As I was sitting in the kitchen area on the unit where I work, making toast in the middle of the night for a woman who had just laboured for four days, I picked up a magazine in the stack nearby -- presumably meant for others who do just as I was doing in the middle of the night while waiting for the bread to toast -- and had to read over several times one of the captions on the Walmart Living Better magazine: "Congratulations to our 2014 Mom of the Year Award."
Mom of the Year award. Seriously?
"Mom of the year" is a derogatory phrase used among women to downgrade the whole notion that there is an ideal mother. When the school calls to tell us we forgot to pack our kid his lunch for the school field trip, a dull, "Well I guess I won't be winning the mom of the award," can be heard after the phone has been hung up. There's an assortment of variations of this mockery, all meant to express that society has made women feel like they must be able to tick off all the check marks in the box before they are eligible for mother of the year.
There's something wrong with us if we choose to stay home with your children. There's something wrong with us if we continue to work, and put our children in daycare. Mothers can do no right. By now, after years of this topic having been written in a multitude of variations, all denigrating the aspersion that you suck if, a) you hung out at home with little ones eating Cheerios off the carpet, b) ran a multimillion dollar corporation but were still present and sitting in the stands for every single hockey practice and game, c) were on Social Assistance, doing your best to provide a warm jacket and boots for your children during cold winters, d) were running a home-based business that required your time and attention while the television occupied the children.
It doesn't matter. No matter how we've phrased it; no matter how women have raised their children; women are still and will probably always feel inadequate, and certainly never worthy of a mom of the year award.
So Walmart's Living Better magazine felt it necessary to further sink mothers' self-esteem -- which is already flushed so deeply into the toilet pipes no amount of plunging is going to restore it to its proper somewhat acceptable notion that we are all equal in our feelings of inadequacy - by creating an actual contest?
Shame on you Walmart.
I've read the bios of several of the winners, and of course they are bright like the sun. Mothers who have fostered 40 children; given of their time to soup kitchens; provided the money for food from their own pockets for said soup kitchens; ministered to their church; been a safe haven for runaways; arrived from different countries and had to simultaneously learn English and a profession because of single motherhood; provided countless acts of selflessness despite soul crushing grief. The list goes on. And not one story is less touching than the other. These women are remarkable, and their accomplishments and self-sacrifice had me weeping for the beauty found in humanity.
But to pit moms against each other is just cruel. Who can keep up with any of that? I'm battling mental illness. I have a friend who is working double shift after double shift to support her family because her spouse sustained a tragic accident and is unable to work. I have a friend who has followed the "How to win the Mom of the Year Award" manual to the letter, and still, she now is spending every waking hour worrying about and caring for a son who commits vandalism and is often caught doing drugs and alcohol. There is no right or wrong way in this. The plan is to get through it however you can.
Of course I know moms who have kids who are thriving in school; in extracurricular activities; some are track stars; others are kids living the life that kids do. And no matter how our children are behaving or if and what they are accomplishing is worth mentioning or not -- and again who is the judge of that? -- to create a hierarchy in which one mother deserves the mom of the year award over another mystifies me.
It's almost 2015 and from where I see it, we've made no progress... actually less progress; because now, Mother of the Year, a phrase meant to belittle the concept that motherhood had to be synonymous with perfection otherwise you'd failed as a mother, is now an actual contest with actual prizes.
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