Opinion

Mothers don't need a perfect report card

Erika Schickel's article, "This Mom Needs a Ditch Day," is one more piece of evidence I am finding in my research about motherhood that reads like a sarcastic stand-up comedy routine. Some other titles I've come across recently: "Peeing in Peace," "Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay," "Motherhood is Not for Wimps" and scores of articles from parenting web sites that have titles like "How to Trick Your Children Into Eating Vegetables." I wouldn't call it a trend, but you won't find many books with titles like "Conception to Adulthood: The Joy of Mothering a Child" unless they are in the religion section. No wonder there are so many bratty kids out there.

Most of these authors, like Schickel, are educated, articulate and talented. They are the very women who in my generation picketed, rallied, boycotted and protested for what we thought was a revolution that would advance the status of women — economically and socially. We wanted to make it clear forever more that women should have choices about how they wanted to live their lives and use their bodies. There was more to a woman's future than nursing, teaching and mothering.

I used to tell my college students in child development that it was just as profound to decide not to have a child as it was to bring life into the world, but once you've made the decision, the joy of raising a child into a productive, loving adult is a lifetime experience. I also added: "Selfish women make corrupt mothers."

Ask any child if they think their mother loves them and they will usually answer yes. Ask any adult if they felt loved by their mother and there might be a long pause before the answer. Making your love felt doesn't translate into an "A" in motherhood as Schickel desires. In fact, the top ranks include many "flawed" mothers who don't bake sugar-free cookies but who honestly cherish their children, give comfort when they are ill and make tasty meals when they are hungry. They keep promises, answer questions truthfully, are punctual, listen, show understanding and fairness, protect their children from evil and, yes, say no when kids are out of line. Most important, according to my children, they know how to have fun.

To the Erika Schickels out there I say: If you're lucky enough you will get older and, some time in your last trimester on Earth, you might be even luckier and have grandchildren. If your own children haven't been too much of a burden for you, they'll give you a shot at their children to get it right, and you will have an opportunity to make new memories about yourself as the loving, funny, generous and giving woman that you really are.

Linda Feldman is the co-author of "Where to Go from Here: Discovering Your Own Life's Wisdom in the Second Half of Your Life" and is writing a book about child rearing titled "The Brat Whisperer." She has two adult children who still like to hang out with her and one teenage granddaughter whom she recently took to Paris.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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