I've been re-reading Maternal Desire and the chapter on maternal competition struck me. I first read this book just after Nathan was born and it spoke to me greatly. The thought that women might actually want and choose to be primarily mothers is a foreign one in our society. It's generally assumed that stay-at-home moms are bored, working beneath their skill levels or desperate to get out. Particularly if their children are under 4 years old.
Now I find there are large portions of it which don't feel as if they apply anymore. Some of them have to do with neurotypical development which never happened with my children but the biggest one was about maternal competition, the subtle jockeying of bragging and the inherent belief that one's children are the best, brightest and most beautiful creatures ever to walk the face of the earth.
I love my kids but I wouldn't describe them with a superlative. I couldn't. I see more advanced children all the time. I put in more work to achieve fewer results. They are good-looking, it's true, but that's not really the hook I'm looking to hang my hat from. I don't even see myself as a particularly exceptional mom on either the neurotypical or special-needs side of the fence. I think I'm actually fairly average.
Maybe it's the knowledge that I can't possibly win which has led me to withdraw from competition. Maybe it's the hurt which I still feel when I see a two year old chattering about his or her day to their parent. I cannot avoid the realization that by all normative standards, I am a failure. It's doubtful whether my children will be able to attend university, the pinnacle of parental success. It's almost certain that Alex will need lifelong support and care.
But in letting go of the competition, I can also let go of those goals and see they are not as important as I once thought they were. We had a joke when we named Alex that we chose his name so as to sound appropriate to great things: Alexander George Mackintosh was elected to his fourth majority as Prime Minister vs escaped serial killer Alexander George Mackintosh is still at large.
Neither of those is going to happen. Likely Alexander George Mackintosh will have a low-level menial job where he can have minimal interaction with the public. And he'll be happy. If he can be happy and contributing to society in even a minimal way, then I will count myself as a success. I know there will be many who won't see it that way.
I already see the pity in a lot of eyes when I acknowledge where we are. People like success stories, triumph against the odds. Only, if everyone triumphs, then those weren't really the odds in the first place.
I can't spend my time chasing dreams or mourning them. I have to focus on what is actually happening and how to make the best opportunities out of it.
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