November 3, 2011

What Kind of Mom Am I?

As your average, typical white American I have always had a hard time defining my "culture".  American culture is a hodge-podge of things from every other culture on the planet.  There seem to be very few things that are uniquely American.

Wikipedia says:
"The Culture of the United States is a Western culture, having been originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. Today, the United States of America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as result of large-scale immigration from many different countries throughout its history."
"Prevalent ideas and ideals which evolved domestically such as national holidays, uniquely American sports, military tradition, and innovations in the arts and entertainment give a strong sense of national pride among the population as a whole."
"The flexibility of U.S. culture and its highly symbolic nature lead some researchers to categorize American culture as a mythic identity; others see it as American exceptionalism."
Oh OK.  Why didn't I consult Wikipedia a long time ago?  Google and Wikipedia know all.

Still, Americans are a pretty complicated bunch, I'd say.  On one hand you've got whatever family heritage you bring to the table, then throw in all manner of pop cultural influence and we're supposed to somehow define ourselves?

I think the only thing we can accurately say about being American is just that.  I am an American.

I am also an American mom.  This is difficult to define as well, because many of the same things that go into defining culture go into defining how you mother.

I take things from my childhood and how I was parented.  I leave things from my childhood and how I was parented, as well.  I mix in influences from aunts & uncles and my friends' parents, add a heaping scoop of maternal instinct, a dollop of my husband's stuff and a pinch of current ideas and expert opinion.  And there you have a recipe for motherhood.

Motherhood in America is sooooo complicated!  You have your stay-at-home moms, your work-at-home moms and your working moms.  And each group has their own set of opinions on the other groups.  There is unfortunately quite a bit of judging of our fellow moms.

There is also so much guilt over the decisions we make as moms.  If we stay home, we feel guilty about not working.  If we work, we feel guilty about not staying home.  We usually feel pulled in a million different directions and like we're not doing anything as well as we should.

Motherhood for me has been a little of all of the above.  When I first became a mother to my daughter 11 years ago I was working part-time for our church in California.  I was able to continue working and bring my daughter to the office with me.  It was an amazing set-up.  Because with the cost of day care, even part-time, it would have been pointless for me to keep my job.  I'd only be working to pay for the day care.

When we decided to relocate to Washington state I left behind that ideal situation.  Since we moved to a state with a lower cost of living, however, it was alright for me not to work.  I had my son a couple years later, so I've been a stay-at-home mom for 8 1/2 years now.

I breastfed and co-slept, but wasn't a baby wearer.  I'm not a vegetarian or go all organic, but I do try to feed my kids a wide variety of foods.  I let them drink 100% juice, but not much soda.  I make them eat veggies and I let them have treats.  I give them household responsibilities when I think they're ready and I believe in rewarding them for it.  I've religiously used car seats and seat belts, but have not always been the best with bike helmets (am now).  I've given both kids every vaccine available to protect their health, but I didn't start until they were 2 months old so they could build a bit of an immune system first.  I let them run amok outside, with agreed upon boundaries.

So I guess my mothering style is the same as American culture - a mixed bag.  Might not make sense to some, but it makes perfect sense to me.  It's something I feel down deep inside, this mommy thing.  I'm proud to be a mom and don't feel I'm "JUST" a mom because I don't have a paying job.  I'm thankful to have both a son and a daughter and am so full of love for them I sometimes feel I could burst.

How do you define motherhood?


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  2. Awesome post! You sound like a pretty balanced mom . . . just exactly what your kiddos need.

    As for defining motherhood . . . it is different for each and everyone of us I think. We all bring to it different life experiences, different cultural influences, different personalities and different gut instincts. It is these differences that make this experience amazing!

  3. Mine is very much mixed, too. So hard to define.

  4. Jennifer,

    Thank you for linking up to World Moms Blog!

    I can totally relate to this: "Might not make sense to some, but it makes perfect sense to me. " In the US, we're all so different and have so many different influences -- where our family came from, what part of the country we live in, our religious views, etc.

    Thanks for leading us to your blog today! :)

    Jen :)

  5. Great post! Part of makes the world go round is variety. If we all parented the same way, our kids would turn out the same, and where's the excitement in that? You sound like you balance things pretty well. It'san interesting question though: how do we define our culture?

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  7. I love how reflective you were here- if we dig deep, we're all a mixed bag, aren't we?

  8. I love this post! You did a GREAT job of defining motherhood! My favorite thing about this post is you are honest and didn't judge. It is such a breath of fresh air to read. I am like you, I have a mesh of things, do's and don'ts from my childhood.

  9. Great post, Jennifer! It sounds to me like you've got it figured out :)

    Thanks for linking up with WMB!

  10. You sound like you've got it perfectly figured out! :0

  11. Excellent post. I think no matter what the cultural background is we mothers are universally have the same - if not similar struggles. Love this line: "I take things from my childhood and how I was parented. I leave things from my childhood and how I was parented, as well."

  12. Lovely! It is all about finding the balance that works for you!

  13. Mixed bag mothering - what a fantastic way of describing it. I recently gave my (new mommy) daughter-in-law the advice that she would get lots of different advice - but to listen to it all, take the bits that worked for her and then discard the rest.

    It's advice I was given as a new mother and it works. Mixed bag mothering is a great way of describing it though.

    BTW - love your blog design

  14. I got my mothering skills from my mother; especially her attitude of:

    " can do anything you set your mind to.."

    I think you got a big dose of that, too. At least you're showing it in your blog, your mothering, etc!
    Love you!

  15. That was an interesting post. Thanks for your post and link up with World Moms Blog.

  16. What an interesting topic, Jen! I'm the child of parents from different countries (Lithuania and New Zealand) so I have even less of an idea of what it means to be American. Lately I'm a bit of a pessimist - I define our "culture" as a "get me" culture - capitalistic, status-oriented, all about getting to the top to be a "have." All the ads on TV, then the ads for what medication we should all be taking so we can keep on shopping...ugh.

    I think for me the basis of American culture is about shopping and accumulating goods, and that scares me for my children's future.

    Well - hows that for a downer comment Jen??! Sorry! (-:
    I liked your post, it made me think.

  17. my style is really a mish mosh, too but I agree there isn't really a cultural 'norm' for parenting. On one hand I think that's allows for interpretation...and finding your own way. But it's also a little confusing, I think. Maybe I'm the only confused one...

  18. Great read this was.

    Motherhood for me, so far, in the last year has been a lot around my childhood and the things that represent love and bless around my kid. I'm against "taking my child for granted" and with that it comes the love and respect I will need to build in our relationship. It takes both to be educated about things and I hope I do a good job about that. At least I'll try.


  19. Sounds like you're a pretty well-rounded mom, and you are able to reflect on what pieces of tradition to keep, and which to ditch. Bravo.

  20. You are so grounded! What a good, thoughtful parent. Love that your style is the same as American culture and that you are able to see that and it makes sense to you :) Your family is blessed to have you at the mommy-helm!

  21. I know exactly what you mean about bursting with love. I've never felt anything like it. Not until I had kids. As far as defining American culture, I do this all day with my American Lit students, and you know what? We have yet to come up with a suitable answer? That's because culture is unique and hard to pinpoint. And it's fun to explore :)

  22. Awesome post, Jennifer. We share a lot of the same parenting philosophies. You're my kind of normal!! :^)

  23. Motherhood to me is being clear that my only role/job in the world is to make sure my children are happy, cared for, and feel loved. How that happens is completely up to me!