes great responsibility”. He was talking about something quite different but it fits in this instance as well. As mothers we have great power over the lives of others but it comes with the responsibility of taking the credit or blame for the way our children “turn out”.
    On the one hand I agree with your post today. I have had many foster children and seen firsthand what happens when “mom” doesn’t do her job. Yes, dad should have some responsibility there too but we aren’t quite there yet. Someday…?
    Our societal family structure is lopsided and our kids pay for it in the end. Until “we” begin to put the responsibility for raising our children on both parents and get back to a “whole” family unit (aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors) our children will continue to be undone.

    • Ahhh, the 80s. How did we ever get through them? I do think it takes a lot of work for new blended families, but until we give up our anger and blame for marriages that don’t work (and work on the marriage we have), it’s hard to love ourselves and give to our kids. I often wonder if I have it better than my mom. She didn’t work outside the home, although she worked hard in the home–she baked, she cooked, she did needlework, and she taught it all to me. (The boys? Not so much) We had only one car, but we didn’t need more than one. We didn’t need more than one income, either. We didn’t live lavishly, but we didn’t expect to. Maybe that’s it–today’s expectations are mighty high.

  4. Hi Quinn! I, too, am touched by your post today. I think it’s spot on and agree a hundred percent. I am happy being perfectly imperfect, and that’s as close to perfect as I want to be. By accepting my imperfections I take a load of stress off my shoulders and my heart, and it gives me more time for family, friends and myself. That by no means means I don’t try to improve myself in areas I honestly feel need improvement, I just don’t strive to be perfect, period. I enjoy learning and growing, be it as a person, an artist, a friend, etc. But I don’t have to be perfect. And I don’t expect others to be perfect, and more importantly, I don’t believe others have to be like me to be happy, successful, worthy, etc. I don’t look to change others. I look to learn from them and to love them and to share my walk in life with them. IMO, if we love others uncondtionally, then that love spreads out from us like ripples in the lives we touch. And so on, and so on and so on………….and for me, that’s my ultimate life goal, to love others unconditionally and to see that love grow and spread from one person to another. But before we can love others unconditionally, we must learn to love ourselves unconditionally tool And that means accepting our imperfections. The biggest being, none of us is truly wonder woman. More like, exhausted woman.

  5. There is a pervasive amount of blaming and pointing fingers these days. It often appears that nobody wants to say the person who actually did something is the one to be responsible. There is no personal accountability anymore. I’m not sure how we have come to be that way, but I am saddened by it.

    • We came that way by deciding that only parents could make decisions for their kids, not anyone else. While I understand that we can’t run around being the mom police, paying attention to only parents (and expecting everyone else to praise and reward) brings very unbalanced views of the world. I do think that the terrorist attacks on NY and DC (and PA) caused us to become a nation that fears. That always results in blame and anger. It’s a bad circle.

  6. One of the things I love most about being “old” (though, to quote Robert A Heinlein,”There never was a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart.”) and retired, is that I have time–time to relax, time to create, time to play. Sure, there are still demands on my time, but I’ve learned to say “no”. One of the greatest time-savers in my life is accepting aging! The other day, my granddaughter gave me what I consider to be a wonderful compliment: she said, “Gramma, I’m glad you look like a Gramma!” There is a back-story to this, in that her other Grandmother goes the whole nine yards–dyes her hair, gets (I think) Botox and plastic surgery, spends insane amounts on “hope in a jar” skin care regimens. I have silver hair, and I think it’s beautiful. I have wrinkles and sags and bags–and they’re badges of honor, for I earned envy one of them. And it’s such a relief to have dropped out of the rat-race. I love my life now.

    • Me too. I have only been retired 9 months, but I still find myself rushing here and there. I have to stop and tell myself, you can take your time, no rush! But it is so ingrained in our psyches! I am also one of the “silver haired!”

    • Good for you Susannah! I personally want to grow old like Katharine Hepburn….wrinkles that are well earned, a zest for life, internal peace and love that fills my heart. I, too, have dropped out of the rat race…not that I had specifically planned it in my mind but now I don’t want to go back to any other way. I would rather live simply so that I can live peacefully.

