I’m here to tell you that this mothering business is not for the faint of heart. I have two young children and every day is like a science project. I try to add the right amount of this and just enough of that so that they are alive, fed and hopefully happy by the time their heads hit the pillow or the crib sheet, as the case may be. Then I curl into a fetal position and count the ways in which I messed up over those waking hours.
So when I see other hard-working, well-intentioned, fundamentally loving mothers doing their mothering, I try not to criticize their approach. If she wants to breast-feed until the child goes to kindergarten, and if she thinks her toddler is ready for the viola, and if she thinks a mother’s place is in the home full-time, good for her. That tactic may not fit with my personality or lifestyle, but however she approaches her mothering, the point is, she’s trying, every day. Who am I to rank myself ahead of her on mothering points?
I mean, I’m no dummy. I know that Rule Number One of motherhood is that you do NOT judge a fellow mother.
Elizabeth Banks apparently didn’t listen to this part of the initiation ceremony.
Ms. Banks is the lovely blonde who pops up in comedies of the screwball and romantic varieties, and who can now pave Los Angeles in money thanks to her role in The Hunger Games movies. In late fall 2012, she welcomed her second son. Both of her boys were delivered via gestational surrogate.
In a recent interview with People, Mama Banks reflected on what it is like to be a mother of two. As she put it:
Two is very different from one. When you have one kid, you feel like you can jet set around and you can throw him on the hip and you get your life done. You don’t realize how easy one is until you have two. Now I’m really a mom. Oh, I am a mom now! This is for serious – I am responsible for two people now.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hang on there, Mama Banks! Are you saying you weren’t “really” a mom when you just had one baby, because that gig was so “easy”? Please explain. Preferably, to the faces of my friends with one child. Those gals feel like what they’re doing is, actually, pretty “serious,” and sometimes they don’t think they are getting their “life done” because they’re side-tracked by that little person. Do they just lack perspective? Are they being overly dramatic? Is there a magic time management skill you can impart?
Now, listen. I’m guessing Mama Banks didn’t mean to sleight an entire demographic of mothers. I bet she was trying to be self-effacing and sparkly. She was trying to sound easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Mother.
Trouble is, you can almost hear her looking down her nose.
If she had just presented the entire thought as a comparison, a before-and-after, what I bet was her point would have been made. For many, having two children is more difficult than having one. This actually isn’t really that surprising or revolutionary of a breakthrough. There are twice as many human beings requiring of your time. There is still just one of you. Do the math.
That does not mean, though, that having one baby is “easy,” or that you aren’t a “real mom” before you break into the world of double strollers. Moreover, what is a “real mom,” pray tell? Am I being secretly evaluated by the feds or my neighbors or Mama Banks? Is there a file on me with lots of check boxes that Carrie Mathison reviews every night to see how “real” of a mom I am?
As any mother who has waded into these line-drawing waters will soon discover, this us-versus-them mentality can get dangerous. How would Mama Banks feel if someone told her that she wasn’t a “real mom” because she didn’t carry her sons herself? Or that she would be a JV mom until she had 5+ kids? Or that you can’t have it both ways?
You see, much as Mama Banks has discussed how busy and maximized and fully-realized she is as a mother now that she has two children, she also gave a peek at what could be considered a lack of perspective. In the same People interview, she shared a little about her just-enjoyed 10-day vacation with her husband and sons. She marveled:
[We] had no help, no nannies, no babysitters. It was crazy. You forget how difficult it is to wake up in the middle of the night, how exhausting it is. I lost all my nails. I did dishes and cleaned bottles for 10 days so I lost all those nails!
Mama Banks, you’re a hero! You went ON VACATION with no STAFF? That doesn’t sound difficult, that sounds AGONIZING!
Maybe she lives in a world where a no-nanny situation is a Code Red, and where doing your own dishes is a Code Blazing Red. But a lot of her audiences include mothers who consider it a vacation to have two hours to go sit in a dark theater and watch Ms. Banks titter around Jennifer Lawrence. And who rejoice that someone else will be doing the dishes when they buy a dishwasher (as in the machine).
I think it’s great Ms. Banks had a second baby, and am thrilled for her that gestational surrogacy was a viable option. Good for her for already having gone on vacation post-baby, and amen, sister – vacations aren’t really “vacations” when you’ve got two young children to keep up with. I couldn’t care less, frankly, how she evaluates this mom compared to that mom. Her estimations influence my outlook on motherhood not at all.
For her own sake, though, I hope she starts being a bit more careful and considered when she talks about her mothering experiences. Because motherhood, no matter how you come at it, is hard. She looks silly insinuating otherwise, especially given her privileged position.
Sorry, Mama Banks. I’m just keepin’ it real.
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