Proud Mom--not in a good way

Facebook has my number. I can tell by the ads they pick for me: beautiful baby contests, post-baby weight loss programs, amateur photography competitions… Lately though I’ve been bombarded by “Obama Wants Moms to Go Back to School” ads.

I went to school, I want to say. I have a stupid master’s degree. Yes, I’m a mom. Why does facebook assume most moms need degrees? And why does the president think I need a degree? Better yet, why does the president think getting a degree would be a better use of my time than staying home with my kids?

As you can tell, I’m sensitive about my chosen vocation. Usually I’m not so sensitive. I’m very laid back about people saying stuff like, “So, you don’t work?” I understand that they don’t actually think I sit around the house and eat chocolate all day. I try to be patient with people who think I have loads of time on my hands.

I’m more frustrated with people who assume I’m not qualified to work because I don’t have a job outside of raising the kids. That kinda gets under my skin. Probably because I’m proud. Because I don’t like people thinking I’m not smart or able or whatever. So, that’s my fault as much as it is anybody else’s. I need to get over it.

Getting over it is hard though. Especially lately. This past weekend was my 10 year high school reunion, and while I didn’t go, looking at pictures on facebook made me feel all weird and self-conscious. All of a sudden I started doubting the validity of what I do. I began wondering what people must think of me when they click through album after album of pictures of my kids.

In high school I was an overachiever. Who I was and what I did were inseperable. I think people expected a lot from me. I expected a lot from me.

One of my best friends (and toughest competitors) from senior year lives in D.C. now. She’s some brainy economic analyst. I’m so impressed. When I talk to her I sometimes feel uncomfortable. Like I have to explain myself and my life decisions, like I need to justify my not having some high profile job somewhere.

I feel a lot of pressure to be a success. I remember how much I wanted to be named “Most Likely to Succeed” (I wasn’t), how for so much of my life grades and awards and praise served as benchmarks. Just a year out of college I quit my job as a reporter, partially because I was craving school and it’s systematized, consistent praise. Was I a success? Every A seemed to tell me I was.

Being a full-time mom is hard for someone like me, someone who cares too much about what other people think, someone who struggles with measuring worth based on outcome, someone very competitive.

Being a good mom is something anyone can do with the right heart and commitment. That’s beautiful, but for me it’s frustrating sometimes. I like to be the only one making A’s. In parenting, lots of people do well.

And, to make things harder on me, I’m not even that great at mothering. In fact, sometimes I feel like a failure. I never felt like a failure teaching world lit. I loved it largely because I was good at it. I mother for a totally different reason. If I had to be good at it, I’d quit immediately.

Being a full-time mom is complicated for me. So trying to explain it to other people, that just seems impossible.

Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Because, if I could explain, I’d try to make myself look good. My pride would take over and I’d start talking about what a huge sacrifice it is I’m making. How I could be “out there” doing incredible things but that I’ve chosen to take one for the team and stay home… But that’s just not true. I love what I’m doing—it’s a privilege, not a sacrifice.

Being a mother has been the most humbling experience of my life. If I thought I was better than other people in the past, that delusion is long gone. Puke on my shirt, snot in my hair, sitting in a wreck of a house, listening to my daughter scream because I forgot to buy milk at the store, I realize that so many people are doing this so much better than I am—than I ever could. Previously, that would have freaked me out, but now I’m okay with it. Pride has no place in parenting.

Truth is, pride has no place, period. I’m working on that. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t wish I had skinny pictures on my profile for the weeks around the reunion, but I’m proud to say that I was genuinely happy for everyone who did.

See, I’m working on it.