Who is The Better Mother?

You know, I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the fracas surrounding the new mommyhood. Yes, I know it should be motherhood, but, somehow, with Jessica Alba all of a sudden proclaiming herself an expert on all things toxin-free and eco-family-friendly, mothers don’t really seem to exist anymore. It’s a world ofmommies (albeit mommies who have a lot of money and a lot of help and spend a lot of time searching for things that won’t passively poison their children) and we just have to get used to it.

But the thing is, I wrote a book called The Better Mother! Every single thing I’ve ever written in my entire life has to do with what mothers are expected to be and what they can’t live up to even as they try to tread water and survive. My fictional mothers can be bad and mean, they can ignore the needs of their children, but they are women we understand, that we can cry for sometimes.

Personally, I find myself tossed about in a strange storm. There are the attachment mothers, the ones who nurse until the kid just drops off the breast when he’s 17. Then there are the organic mothers who don’t buy anything unless it’s brown, mealy and can be used as a face cream as well as a salad dressing. And then there are the hard-edged mothers, the ones who insist that their children act like miniature adults and who will not tolerate any disruption to their plucked and polished senses of self.

You will note: I make fun of them all. Which means that I alternate between all of these different kinds of women. Except for the nursing one. Sorry, I really liked wearing regular bras again.

And then there are the celebrity mommies who design baby clothes and endorse compostable diapers and write pretty bad picture books. These are the women who walk in fashion shows when their babies are 6 weeks old. These are the women who go straight from labour and delivery into spinning class and have nannies and cooks (whom the public never sees) standing at attention 24 hours a day. These are the women we see in magazines looking well-rested. These are the women we should never listen to. No, really. I don’t care about much, but I’m telling everyone out there that no one should ever take parenting/lifestyle/exercise/beauty advice from Hilary Duff/Jessica Simpson/Heidi Klum. I MEAN IT.

(Incidentally, I find it sweetly hilarious that Hilary Duff writes novels. It’s not even worth it to make fun of her author persona. I feel like she’s the really enthusiastic but not very athletic child on the playground that the other kids just humour. Shhh. We’ll just tell her that her books are good and then maybe she’ll stop. Shhh.)

Seriously though, I refuse to understand the conflicts between mothers who choose to parent in different ways. We all struggle to get through a long, whiny, snotty day. We all hate changing diapers. We all dream of getting a really good massage. I like to think that there’s a reason I write so much about women who are mothers. And it’s this: no one is The Better Mother. I write about the mistakes we make, the wounds we inadvertently inflict on our children, and how family is immutable despite distance, conflict and emotional coldness. We do the best we can given our circumstances. Sometimes it’s not good enough. Sometimes it is.

So if you see a mommy wandering around out there doing something that is totally antithetical to how you view motherhood, just remember that she is just doing the best she can. As you do. As your mother did. And offer her a smile. Because her pockets are probably filled with booger-y tissues and crushed Cheerios, and a smile might just help her get through the next hour of her day.

And you can pass her a copy of The Better Mother too. Because of course you keep a box of them in your car at all times to help me out. I have to pay for those organic animal cookies somehow.

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