SALT LAKE CITY — As a new mother, I'm getting a little tired of these viral mommy blogs and articles telling me what I should and should not be doing; how I should and shouldn't be treating my husband; how I should and should not be spending my time, etc.
I've read numerous posts on how to teach girls about modesty, how moms should have their own hobbies, etc. They say things like:
"Teach your daughters to dress modestly so boys will control their minds around them."
"Teach your daughters to express themselves and wear whatever they want; boys need to control their minds."
"Moms, you need to have your own hobbies and interests besides your kids."
"Moms, spend every waking minute with your kids; don't take them for granted."
You get the idea.
You want to know what my favorite ones going around right now are? The ones that describe how agonizingly exhausting it is to be a mom ... written just so husbands will appreciate us.
"You will be so worn out at the end of the day, it will take all the energy you have just to crawl into bed."
And "Your husband coming home will just be another pair of hands to help with all you have been doing.
Or "All you want is a break since you've been covered in poop and other people's food all day."
Most of those statements describe the rare, extreme occasions and give parenthood a bad rap.
An online guilt trip
The way I raise my daughter and live my life is not the way my neighbor does it. It isn't the way my mom or my sister does it. I used to feel guilty reading these blogs and think, "Oh, no, I need to join a book club or fitness class so I don't lose my sanity — because it sounds like that's what happens if I stay home with my kids all day." Or I'd feel guilty that I'm going to school and teaching piano lessons as a mom, because I should be making homemade crayons and gourmet gluten-free snacks for my daughter.
The authors of these posts mean well, I'm sure. They may have had experiences leading them to share what they think all moms need to know. They may have had a bad day and needed to vent or ask for advice. I understand that. The problem lies in the portrayal of those experiences as typical of everyday life.
I, for one, do not find motherhood the most exhausting of all activities. My day isn't spent in my pajamas covered in poop pulling my hair out from stress. It's enjoyable. My daughter goes with me everywhere I go, and we do everything together. It's not always exhausting. We both watch through the window as my husband gets home and greet him at the door. Then I usually show him all the pictures I took of our daughter that day; we make and eat dinner together, and our night goes on.
My life has continued as it did before I had her, but now she's with me all the time and makes everything better and happier.
As mothers, and parents in general, many of us are ever on the defense against those who attack the family and those having children. So, why do we post articles about how exhausting and dirty and grimy it is? I don't think that's fair or accurate.
Yes, parenting can be tiring; any responsibility can be. Babies get sick and stay awake during the night; we must take care of their every need. But that doesn't have to consume our every ounce of energy and cause us to lose our relationship with our spouses. I have never experienced happiness like I do now that I'm a mother. I've never felt so fulfilled in my accomplishments as I do now that my daughter is experiencing them with me.
No 'one size fits all'
My message to moms is this: there isn't a "one size fits all" way to be a mother. Do not read a blog saying moms need to get out and have hobbies and feel guilty if you don't. For some moms, including myself, finding fun activities around the house and neighborhood for my daughter is one of my hobbies. I feel completely satisfied finding ways to incorporate my daughter into my hobbies and learning new ones that can include her.
On the other hand, don't feel guilty after reading a blog saying moms need to spend every minute wearing themselves out for their kids if you take time pursuing your own interests. Your children will turn out fine and learn to be confident seeing their parents working on their own goals and interests.
Those of you who aren't parents yet, do not believe those posts. You do not become a dirty zombie run down by housework and baby formula. Your relationship with your spouse will improve, not deteriorate. You have to work at being a parent and a spouse, just as you have to work at being a student or employee. You get out of it what you put in to it, but often you get so much more.
Whatever you do as a mother or parent, be confident. Teach your children to do what they love and love what they do. Teach them to blaze their own trail rather than blindly doing whatever they read on the Internet. Your life should not be patterned after what other people are doing. Find what works for you, and do it. Love your life and the people in it, and you will find a balance in all things.
Angela Silva is a BYU student, mother of a 1-year-old daughter, and writer for Healthy Utah magazine.