Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mama, Are You Feeling Mediocre?

It did occur to me the other day that the cause of much of my angst (can I have angst being over twenty-one? Can I have angst if I neither drink nor smoke? I mean, I do wear black), has to do with a prevailing since of my own mediocrity. But here's how it happened.

I was visiting some blogs in an attempt to figure out what blogs would be best to review my novel (and the next one upcoming) when I happened upon the Most Famous Mommy Blog of All Time. The chick who writes this thing? Her husband QUIT his job because they make so much money from the advertising on her blog and she gets one zillion visitors every micro-second (or something like that). I'm savvy. I think to myself. I'll advertise on this thing. Then those one zillion people will buy my book. Only once I see the cost (think about $1000 an hour), I realized no way/no how.

Then a tiny bout of envy set in. Why don't I have all those visitors to my blog? Why can't my husband quit his job finding a cure for cancer and run my media campaign? Why didn't my book sell more/become a movie/make me a million?

Yes, the big, green monster of envy reared it's ugly head. And I don't even want to be a blogger! Certainly not a professional one. I'm not even much of an amateur blogger and I don't even know if I LIKE blogging, so why in the world do I envy the blogging Diva?

Well, because, not unlike many stay-at-home mothers (as well as working mothers and all the rest of the female race and possibly the entire male race too), I struggle with feelings of my own mediocrity. The trouble with feeling mediocre is that it never seems you are doing enough. If I play with my children all day, tickle them and go to the park, I feel I ought to have done the laundry and cleaned the house and made a better dinner. If I spend the morning working on the novel, I ought to have been playing with the children.

I love the feminists. I am a feminist. But one of the distinct downsides of the second wave of feminism (1970s), that pushed women into the work force by giving them choices, is that now it's nearly impossible to feel as though you've ever made the right one. Not only that, most mothers, whose time and attentions are divided, feel that they are doing many things, and not one of them to excellence.

Most of you who read this know that among my many assorted eccentricities, I love the Duggar family (and others like them). What I can see in communities that support, uplift, encourage, and call women into motherhood, is a greater sense of satisfaction for the mothers. I don't even know what it would look like--in isolation--to excel at mothering. Because the truth is--in isolation--we don't have a sense of ourselves. Communal identity is essential. If we live in a community that thinks more of working mothers than stay-at-home, the sense of meaning in taking care of children full-time falls apart. This is not theory; I can speak from personal experience. (And, of course, the opposite is true).

Not that I have a solution to this problem. Or I do, but it comes in the long run, in revising (again) our sense of the worthiness of mothering, it's value and place in the world--not simply in the family. And, of course, it can't be lip-service, but action that makes all the difference.

So for now, if you are a mother, working at home or working somewhere else, perhaps you will honor yourself for the outstanding job you do. My high school advisor famously said: "Maybe we should all be mediocre and live happily ever after." I think she meant, lower your expectations. Find the contentment and savor it; it's yours. Am I doing a good enough job? I don't know. I'll tell you one thing, though, when I am joyful, I don't care. I don't want to be some famous blogger. I just want to be me. Oh, yes, we are on our way to an affirmation here. Say it with me: I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog gone it, I'm an awesome mom! (Did you say it? Or did you just laugh at me? Go ahead, say it. I bet it will make you smile. If it doesn't, you can have your money back. Woops. This blog is free. Never mind.)


  1. "by giving them choices... now it's nearly impossible to feel as though you've ever made the right one. Not only that, most mothers... feel that they are doing many things, and not one of them to excellence."

    Yes, that. Exactly.

    You have to make really good friends with "good enough." I, for one, am really quite happy to be a "good enough" mother. And worker, and cook, etc. I try to save my perfectionism and obsession for garden design. Because, you know, that matters so much to everyone. :)

  2. Oh I miss you. Thanks for the affirmation.

  3. I am trying to think what I truly excel at these days. Is it enough to be excellent at being neurotic?

  4. Hi, Mama Laura, life is not the same here without you.