By Melissa Stefanec
When you’re a mother, you can’t help but notice the seemingly ubiquitous societal pressures. They radiate from your family, friends and colleagues. They are ungraciously imposed on you from strangers in the street. They radiate from the soft glow of your tablet and phone. They are cloaked as wisdom from people who claim to know better.
Though not tangible, the pressures are very real, and there isn’t a mother out there who doesn’t feel them daily.
Pressure, even with the very best of intentions, still places a burden on moms. Get a glass or two of wine in just about any mother, and she can regale her listeners with all the ways she is struggling, failing or falling short of perceived expectations.
Personally, I have never been one to assign myself to convention. I haven’t wasted much of my life worrying about what other people think I should do. However, the societal pressures placed on mothers to do certain things and act certain ways are relentless, and it’s hard to dismiss all of them.
So, in the honor of standing strong against peer pressure and unnecessary convention, here is a list of things I am pressured by various members of society to change about myself or my family, and my reasons they won’t be changing — because like a great children’s book author once said, “It’s OK to be different.”
I’m not taking my daughter’s lovey away
My daughter has one of those stuffed animal-blanket combos that has been her best friend for a long time. That pink, grungy critter has spent more time with my daughter than I have. Stella is about to turn 6, and people are asking me when I am going to take it away from her. The answer is, never. It’s her comfort object, and she can quit toting it around when she sees fit. Coincidentally, this time will likely be around the same time she feels peer pressure to do so.
I’m not cutting my son’s hair
That’s right, my 2-year-old son’s hair is not being cut for the foreseeable future. I put son in italics because, if one more person references my two daughters, I might blow a gasket. Once I gently clue the accuser into the fact that the toddler wearing a blue t-rex shirt, cargo pants and green and black sneakers is indeed a boy, I am soon defending why I haven’t buzzed his hair off. If he wants his hair cut, I will cut it. Until then, I am happy to brush his adorable locks and keep educating strangers that some of the most attractive men in the world happen to have lots of hair.
I’m wearing a bikini
And I don’t plan on stopping. If you don’t like the little pouch of stretchy flabby skin that covers my midsection, then kindly (and quietly) look away. I am forced to look tons of guys that I would prefer not to see shirtless, but that’s life. People aren’t here for my visual satisfaction; they are here to live their lives in peace and without judgment from others.
I am not baptizing my children
This is a personal choice. I would never judge anyone for baptizing their kid, and I expect the same respect from everyone else. If my children find religions they want to adhere to when they are older, I am sure they won’t have any problems finding someone to welcome them into that religion by way of an official ceremony.
I’m using real names for body parts
If I hear you referencing my children’s “unmentionables” with some silly and confusing terminology, I will kindly remind my children that no part of their bodies is unmentionable by using that part’s real name. Getting uncomfortable about one’s body is easy to do if kids believe some parts are so shameful that they can’t even be talked about. On a separate and more terrifying note, if anything terrible were to happen in terms of my children’s’ bodies, I want them to be able to tell me what happened using concrete terms.
I’m talking about the tough stuff
Please see the entry above. This world is full of challenging topics and situations. Racism, discrimination, abuse and death are unfortunately part of life. I don’t want to dwell on these topics, but I also don’t want to pretend they don’t exist. I am personally (and age-appropriately) introducing these topics to my children. I don’t trust some bully on the bus to do it for me.
I am not spanking, hitting or otherwise physically reprimanding my kids
The literature is out there. The peer-reviewed studies are real. Physical punishment is much less effective than other types of non-physical discipline, and it often has dire consequences. There have been times when I have wanted to hit my kids, but as one of the most important adults in my kids’ lives, I am not going to teach that problems are solved with physical aggression. When I am not terribly angry and in the heat of the moment, the idea of hitting my kids makes me sick. When I am in the heat of the moment, I shouldn’t be following my primal instincts. So, I have never hit my kids and don’t plan on starting.
I’m letting them eat ice cream for dinner
Life is short. Sometimes, you have to break the rules. Sometimes, you have to eat ice cream for dinner and cake for dessert.