In writing a blog entitled “The Four Father” it has become easy to focus very much on my four kids and myself. For anyone who knows me (and frankly, anyone who doesn’t) that focus obviously leaves out one very, very important person.
Amy is “The Four Mother” which, while not as catchy, is far more important. I try to understand the things I cannot understand. I knew, for instance, that trying to find a logical reason that we needed more children than the two we already had three years ago was a non-starter. As I’ve written before, I know there are bonds of motherhood, those bonds that come with the actual growing of another person inside your body, that I could never understand. I could try to, sure, but to what end? There is no way I will ever truly understand it.
At the same time, there are the other aspects of being a mother or just being a woman that are equally forever foreign to me.
Amy has been the primary breadwinner in our relationship from the day we met. I’m sure there is pressure in that. She has done, to my eyes, a wonderful job of balancing being a person with a full-time job and being a full-time mother.
Every parent understands, mother or father, that there is no such thing as being a part-time parent. Even for those of us who leave our children in the caring hands of someone else for forty or so hours a week, it is not as though you cease being a parent during those times. Just last week I took a call at work that Maggie had gotten into some trouble at school. It threw me off my game and I lost focus for the balance of the workday. Rarely does the reverse happen. If I am out coaching Maggie or Henry’s soccer game, a call from work can wait.
As a father, though, it would, in the eyes of many, be perfectly acceptable to step away from that soccer game to handle some work function. I don’t think mothers get the same fair shake.
How often have you heard the phrase “working father” bandied about? Ever? No. “Working mother”, though, is part of the common vernacular and in a way, I think, that could be offensive to both the woman who stays at home and the woman who goes to work. Both are working; both are mothers. What then does the phrase imply?
Again, who am I to understand the emotions that come with questions like these?
Even if you take the full-time job aspect out of this, we all got an eyeful of a mother breastfeeding her nearly four-year-old son on the cover of TIME magazine this week with the willfully provocative question “Are You Mom Enough?”
Now we’re pitting mothers one against each other just based on how they choose to raise their children and nothing else? The headline wasn’t “Are You Dad Enough?” or “Are You Family Enough?” Again, no. Why? Because no one debates the finer points of fatherhood the way they do motherhood.
We learned this from the days before Maggie was even born. The way some women wage war over breastfeeding. You MUST do it! In fact, you MUST do it for no less one year. If you don’t do it for at least six months, you are barely trying. God forbid you don’t do it all. In that case, you are selfish and barely deserve to have any child at all. The non-breastfeeding group has as vocal (and equally judgmental) a point of view on these matters; they just don’t have as easy access to your post-partum hospital room. Just as a debate over politics has lost its grey in favor of extreme black and white, so too does a discussion on the “right” way to raise a child. This begins, these days, before the child is even conceived. The things a woman must now do to even be worthy of carrying a child to begin with (in the eyes of some) adds just one more level of pressure that I could never understand.
But then we pretend that a question like “Are You Mom Enough?” is a legitimate one. That TIME magazine holds up Dr. Sears’ “attachment parenting” as even a possible answer to this question is just plain wrong. Without passing judgment on this Sears method, I believe we can all agree that it is an extreme. Breastfeeding kids who can ask for it and sleeping with your entire family in one bed are not in the mainstream. They just aren’t. I suggest all this would be akin to asking “Are You Pious Enough?” alongside a cover photo of the Amish.
Holding women to an extreme will, by definition, mean that most fall short. This cover is no better than the ones on the fashion magazines that people have been attacking for years. Making mothers feel inadequate by holding them up against the extreme practices of Jamie Lynn Grumet is no different than making girls feel inadequate by holding them up against an airbrushed picture of Kate Upton.
This brings me back to Amy.
Sure, I have pressures in my life too. My recent bout with unemployment was perhaps one of the biggest but it’s (mostly) gone now. There are things asked of fathers these days that just weren’t a generation ago. But we’re still fathers and I would suggest that there is still less asked of us, even now, than what is asked of mothers.
Amy not only works, but also does so very successfully. Her career track has far outshined my own.
She also easily outdoes me in the parenting realm. I think I’m okay, but our kids will always turn to her first when sad, in pain, or just to hang out. Bedtime is difficult for both of us because every kid wants to be prepped for bed by Amy. She has everyone clamoring for her while anyone I try to help is disappointed by the step down. It can be frustrating all around.
In light of all of this pressure – at work, at home, from society, from her own kids – I’d let slide the occasional breakdown, temper tantrum, or announcement that she’s blowing this joint for some bar down the street. Alas, none of this has happened. Point of fact, Amy glides from her professional life to her home life and back again with an air of grace and calm.
We are both of “go with the flow” dispositions. This, I think, is one of our key compatibilities. In our nearly fifteen years together, we’ve never had a fight. I think I would have had a fight with me by now.
So, on this Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute to not only a tremendous mother, not only a tremendous woman, but, in fact, an all around tremendous person. My kids and I are lucky to have you. You deserve more than just this day.
In the end, to answer TIME’s ridiculous question: you are absolutely mom enough – and more.
My reply is on Facebook, but I hope Marshall gets o lot of replies on this one. It is extraordinary!!!
What a beautiful tribute to your wife and your life together. We all make our own path and do what works for our families.
Just seeing this now, Marshall, and it’s so lovely! What a special tribute to your very special wife….