And here are the thoughts that came tumbling out after watching this:
I haven’t written much on this blog since Maya was a baby because a) I’ve been busy raising my child and b) my parenting choices are mine alone and are very personal. One of the very first things any parent learns is how many folks are very self-conscious about their parenting, often expressed as being judgmental towards themselves or others. As parents, we are all smart and caring people, so it is easy when we notice something or many things we (either ourselves or another parent) can be doing better to make comparisons and feel somehow inadequate or superior because we are comparing ourselves to another. We’re all doing the best we can in every moment, and when we fail in small or monumental ways to live up to our own expectations or those of others, it is not the end of the world. It’s a moment in time with lots of moments ahead to succeed or fail again.
Some background: I’m the creator of Dandelion Communitea Cafe, a socially conscious business aimed at fostering community and bring whole organic, vegetarian food to the people. I created this when I was just 25 years old, opened it when I was 26 and had a much publicized home birth experience on the dawn of my 31st year as a happily solo mother. My beautiful daughter Maya just turned five this past weekend. Because of this backdrop, I get a lot of people’s perception of who I am and how I should be projected onto me, including what they presume I think about them and their parenting. Let’s clear the air.
I eat whole foods as much as possible but enjoy the hell out of a bag of Trader Joes cheesy nacho chips. I own a vegetarian cafe but eat and feed my child various animals based on a variety factors including the quality of the meat and how hungry we are for it because she and I tend towards anemia and I know eating beets will help but, you know what? I don’t like beets that much, and neither does she. One of my dearest friends owns Local Roots with the best local meat and vegetables around – I shop there, but I also shop at Whole Foods & Trader Joes because I’m balancing convenience, price and variety as well as seasonality and farmer connection. My friend doesn’t sell grapes and my kid wants grapes. When your kid will only eat a small spectrum of food, you get the things on that list. I’ve been co-sleeping with my beautiful daughter since she was born because she is cuddly and I like to snuggle. If I had a partner who slept with me, I might have kicked the kid to the crib early on though. I had this epic homebirth that was, like, ridiculously awesome, and my best friend has had all her kids in the hospital and, for her situation and circumstances, that is the best choice for her and I haul my ass up to Mississippi to love and support her every time with nothing but love in my heart.
And you know what: you don’t recycle or you shop at WalMart, or your kid loves Chick-fil-A and you can’t properly explain corporate homophobia in reasonable terms to the kid who wants those delicious chicken nuggets so you go through the drive thru hoping no one spots you, but guess what: YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN. I know you are, and I don’t judge you for the choices you are making. We all have different priorities and are balancing and making choices that are not perfect at all, but perfect for this moment with these set of circumstances. This year, I enrolled my child in public school instead of Montessori, even though I am more of a unschool/homeschool/waldorf type. Why? My kid needed a bed, and a vacation and I was having a hard time affording the quality of food that I do make a priority for my family with the cost of tuition. You know what? Montessori is better than public school. You know what? Vacations and good nights sleep every night without gangly five year old feet up in your grill are awesome. I’m trading off. I don’t know which choice is better – the life of a martyr to afford AMAZING private education with all the stress of that, or a more fun time with my child with really less than ideal Kindergarten. Like, really less than ideal.
I am obviously not as disciplined with my child as I need to be, and it causes us much grief in various ways, but I feel guilty because I’m not as present for her as I would like due to juggling work stress, running a single parent household, being a half-good friend and half-good girlfriend and so I let shit slide that shouldn’t. It’s a problem, but you know what? I’m exhausted. I don’t have the capacity to be on it like I know I should every single time. I’ve opened my house to many people to either help cover rent or let someone in need have a place to rest their heads, and they see this and other ways I can do better and, being non-parents, it is natural to think I’m doing a poor parenting job when they witness those terrible moments that, YES, I am indeed failing as a parent and a person. Do I blame myself for not being able to handle everything or do I blame Maya’s absent father for not pulling his weight in parenting responsibility or do I blame my work situation for being unnecessarily stressful or do I just lay down, judgmental eyes be damned and take a nap while my kid makes a mess because I just need a moment to myself? I’m too exhausted to blame anyone, self included, and I know the folks who are making judgements just don’t know the totality of my situation or the fact that every judgement they have about my parenting will come back on them if they ever have a kid, just like my judgements of other peoples parenting (OPP) prior to having a child has done to me.
Am I sucking as a mom? Sometimes, it’s true, I am. I’m also sucking as a girlfriend, a friend and a boss at times as well. But you know what? My friends suck sometimes, sometimes my boyfriend sucks, sometimes Maya sucks, sometimes my employees suck, sometimes Whole Foods sucks and sometimes local business owners suck. We all suck. BUT WE ARE ALL DOING THE BEST WE CAN WITH WHAT WE KNOW AND OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. So, stop being such perfectionists y’all. That sucks. Just do your best with what you’ve got, assume others are too. And things will suck much less when we do that. All this time spent overly comparing and judging and criticizing self or others could be channeled into finding commonality, learning new things or supporting one another instead. Or watching netflix and drinking some damn wine.
I love you. I love how much you suck. I love watching you get sick of sucking at some particular thing after awhile and then doing something about it to suck less. I see you sucking, but I don’t think you are bad or evil for it. I’m patient with you and myself. Because for the small ways in which we all suck, nothing is compared to the ways in which we all shine. You are a GREAT mom, dad, kid, employee, boss, friend, lover. And so am I. So am I.