every misstep is a precursor to deep-seated, permanent, life-long psychological struggle. and yet, at the moment i am rather amazed and impressed with how well i am doing, at how well i am managing to keep two children alive and fed and my temper from exploding even at some most precarious moments. aleksander's birthday cake was carob sweetened with homegrown honey after all, right? i feel guilt and the inevitable and painful self-scrutiny as well, but it is more general, less localized, less like a knife to the chest than at other times. there is a driving urge to always do better, and i don't suppose that it is a bad thing as long as it is not completely overwhelming. i took a moment recently while mulling over more of alfie kohn's unconditional parenting to realize that really i do alot of the things i aspire to already. i guess i just don't give myself a whole heck of alot of credit. i always have a tendency to want more or want to do more. i must be a glutton for punishment or something. the other day i was realizing how i had managed to pull off so much recently and that i did it well and without too much stress and of course with a little help from my husband and then i started thinking, what else can i add to this? what else can i do? and i stepped outside myself for a second and realized that to add to it would make me a little like the cat in the hat balancing on the ball with two books, a fish, a rake, a cake, a teapot, and waving a fan with my tail - and that while i might be able to do all that and not fall for a bit, adding to it isn't always necessarily a good idea. eventually something will fall. and knowing my luck, it will weigh eight tons and fall from the sky.
the inevitable guilt of being unable to meet the impossible expectations of perfecting motherhood weighs heavily on me. heavier at some times than at others, but always there, a lead on my heart. my heart knows how important it is that i not let my sons watch tv or that they eat the best foods or that i not yell and remain always emotionally responsive to their needs and their feelings. i read books about how i should birth or nurse or discipline (or not); about how i should school or support my own emotional sanity with a well-balanced outlook and my own interests. but i always fall short of the mark. i am forever indebted to perfection, struggling to merely stay afloat, let alone not yell or turn off the television or serve nutritious snacks. i birth at home, breastfeed, cloth diaper, co-sleep, stay at home, don't vaccinate or circumcise, provide creative, open-ended, natural-made toys, eat mostly organic, whole, vegetarian foods, try very hard to be responsive and gently guide rather than discipline punitively...and yet i am still so far from what i envision and i feel always at fault despite lacking a support network or real encouragement in these endeavors. why shouldn't blame fall also on a society that doesn't value children or the work of mothers, a government that allows gross over-marketing to children, and a culture that encourages finding short-cuts to every encounter with pain or discomfort? why don't fathers share in the blame or at least partially shoulder the guilt? why do i have to worry about perchlorate in my milk or even milk in my milk? why is there so much goddamn information yet no clear answers? i am bombarded with data about what is good or right or best that i have to somehow navigate and find a way to feel secure in my decisions despite being alone in this sea of ideas. and i must prop up my own self-confidence with the assuredness i gain when making decisions about what is good and what is best. the only way i've found to really accomplish this is to be self-righteous about it. it's what i encounter in other mothers all the time as well. it is no wonder there are "mommy wars." we all blame ourselves, so why not blame each other? we face an impossible time trying to get society to shoulder the blame or to affect any change in the world. getting the world to unlearn it's preconceptions about the work of mothering may be the biggest challenge yet and may be the first step to changing everything else.