Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Looking Beyond Supermom

I saw this article last week in the New York Times Complaint Box titled Twin Discrimination by Susannah Meadows and have been mulling it over ever since. In it, the author writes about a class she tried to attend on her own with her twins but was told there was a requirement of one adult per child. 
"The director of children and family programs explained that if in addition to paying double the $175 tuition for six classes, I wanted to hire a baby sitter to help me take care of my own children, well, then, the “Harvard of Flatbush” would accept our application...I explained that mothers of twins were not like other mothers. They’re saggier in the gut, perhaps, but reliable gold medalists in the wrangling competition."
It was this last sentence that really caught my eye. My friends who are parents of twins and triplets always joke around that multiples are only given to those of us that can handle them; it takes a particular type of person to confidently and patiently be able to handle the chaos and massive multi-tasking that goes on when you are parenting multiple children of the same age. Not to say that we all do it perfectly all the time, but Ms. Meadow's argument that as parents of twins (or more), we are so used to keeping an eye on and paying attention to multiple young children at the same time that a rule about needing someone's help to do so should not be applied to us was interesting. I do sometimes wonder what parents of singletons are complaining about. But then I assume my friends with triplets look at me, with my twins, and chuckle about "how easy it must be with just two"! 

I think that this notion that as a mom of twins I am somehow Super Mom and able to do things other mothers can't is both empowering and intimidating. Yes, when I spend a full day with my two on my own I come away (on a good day) feeling confident and capable; but does that mean if I need a nanny's help that I am insecure and incompetent? Perhaps this way of looking at parenting isn't such a great idea. What I love most about this Times article is the paragraph where the director of the class the author was trying to attend gives her reasons for the one adult per child rule: 
"Kate Blumm, a spokeswoman for the garden, said that with 'the pedagogical philosophy we have for this program and age group, we find that this ratio works best.' At home, we have a pedagogical philosophy, too. We emphasize the importance of independent drawer-dropping if one twin has to go and Mommy’s busy wiping the other guy."
Meadow's retort is the perfect example of why I love parents of multiples. It's just not possible to always follow the "perfect" picture of motherhood painted by parenting books and parenting classes; when you have twins you sometimes have to throw your vision of perfect out the window and just do what works. And if that means one of your twins has to learn to pull his pants down and go to the bathroom without mommy's help, well that's not such a bad thing. Parents of multiples are among the most resourceful and unflappable people I have ever met. In many ways, you just have to be; it's just not possible to be so perfect with twins, triplets or quads running around.
A friend of mine sent me a hilarious article this morning called Killing Off Supermom in which the author, Lisa Quinn, ruminates on this notion of motherly perfection:
"Here’s the thing: Perfection doesn’t even exist.  Perfectionism is purely a mental, alienating, and unnatural state.  It causes judgment and makes people feel bad.  How can that be “a good thing”?

We kid ourselves (and do a disservice to our kids) by thinking anything will ever be perfect.  Everyone struggles at some point in this life.  Everyone.  It is our duty as moms to make sure our kids know that, and are prepared for the hurdles life is bound to throw them.  Supermom may have the best dressed, most mild-mannered, French-emersion educated children ever, but mine know how to make their lunch, dress a wound, and pick a lock. Who’s laughing now?"
Where does this notion come from anyway? I ask this because I confess that I have a little bit of this idea in me that I should be able to be able to throw the perfect holiday party, volunteer at the kids' school, be well-read on every topic, do fabulous crafting projects with the kids after school, grow all my own organic vegetables (and have my kids eat them) and, at the same time, be a most wonderfully attentive, loving, connected wife and mother. Lisa Quinn again:
"It’s time to redefine what being a good wife, mom, hostess, and human being means.  I don’t want my kids growing up with memories of how clean the house always was. I want them to remember the fun and the love. Who cares what anybody else thinks?  You want to make memories in your home.  And sometimes when you’re making memories, you’re making a mess.  Embrace the chaos. While news of her death may be premature, Supermom is on life support.  Maybe it’s time to pull the plug."
There's a small badge of honor I get to wear as a mother of twins; one which says I am capable and can juggle more than most despite the fact that my life is, perhaps, a bit more chaotic than yours. But the longer I am a mother, the more I realize that for me being a great mom is so much more about tuning in to my kids, spending time with them and learning about what makes them tick as opposed to all of the outward trappings of being a "supermom". 

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

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J-Ko From The Block said...

Great post. I think we all need to remember that whether you have 1 kid, 2 kids, or an entire den, our capabilities and confidence shouldn't be defined by how much or how little help we have. Though I'm always appreciative of any hall passes or "wow you're amazing" or some gold medal for being a working single mom. ha.

The Levy 6 said...

I am amazed at the timing in which I 'tune into' your blog. Just having a quiet moment this evening, I decided to scroll through the older postings. Ta-da...another great post dropping into my lap at the exact perfect time.

Two things are resonating w/ me:
1. Yep. Having multiples is a mindgame. A crazy, lay-it-on-the-line, take-no-prisoners, leave-your-ego-at-the-door-along-with-all-your-preconceived-notions' lesson in life. I love every moment of it...I love the rough moments only later in the evening when all of them are in bed. :) What my twins lack in alone time with me (my oldest had two yrs as a single kid, my middle child had two yrs being the baby,) what my twins lack in having two halves of a whole brain (mine) - they SOAR mountains above my older children in confidence. In experiences. In learning how 'to do.' My youngest boy is the best cleaner-upper out of all of them...why, he sees all of us doing it. It's amazing.

2. Supermom...who is this? And is she happy? And if so, what exactly is she smoking? A SUPER mom knows her limits, sets the boundaries, loves herself enough to take care of herself, is honest, asks for help, says she's sorry, and doesn't care much if the kitchen sink holds those dishes overnight. A SUPER mom gauges success by how the night ended...did the babes go to sleep in a state of love and peace. It doesn't happen every night here, but when it does...this is when i feel like SuperMom.

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