Mom, You're a Rebel: 3 Voices You Ignore, and How That Makes You Badass
If you’re like me, you probably still feel like there’s a stubborn spirit somewhere underneath the dirty t-shirt and the stomach full of dinosaur chicken nuggets. You probably wouldn’t call yourself a “rebel” or a “badass” out loud even though you’d kind of like to, because the last rebellious thing you did was return a shirt you bought without the receipt.
I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve got good news for you: the fact that you continue to be yourself every single day is, in itself, an act of rebellion. Being true to yourself is both incredibly easy and frustratingly hard; most of us seem to have an innate desire to do our own in thing in some way. We’re almost always forging our own trails when we don’t let the extra noise in. Problem is, there’s always extra noise, even without children. And, once parenthood begins, we are forever doing what we can to block it out.
Seriously, though, do you realize how strong you are to be able to think beyond the shit that’s constantly thrown at you? Daily, you’re listening to multiple types of voices, and you’re carrying on anyway. I’m not talking auditory hallucinations here – I’m talking living, breathing people who can make you doubt yourself with body language and facial expressions. Those voices are everywhere, and the way I see it, they fall into three specific types:
Voice 1: That of Our Peers
Ever had a person you’ve just met give you parenting advice? I don’t mean on a forum, where you’ve politely asked for a way to keep your kids from removing their diapers and smearing shit on your walls; I mean the unasked- for stuff.
I mean the people who see you offering your kid a cookie to keep him quiet, and yell “THAT WILL GIVE HIM DIABETES, YOU KNOW,” despite having no previous knowledge of who you are or how often you do that. That kind of parenting advice. If you haven’t dealt with it, I promise you it’s a thing. And with the internet giving talking platforms to just anyone (hello, there), it’s the worst it ever was.
While I have gotten unwanted opinions from people who don’t have children, I’ve found that the unneeded suggestions come most often from other moms. We honest-to-sweet-8-pound-baby-Jesus don’t know how to mind our own damned business.
I choose to believe that it’s all coming from a good place. After all, under everything, we all have the same goal: to keep our children alive, to give them the tools to success, and then to get them the hell out of our house. We want them happy, healthy, and possibly wealthy enough to help us retire to a villa in the Maldives someday. Not a one of us wants harm to befall our children if we can help it, so it stands to reason that, if we see another mother doing something that we feel may harm their children, they’d want to know about it, right?
If you answered “yes, but not if the harm is that they may be a little hyper before bedtime,” then we’re on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, as human beings tend to do, there are plenty of us who overcorrect on this one.
Ever been in an online mom group? It’s the perfect example of what I’m talking about. I dare you to go in there and ask about something seemingly innocuous. Ask everyone in there what their thought is on…I don’t know…woolen blankets. Tell them that you read on a blog somewhere that the wool can transmit radiation, and it’ll give your baby laser eyes and the power to see the future.
Never mind, don’t tell them that, because that would be rad and you’ll just make people jealous. Maybe just say something believable, like it makes your kid a little itchy and you’d like to know if it’s normal. Then watch with dismay as many women who have no idea who you are tell you in no uncertain terms that you are a horrible mother on both sides.
“Itching means your baby is allergic. You really shouldn’t be touching your baby with anything that isn’t hypoallergenic. I’d never let my child sleep with anything that wasn’t woven from my own hair.”
“Why are you even here asking that question? If you think something is wrong, go to the hospital. We’re not doctors.”
“Ugh, I’m so tired of people asking about every single little thing all the time. The itching is normal. Why are you even worrying about it?”
“Squirt breastmilk on it. I’m still breastfeeding my little one at eight years old, and that’s the only way to keep your child strong. Maybe he’s itching because you’re formula feeding him? Just a thought.”
Amongst those replies, you’ll find help and support, but it often gets buried in opinions, sniping, and shaming. All coming from a place of wanting to help, of course, but it’s unhelpful and judgmental nonetheless. There’s an awful lot of guilt slung amongst us, because how else do you lighten a load on your own back? You gotta give a little of that shit away for someone else to carry.
And carry it we will, until we inevitably dump it off somewhere else.
Voice 2: That of General Society
So some of those “mom clichés” are there for a reason.
You know that suburban mom stereotype that drives an SUV or a crossover, wears leggings and Ugg boots, drinks Starbucks, and goes to Target for fun? I’m not one of those moms only because I don’t have a pair of Uggs.
Stereotypes and clichés come from somewhere, I’ll be the first to admit it. Any of us who have caught ourselves saying “because I said so” or cleaning crayon off the wall can probably attest to the shock that comes with realizing that some things aren’t just written for cutesy TV movies. There are truths and events that are unavoidable when you’re taking care of tiny humans with developing brains.
That being said, people tend to forget that, as actual human beings, our personalities might extend a skosh beyond cutesy clichés.
I really didn’t expect to hear some of the things I did once I had children. After all, everyone who knew me before knew I was this smart-mouthed, artsy-fartsy musician type who wrote bad music and bad poetry and swore. It was kind of obvious that I wasn’t going to turn into a total mom when I had kids, right?
Except, once I held my first child in my arms, I realized I was a total mom. Because I mean…that’s all you have to do to be a mom. You care for, love, and raise a kid. As I’ve continued to care for, love, and raise two kids, I’ve been shocked at all of the weird questions I get, as if people just assume that parenthood immediately comes with random wardrobe changes, style changes, and changes in transportation preference.
“So when are you getting the minivan?”
“Don’t you love being a mom? Aren’t your kids just like…your world now?”