    • It’s great to have earned your age and your looks and to be happy with them. I wish society were a bit more accepting. But as a society, we are very afraid of death, and we know that old people are heading there, so we shun them. Too bad, we are missing a lot of wisdom.

      • Oh my gosh, older people are my absolute favorite to hang out with and get to know (good thing since my husband is 19 years older than me, LOL). Older, vibrant, fun people are amazing to be around, as much as small children who are full of child-like enthusiasm.

    • So well said! I dropped out of the competition 30 odd years ago and had to teach myself to care for myself and not care for the standards society sets, and I am much happier! I have grown into my wrinkles and laugh lines, I have earned them and am proud of them! My grandsons think I am “cool”, and that means far more than any job title ever could, and I am prouder of them than of anything I have ever done myself, because they represent the future; and as long as they think its cool to create, the future will be in good hands.

  7. I’m not one for posting comments much, but I happen to fall upon your blog and read this post. I couldn’t agree more, as a mother, now of 4 children(adopted my forth at age 6) I feel I am constantly judge, especially with my last child, who has had a horrific life until we adopted him, and because no-one knows his background, we are getting judge for his behavior or acting out because of his pain. I do believe that Love really can win and I do wish we as a society would show grace.

  8. Hi Quinn, back on the 6th you quoted Martin Luther King. Perhaps this is the right time to repeat and remember what he said:
    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
    Tolstoy (in War and Peace) also said something along the lines of if men of goodwill stand by and do nothing, then evil can triumph.
    Its up to us to redress the balance the world on the side of everything that is good, just and merciful. Together we have a loud voice if we use it in unison. Superwoman cannot do that!

    • There is power in unity, but I also think that women often don’t support each other. There is still that pervasive competitive attitude–“If she’s weak, I can take her [job, husband, boss’s attention]” that I think exists. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.” (I don’t remember the one from War and Peace), and I think it applies to women more than men.

      • War and Peace was translated into English so there could easily have been a spot of plagiarism there. And yes, it does apply to women, we are the first to turn on each other like she-wolves for the pettiest thing and the pressure to be all things to all people is very strong, including being responsible for a child that goes wrong. “Blame the mother” has already appeared in Australia. Modern media encourages this. FB, Twitter and the forums have been full of bitterness over the nurse and the hoax phone call, so they will have a field day over this; and with most of the women trying to outdo themselves in hate speech and vilification of anyone they think responsible!
        We have a long way to go before we can say “thats how it is” without holding someone else responsible for something that may have absolutely no rational explanation, beyond thats what happened. We have to learn to accept and love ourselves for the imperfect people we are, not the perfect person we are taught to think we should be. A bit of charity this holiday season would go a long way, not just for the families who have lost their children and/or loved ones, but the family of the killer who have also lost loved ones in the most appalling way, and will have to bear the brunt of the outpouring of hatred and blame. They are innocent too.

        • You have mentioned something that is so important–the family of the killer is grieving too. They did not want this to happen, not to their son, not to those children. But they are being vilified. It’s so very sad for everyone. Thanks for making that important point.

          • I so agree Caroline and Quinn. I cannot even begin to imagine what the killer’s family is going through. They certainly need our healing, positive thoughts; I can’t begin to imagine vilifying them.

            There are way too many places to place blame for this horrific tragedy. In my opinion, the bottom line is, each of us has a violent and unbalanced side, as well as a peaceful, harmonious side. We have all gotten extremely angry over one situation or another. How does anyone know what the exact breaking point is? Parents need to be responsible to their children on an everyday basis and teach them good morals and values but that doesn’t guarantee anything. I can’t begin to imagine that the mother of this killer deserved to be shot in the face. Nobody deserves that!

            Our hearts are broken for the loss of these innocent lives.

  9. Hi Quinn, I was touched by your post today and one of my favorite quotes which is on my blog:’ Be the change you want to see in this world’ from Ghandi and that’s so true! Of course we can blame everything around us but if we are only pointing the finger nothing will change! The only thing we can do is be that authentique (our inner self that is love) drop in the water that creates the ripples and that will touch others…….and every day or maybe every minute we can start again with doing that! Thanks for your inspiring message, greet from the heart, Miranda

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