I’m feeling called to explore and engage in dialogue around what I’m seeing as a growing trend of parenting blogs, posts, books, articles etc…that are seeking to dispel the myth of “the perfect mother”, normalize and expose the real, darker aspects of parenthood, bringing out of the shadow realms many of the real struggles that even those of us with the highest intentions in parenting face and work with. It’s almost as though in response, reaction or retaliation to the growing popularity of the “Conscious Parenting” movement, this other movement seeks to expose a more “Realistic Parenting.”
Yesterday I found myself perusing a very popular mothering blog, one read by many thousands, that takes this stance, sort of like: “Fu*k conscious parenting. Give me a fu*king break. I’m just doing my fu*king best.” (And it does happen to be an intensely, explicitly foul-mouthed expression.) Along with apparently many readers, I appreciate this mother-of-four’s crass humor, her honest, un-romanticized, de-sentimentalized perspective of parenting and partnering. I think the popularity of the blog (and many other similar expressions I’ve become aware of recently) is due to how refreshing it is to hear anyone speak their outrageous, transparent truth… and for women who carry any guilt around our imperfection as mothers, there is a deeply normalizing reassurance and inclusivity inside this kind of expression that is healing.
And yet, and yet… I must say there is also something deeply unsettling to me as I feel into this “Realistic Parenting” trend, and its subtle or blatant bashing of the “Conscious Parenting” movement.
On the one hand I rejoice in truth-telling in all its forms, and bringing the shadow up into light is always a good idea, especially around something as culturally charged as this topic of mothering. I myself have felt intimidated by certain mothering ideals put out there; there is such a dangerous tendency, especially amongst women, to compare ourselves, to read of another mother's experience and feel in some way that in contrast our own experience somehow falls short, or what we are inherently offering our children, with our best efforts, is failing them in some way. And I am humbly aware that my own writing on conscious parenting, sharing my carefully honed insights or the pure wisdom that comes through my children, with only the deepest of intentions to share and inspire, to expose my own growing edges and living prayers, may unwittingly invoke this kind of painful comparison in the hearts of other parents who are reading my words, and using them to feel they should/could be parenting their own children differently.
What a delicate edge to walk: honoring my own passion and inspiration for inviting~ in myself and others~ the possibility of waking up more deeply to this incredible honor and holy responsibility we are blessed with~ to live as heartfully as we can, to steward these young ones with as much consciousness as possible, knowing these are indeed the future leaders our world is waiting for~ how to invite this, without making myself or my children out to be some version of extraordinary? And without unintentionally isolating mothers who are challenged (in the ways we ALL are) to fully embody our own highest intentions…?
As a single, working mother, I am often overwhelmed with all I am asked by life to juggle, and have scoffed somewhat jealously at some of the Waldorf-themed, stay-at-home, or “simplicity parenting” motherhood suggestions to incessantly craft with our children, or “effortlessly” nourish their “simple, creative needs” with this project, or that one, or this one. Most days I feel fabulous if I successfully feed the children nutritious meals, deliver them to school feeling rested, nourished and loved, answer their questions and respond to their conflicts with kindness and presence, and still make the money I need to during the few hours they are away at school that provides for their many life needs. What an incredible accomplishment! Needless to say, wool-felting small animals or making wax candles with them on top of all that is not at the top of my list of priorities! On the nights I put them to bed knowing I’ve done so in a way that they are falling asleep acutely aware of how loved they are, I feel like a revolutionary. In my own small ways of mothering with true presence and heart I feel like I am changing the world.
I think what triggers me the most about these writings defending and celebrating the normalcy of very human, challenged, irritated, impatient, unromantic parenting~ is that while they reassure the parts of us that are simply human and challenged, they also encourage a kind of complacency and self-soothing around our carelessness as parents that I believe is a disservice to our own capacity to evolve and change, as well as a disservice to the kind of self-reflective, intentional, heartful parenting our children actually deserve.
It has always bothered me and felt essentially untrue to me when someone says, “This is just the way I am” as an excuse for not looking at their stuff, not taking responsibility for the harm it causes, nor receiving the opportunity to claim a fresh intention to change, to evolve, to grow. I feel like many of the writings I’ve been seeing in this movement of “Realistic Parenting” are along those same lines of thought: “This is just the way you are. Join the club! Accept yourself, don’t judge yourself, and know you are part of a vast community of triggered, irritated, utterly normal parents making mistakes all the time. Laughing about your failures is not only ok, it’s in!” Hmmm.....?
Yes, let’s embrace our human imperfections as parents, and yes, let’s see and face our inevitable mistakes, and allow our mistakes to break open our hearts. Let’s allow the painful ways in which we have failed to truly show up to love, to truly appreciate the gifts of our lives, to truly be with these young people who only want our presence, to break our human hearts wide open~ knowing that we truly are doing our best, juggling a million things a day. Let’s allow our mistakes to be the gateway to true self-compassion, yes. Let’s learn the skills of apology and model acts of repair and forgiveness with our children. Let’s use our failures, these constant reflections we receive from our children, illuminated by our own integrity, to take us deeper, into fuller consciousness, awakeness, with all our relations.
I totally accept and respect that not everyone wants this; and this isn’t the goal for most parents. But if a parent is finding relief in the soothing reflection of a blog or book that is subtly re-enforcing NOT taking responsibility for the ways in which we fail to rise to the occasion of LOVE’s invitation, then I would say~ maybe it’s time to look a little deeper? Look deeper into the discomfort of our own shortcomings as a parent, as a partner, as a human heart, and use them to wake up, to forgive, to evolve; to love ourselves, our loved ones and our lives, as best we can.
This is our chance. The kids are growing every day. Grace willing they will stay alive, (not all children do!) and we will get to keep attending to them in these ways. Grace willing they will grow into adulthood, and our parenting tasks will change. This is the precious, fleeting time we have to attend to them and their many needs like this. May we do right by them, and by our own deepest intentions in parenting.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. <3