Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Beyoncé a Wonderful Mom, Pals Say"

Dear Beyoncé,

Congratulations on your new baby! I am wishing you deep sleeps, lots of family snuggle time, and some moments for yourself, too.

And to be granted space from prying eyes and cameras. I recall so many long afternoons with nothing to do but just be with baby Big Sis. We'd lie on the living room rug and chat and play and sing to the new Sarah McLachlan album. I'd watch the shadows lengthen across the room and neighborhood folks come home from work and think about how my days were different now.

But goodness did that headline about you on fire me up for a whole day before I clicked on it for details. Partly it was the suggestion that we were all waiting to hear if you could hack your new role. I am trying to relate to your situation, while understanding that the news media is generally uninterested in my children and parenting. So I imagine a scenario in which my friends are prompted by Facebook to rate my mothering, with the verdict of (phew) "good." Thanks, guys.

I think.

It's the notion that parenting is black and white, good or bad--or that there is even a spectrum including "wonderful" that we exist on--that chafes and makes me want to reach out and reassure you. For one thing, that designation can feel like a big pile of pressure to maintain some level of parenting awesomeness.  What's the rubric for mothering, anyway, and who created it? How do I know a wonderful mom when I see her, particularly when she has a brand-new infant? Do wonderful moms smile all the time? Do they breastfeed? Do we measure a mom's wonderfulness by her ability to hold it all together? By her claims that she really, really loves every part of this whole game-changing, irrevocably life-altering, amazing but scary-ass gig?

In defense of your friends Kelly and Michelle, who are just trying to be wonderful pals, it's the news media I want to scream at to SHUT IT ALREADY, particularly when they drop analytical gems like, " as natural for the pop star as dancing in stilettos and a leotard."

Wow. Deep breath.

You do rock the stilettos and leotard. But I have to wonder if that's like me rocking my safety vest and emergency backpack as a vice principal on a fire drill. It's part of my work uniform, and by far not the most natural or wonderful thing about me and the job that I love.

But let's examine natural. Natural moms I know cry a whole lot--or not, feed their babies in the best way they can, need help, are a little scared a lot of the time, trust their instincts, second-guess themselves, rely on others' wisdom, try and fail and attempt something else, feel frustrated and triumphant, and bask in times that feel good.

Natural mothers sometimes experience post-partum depression. Kids of natural moms may need daycare. Mothers who are naturals might allow their children to jump on the couch or forbid their kids to watch network TV, because natural parents do what feels right and comfortable for their families. So go with what works for you. And sometimes you find out what works for you actually doesn't, because parenting is a heck of a tough career, and all the important learning happens on the job.

The good news is that there are no Billboards charts for parenting or record sales to top. There's just you and your little family, making do and doing your best in your own way.

To be the very best parent you can be, you need to take good enough care of yourself to take good care of your children. And put your children's health and safety above all others'. Parents check their priorities from time to time, recalibrate, make adjustments. And even get help when they're losing it. Don't be afraid of that; be afraid of being dishonest with yourself and with the people who love you.

I hope you feel wonderful, Mama. And when you don't, that's okay, too. We get it. Kelly and Michelle will get it, too, as they support you on this new journey.

Surround yourself with loving friends and family, and go easy on yourself. No matter what kind of mom you feel like, or the media declares you are, you're some kind of wonderful, for certain.



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