“Can you believe that photo of x celebrity where she was wearing that lingerie? That was so messed up. I mean…she’s a mom now, you know?”
I was flabbergasted. Especially since I don’t own a minivan (no hate on those who do, but I don’t need one at the moment), my children are a part of my world but not all of it, and I did see x celebrity in that lingerie and all I felt was raging jealousy because her boobs were somehow still denying the laws of gravity. What does motherhood have to do with any of these things? Why do people care so much?
What I realized in all of my overthinking of this, y’all, is that this is mainly due to people mis-remembering their own parents.
Think about it: All we know about moms, we’ve learned from our own. So many people who don’t really have much to compare will assume that all parents are going to be like theirs. And for some reason – most likely because we’re a bit arrogant, and because our parents did a decent job of hiding the truth – we’ve convinced ourselves that we were our parents’ literal everything, that they had no hobbies or other joys in life besides watching us sleep and planning our next meal. We mentally doomed them to being unhip and incapable of style no matter what they did. This is what we know about parenthood until we have kids. This is what we remember our mothers to be: uncool, asexual creatures made to love us and protect us and teach us.
Which is all good, until we grow up and realize that there’s a whole person under there. Then we realize how annoying all those little assumptions and stereotypes really are. Then, we realize how wrong they really are. Well, mostly.
Honestly, I’m sure we’re all aware at this point that we maintain a certain connection to who we once were, even after family comes into the picture. We’re just told every day that this shouldn’t be, and seeing past all of that takes doing. But we do it every single day, doubt or not doubt, guilt or no guilt. You might be thinking that I’m wrong, because you feel guilty constantly. After all, a true badass knows how to do whatever they want without a care in the world, right?
You haven’t been listening at all. I’m hurt.
You can’t be brave if you’re unafraid. You can’t be tough if the situation is easy. You can’t be a rebel if there’s nothing to fight. In this big parenting battle that we’ve gotten ourselves into, you aren’t just fighting other people; you’re also fighting yourself. Which brings me to the third voice learn to question:
Voice 3: That of our Own Stupid Brains
You know who I thought I was going to be like before I became a mother? Aunt Vivian, from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I was going to be loving, and soft-spoken, and kind. I was going to be strong but not overbearing, I was going to be available to do anything for my children, and I would never, ever yell or spank or threaten. When I would enter the room, harp music would play and bunnies would gather at my feet. My shits would smell like fresh-baked cinnamon rolls.
You know what I’m actually more like? I’m a more put-together and ambitious version of Peg Bundy from Married with Children. I’m loud, I’m sarcastic, and I love my children to death, but I yell at them more than I’d like because they also push my buttons. In a moment of pure confusion and loss of control, I did try spanking as a discipline when my son was two. On days where they’re both yelling at me, I often get them to stop by simply screeching back even louder. When I enter a room, crumbs stick to my feet. You don’t want to know what I smell like sometimes because I don’t always get to shower.
You want to talk about a mental battle? Nothing anyone else can say will ever be as bad as the things you tell yourself, especially when you don’t measure up to your own expectations.
Even if you always thought you’d be a parent, I’m sure there are things about it that you didn’t exactly plan for. You didn’t exactly imagine yourself running out of the house and realizing you forgot your shoes halfway to your destination. You probably also didn’t exactly daydream about fearing the perception of every little thing you do. Oh, and the poop. I’m sure you weren’t exactly told how many times you’d be touching it.
And hey…maybe you’re one of those moms we all wish we could be. Maybe you became exactly who you wanted to be, and you get everything you want done in a day. I tip my metaphorical hat to you. That said, I’m sure you have things about yourself that you also wish were just a tiny bit different. You know how I know? Because it’s human nature. We don’t know how to be 100% happy with anything. Frankly, there’s nothing really wrong with that.
There’s a certain strength though, in bucking your own expectations in favor of what you’ve got going on right now. When you look at your accomplishments instead of what you’ve decided to call your failures, you get to realizing that you’re actually a lot better than you give yourself credit for. Parenthood is a really great way to have this beat into you, because you either learn to toss those shitty thoughts out, or you slowly drive yourself insane.
In the beginning, I questioned whether or not everything was killing my kid. I wondered if I was different because I’m not Mary Poppins, and because I still needed alone time. Now, I realize that I’m loving and affectionate towards my kids, I’m really good at teaching them things, and my son knows who Kendrick Lamar is. If one of my children eats a raisin from the floor, I’m not losing at the whole Mom thing, even if I’m not exactly who I thought I was when I started.
That inner critic can be a tough one to fight, but when you push back against those worries and insist that you got this, that’s when you realize you’re not who you hoped you’d be, because you’re even better. We make it hard on ourselves sometimes, but getting around our own criticisms is a major testament to our everyday strengths, even if it’s difficult to do – especially then.
We hear a lot of noise all day long, and it tends to make it very hard to get a handle on what’s actually worth listening to. The fact that we care for our kids and ourselves however we see fit regardless is, in itself, an act of bravery. It’s scary to subject yourself to scrutiny, but this is, for some unearthly reason, all part of having children in the first place.
Whether you’re getting the stink eye for being the type to wake up at 4:30 to make pies for your kid’s bake sale, or you’d rather mace yourself than play “pretend,” as long as no one is getting hurt, keep doing what makes you feel defined.
There is nothing more badass than that.
Arianna Bradford is a wife and mother of two young children. Her interests include reading, napping, and watching as many movies as possible. She’s also the founder of The NYAM Project and really hopes you like it.