Smug

I was going to title this “Shit that pisses me off,” when I realized that most of my posts will probably subscribe to that particular title. So instead I’m going be specific and say that smug moms piss me off.

For instance, over Easter weekend, The Husband, The Child, and I were on a marathon family visit. We’d spent the better part of two weeks juggling this and that to make sure that The Child kept to her usual schedule for her nap and her bedtime. This took much much more wrangling than it should have. All of these people had kids. They profess to understand that, yes, napping is important and an overloaded 15 month old toddler is no fun for Grandma or for Mom. And yet they remain unwilling to make dinner at 3 instead of 2.

But that’s not the point of this rant. The point is that when we pulled into venue No. 5, The Child was still asleep. So we left the car idling in the driveway and I pulled out a book (“It Must Have Been Something I Ate,” go, read it now) and read while she slept. The Husband went in to schmooze with his family. I was out there at least an hour while she finished her all important nap.

Now, it’s my understanding that this is fairly common. Babies like to sleep in moving cars. They made a terrible “Mad About You” ep about it, for the love of little green apples. And if you turn the car off, it usually wakes them up. Certainly it always wakes her up.

As I explained this to my … my husband’s father’s brother’s wife. My aunt-in-law? … to Sh., I added that I felt awful doing it because idling is so bad for the environment and all that gas I’m burning. And she turns to me with this slap-inducing smirk on her face and says in a tremendously sing-song voice, “Isn’t it amazing how your politics change once you have kids?”

 “No,” says I. “Actually I’ve become more eco-centric since The Child was born. I want to leave a better world to her. I was just saying that I was going to upgrade my http://www.terrapass.com/ because of it.”

“Oh,” says she, and turns away, with this look like, “reality will soon intrude on your ridiculous idealism.” In fact, she said almost those very words to me later about something else. (“The Overachievers.” Go, read it.)

It was an annoying episode, but Sh. is an annoying person, so it wasn’t surprising. But I got to thinking about how often I hear smug and snide satisfaction in the voices of people — usually older moms — when I admit that one of my ideals has fallen to expediency.

When I wound up using disposable diapers instead of cloth, my mother’s best friend made some pointed comments. When my mother-in-law saw me feeding The Child jarred baby food instead of homemade, she launched into a spiel about how great it was that I finally “came down to earth” about child rearing. (Imagine her face when I explained that the only reason I was using jarred was because the homemade stuff had gotten left behind accidentally.)

Moms keep getting told that we need to do this, that, and the other thing. We need to make sure that baby has enough carbs (but complex only), proteins (lean only), and fats (good only), as well as enough fruits and vegetables (a whole rainbow each day!). We need to teach them conflict resolution and good exercise habits by our own behavior. We need to respond to them positively when they cry to foster attachment but not dote on them to create spoiled kids. Books, television, pediatricians, grandparents, other moms, everyone tells us what to do — ideally.

And then we mock the Mom who tries to adhere to that. We portray her as an uptight neurotic control freak (a al Charlotte from Sex and the City or Bree from Desperate Housewives) — an object of comedic ridicule. Or we spend entire plot-lines (in books, tv, movies) knocking those ideals out from under her and jeering at how hard she clings  to the “unrealistic” goals that we’ve shoved down her throat. When she finally knuckles under the pile of outrageous, comflicting, impossible demans that we’ve shackeled moms with, we cheer with venom at how she finally became a normal person.

Well, fuck all those smug moms. I get that I can’t do everything — I get that my ideals are not feasible for the real world. But I’m going to try, damn-it. I’m going to try to make sure The Child eats organic and wears natural fibers and learns about charity and conflict avoidance.

And when I fail — which I know I will — I won’t bother asking for your sympathy. But I’ll thank you not to celebrate.

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Categories: media moms, other moms
  1. April 28, 2007 at 4:01 am

    I’ve actually never really met ONE smug mom that can do it all. There is a woman I know, she’s a farmers wife. 7 kids, she helps run a farm, is up till midnight cleaning, then gets up at 5 am to make her man a supper so he can go to work at his job, then the farm. She makes me tired.

  2. April 28, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I have to remind myself that comments like those are not really about me or you. It’s about the person making them. Moms are so worried about doing *the right thing* all the time that they feel threatened when someone does things differently. When you parent the way they did/do, it validates their own parenting. For some reason women have a hard time grasping that not everything is a contest. That different isn’t necessarily better or worse, just different.

  3. April 28, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    I had made such big plans for baby #2. He was going to get homemade food, breastfed until he weaned himself and I was going to not let him watch any TV before 3 yrs old. I fell short of all of that. Things happen and you move forward. I am thankful that no one said anything to me, but I suspect it was because they knew I would tell them to Fuck Off. I have lost what little patience I have for people with my second child.

    After a bit, I thought about it all. At least I did do something. We did make it to month 9, he did get some homemade food, he watches TV, but he still plays. We cant do everything, but we can be proud of what we did do. They can laugh and make all the comments they want, but at least I know I tried.

    I saw something interesting at Target the other day, it was natural stuff animals. They had them in different sizes. I thought what a great idea. I would have bought some, but our stuff animal population is out of hand as it is. I love that we are able to get more natural and organic items in mainstream stores. Just thought I would mention it.

  4. mox
    April 28, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    I’ve had to turn down opportunities to hang out with friends because one of them was unbearably smug before she had kids, but now, it’s too much for me. I have no confidence that I’ll be able to remain polite and act as if her lectures aren’t making me want to vomit. She lies outright about how her new baby is sleeping at night among other things. Her husband usually lets it leak about how hard it is and how much sleep they’re not getting. It never ceases to surprise me how much relationships have to keep evolving and then resolving to work when you have kids.

  5. artemis777
    April 28, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Does Sh stand for Shit head? It certainly fits. Anyway, you mentioned how mothers are a marginalized segment of society in your previous post. It seems like classic divide and conquer. The mom experience is trivialized into a comic plot line. Moms then feel the need to justify their parenting actions, and they do this by demeaning the choices of other mothers. Not all moms do this; I certainly try not to. I just seems that we have ourselves caught in a vicious cycle.

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