With the death of iconic TV mom, Barbara Billingsley, from “Leave it to Beaver,” I’ve been thinking about mothers who shaped generations of young girls’ minds. I’m not sure Mrs. Cleaver gave us much wiggle room to be real moms with her pearls and her heels as she dragged out her vacuum cleaner. Added to that, of course, are the dozens of stereotypes about Jewish mothers (a whole other blog entry), and we may really be fighting a losing battle. There is a line somewhere between the ideal and the real that I’ve been looking for.
Ayelet Waldman in her book, “Bad Mother,” steps back to look at the completely unattainable and unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves as mothers:
“Even if I’m setting myself up for failure, I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obsessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn’t fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgment of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn’t worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she’s both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad.”
Setting the bar too high is probably one of the things we do best. And then we fail. Often. So, here’s to you, Mrs. Cleaver, perhaps one of the first public (and fictional!) figures to set that bar too high. And here is to Ayelet Waldman who slowly brings us back down to earth.
What about you? Where are you in the world of motherhood and expectations?