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.
Yes, 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.