Because I'm the Mom

How mothering pervades all relationships in life.

The Better (Than You) Mother: Fact or Urban Mother Myth?

The Better (than you) Mother


      Who is your Better Mother?

      You know the one. She gets pregnant when her husband sneezes. She loses the baby weight within 48 hours of her precisely-as-planned at-home water birth; nurses the twins simultaneously; makes her own organic baby food from her garden; always shops in bulk.

     She works; she might have a killer job; or maybe she doesn't; maybe she has one of those sweet jobettes at the public library or at a local non-profit. Whatever. She's not resentful and she balances it with grace and humor. Even when she doesn't she's funny and charming and witty about it all. Either way she's better, faster, thinner, blonder, greener, more productive, better compensated, more sated, more sedated, more grateful, gracious, satisfied, calmer, disciplined, elegant, frugal, happier than you.
      Or not. Maybe she's snarky, honest, direct, intense, selfish, self-aware, self-soothing, self-centered, self-absorbed in ways you can only dream of being.
      Maybe it's her circumstances that make her better. Her house is your dream house, bay windows, spectacularly lit, eco-loving bamboo floors. Her job/no-job situation works perfectly for her self worth, her economic worth, and her family. There's more money, vacations, Jacuzzi tub.

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     These feelings you have, they are rational. I mean they are and they aren't. They aren't for all of the obvious reasons. Yet they are because empirically, her life is factually easier. The bad stuff simply has not been as bad, thus far. Her financial situation cushions her life in ways not available to the rest of us. Her kids slept through the night at 8 weeks. She never miscarried. Did I say hardwood floors already?

     And even when there are those tough breaks, she's resilient, somehow, in this incredibly foreign, grown-up, mature way.

      Maybe she's pieces of a person. Maybe she's a whole person, an actual person; a hologram of a person; a projection. An Urban Mother Myth. Maybe she's a composite of all of the women you torture yourself that you shudda/cudda/wudda be/been. Maybe she exists. Maybe she doesn't. Either way, you know exactly who I'm talking about.

     Your husband/partner has a Better (than you) Mother. The partner who wouldn't do all the irritating stuff you do and who would do whatever it is you're not doing: Hiking, nature, canning, salsa dancing or whatever.

      You probably have a Better (than you) Mother in mind for your partner/spouse...as in "hmmm, now THERE is the one you should be with."
      Your children sure have one. My daughter's latest Better Mother is truly spectacular. She's "The Yes Mother." I, it has been revealed, am "The No Mother."
      "I completely understand," I tell her. "And when you grow up, if you decide to have children, you may be whatever kind of mother you choose to be. If you want to be exactly like (Insert Name of Better Mother) that is your choice."

     If your Better Mother actually exists, you can't stomach being friends with her. It's embarrassing, really. Your real friends know why. They can't be her friend, either. If they could, then they'd be Better Mothers, right?
      I recently learned I was actually somebody's Better (than you) Mother. I was like, are you kidding me? This is astonishing information for someone as stunningly imperfect as I am. It's comical, really. Alas, the myth didn't last long. Apparently, she got to know me and decided I wasn't Better Mother material.
      Friendship ruins everything.
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Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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