What the heck happened to us? I’m looking at you, GenX and Millennial moms. We were all raised with girl power ideals, which went something like this: Be brave. Be strong. Work hard. Stand up for what you deserve. You are equal. You can do anything.
So why do so many of us full-grown women need to be reminded to observe self-care once we have kids? Better question: Why is the “self-care” conversation even a thing? Don’t we know that we’re humans with basic human needs? Why should we have to be reminded to do what our grade-school girl selves didn’t hesitate to do — to get in the picture, to speak up for ourselves, and to say no? How did we slide all the way from “change the world” to “change your yoga pants once in a while, why don’t you?”
I’m not sure exactly when I started sliding all the way into mommy martyrdom, but I definitely recall some gasps from the other bleacher moms when I announced that my kids do not play sports on Mother’s Day, and yes, that includes tournaments. I almost sent a fellow tiger mom into shock when I declined her offer to hook us up with an excellent tutor … an hour’s drive away. You want to see some side eye? Tell a school band teacher that if you’re footing the bill for a trip to Europe, you’re sure as sh*t gonna be on that plane, and your little prodigy is going to be the one staying home. Again and again, when I’ve asserted my existence as an actual human being rather than a child-rearing Rosie the Robot, I’m met with genuine surprise, or worse, head-shaking pity for my poor deprived children.
Ladies of the judging jury, we are doing this to ourselves.
And to tell you the truth, it’s worn me down. But just as I was recently about to give up and give in to the kid-first life, I got a wakeup call. My oldest is a college freshman and I have missed him terribly, in a weeping, staring at his framed 8 x 10 picture on my nightstand kind of way. The university parents’ office sent home some helpful tips in advance of the Thanksgiving break — my son’s first visit home since we had dropped him off at school months before. The message was something along the lines of: Your son or daughter will mostly want to sleep and visit with friends. College freshman are used to doing whatever they want and they won’t want to be with you. Manage your expectations!
Um, WUT? This was the absolute last going-last straw.
No, University. A spoiled 18-year-old’s desire to sleep and talk trash with his high school friends is not more important than my desire for his long missed companionship. Somebody else around here was going to have to manage his own expectations for once.
My expectation was — and still is — that this kid, whom I made, raised, and sent to that fine institution, will be considerate and respectful and let me kiss his face on demand from the instant he appears after finals to the moment his dad peels me off him at the next dorm drop off.
My expectation is that an 18-year-old is capable of recognizing that his parents spent their entire adult lives not going to Europe so that we can pay next semester’s tuition. I expect that his brain — although still adolescent — is developed enough to realize that I am a person who loves him and that he should be thankful, respectful, and kind to the people who love him.
And you know what? It’s not impossible. I’m brave. I’m strong. I work hard. I stand up for what I deserve. I’m equal and I can do anything.