Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is she strong enough to be a mom?

I have an incredibly talented and wise friend who writes a great blog. I'm going to shamelessly expound on something she wrote the other day, something that's been weighing heavily on my mind. First, the original blog. If you don't already follow her, I heartily recommend it. She manages to connect with so many of the little moments we all share as wives, mothers and women:


Now, onto Jillian Michaels. As Amy noted, Jillian doesn't want to have kids because she doesn't want to ruin her figure. Amy says plenty of good things about this attitude, which we agree is a
bit incredibly shallow, yet it plays into what we value as a society. "The Biggest Loser" is a big hit because we can all relate to wanting to lose weight and live up to society's standards. You don't seen reality shows called "The Real Mom" because nobody wants to watch some mother with gray roots and a few extra rolls around the waist trying to keep up with her kids' schedules.

Back to Jillian. I don't watch "The Biggest Loser," so I don't know a lot about Jillian. I did, however, stumble onto one of her workouts through my cable TV's exercise on demand. She immediately puts her viewers into a back breaking workout, and just as you're groaning, she says something like, "Come on, I work with 300-pound people every day. Don't be a wimp." At that point, I decided she was mean, and I turned her off.

Jillian thinks she doesn't want to have kids, because she doesn't want to lose her body. That's all well and good. But I wonder if she realizes that the increased waistline is just the first challenge of being a mother. When you become a mom, you don't realize that you're setting yourself up to some of biggest trials of your life. Yes, those middle-of-the-night wakeup calls can have you weeping in your rocking chair, as you hold a child who wants to eat for an hour straight while the other parental unit blissfully sleeps on. But as my kids grow older, I realize that those moments were nothing compared to what was waiting for me.

When you're a mom, your heart is going to break even as you're encouraging your child to continue the action that's killing you. When your 2-year-old walks into preschool for the first time, you understand what it's like to leave a part of your heart in someone else's body. A year later, you need to find the fortitude to convince a stubborn 3-year-old that it's OK to poop in the potty – in fact, you beg and bribe her to poop in the potty. Once they're in school, you find yourself living those years over again. When your child comes home crying because someone called her a name, you have to offer compassion while fighting the desire to go in and beat the ever-living heck out of the mean kid. Motherhood takes you on an unpredictable journey. For six months, your little angel only wants to wear bicycle shorts, so you stock up on those. A week later, she says bicycle shorts are stupid and wants you to buy regular shorts. You buy a bunch of purples and pinks, because those were her favorite colors, and you find them stuck in the back of the drawer, because her new favorite color is green. If you're going to be a mother, you have to have the patience to turn around during a road trip to drive back an hour to the rest stop where your baby left her special blanket, hoping and praying that it's still there. Then you blink, and that same child is leaving the special blanket behind when she goes to a sleepover, and you feel like chasing after her and asking one more time if she wants to bring it along.

Before you know it, your child thinks she's smarter than you. That's really fun. Your days are spent standing your ground against a 12-year-old who can't understand why she's not allowed to wander the streets without a curfew. When a boy breaks her heart, you are acutely reminded of that pain that defies rational thought. You have to bite your tongue and not say, "You're too good for him," because she doesn't want to hear that. You're always wrong. Always, always, always. Get used to it. You try to help her with their homework, but she only gets mad at you because you're trying to teach the math methods you know, and "that's not how the teacher did it today." You point out that her hair looks good, and she makes a face and tells you it looks awful. Yup, wrong again.

As they get older, you try to find that thin line between allowing too much and not allowing enough. Teen-aged tragedies hit every community, and you grapple with the desire to lock them in the basement, where you don't have to worry about one bad decision changing their lives forever. You launch into the "remember that decisions have consequences" discussion, and their eyes glaze over. You wonder if they heard you. You wonder what they're doing when you're not looking. Are they behaving themselves? Or are they one of "those kids," the ones you used to shake your head over when you saw them at the mall?

I don't even want to think about the day they come home and tell me they're going to college six states away. I don't want to imagine what it would be like to watch them go down a path I wouldn't choose for them, but I imagine it's going to happen. I hope I'm strong enough to support them without trying to live their lives for them.

Sometime between the newborn years and the teen years, you realize that being a parent is so much more than making lunches, kissing boo boos and giving them strong values. You realize that you can do everything right as a parent, and you still find a multitude of things out of your control. Part of being a parent is giving up that control, even though your brain is screaming, "Don't let go! Let me live her life for her so she never gets hurt!"

I guess I have to commend Jillian Michaels. In a strange way, she knows her limits. She may think she can't be a parent because she can't sacrifice her hard body. But really, being a parent goes well beyond the thicker waistline. If you can't handle a few extra pounds, you're not going to be able to take the "I hate you" moments and the times when parenting brings you to tears. If sagging boobs scare you, then you probably won't want to deal with the Target outfits you wear so you can afford to outfit your kid in designer clothes, because you remember what it's like to want to fit in. If stretch marks are your biggest nightmare, then maybe you're not up to figuring out how you're going to cover the sports carpool while making sure the other kid is picked up from her friend's house on time and dinner is something that doesn't come out of a fast food bag.

Jillian Michaels looks great. There's no doubt in my mind that she's a physically strong person. But I don't think she's nearly as strong as the parents I know. As far as I'm concerned, their strength goes beyond what you can measure in weight machines and hours on the treadmills. They may not be able to do 200 sit-ups or run a half marathon. They may never be "The Biggest Loser." But they're winners. They're the strongest winners I know.

1 comment:

Alan said...

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