Some say the moms of our parents’ generation are the last of the great ones – we investigate
by Maria Benetos
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Confessions of a Misfit Mom is a weekly series by MINIMODE co-founder Maria Benetos about her (many) mis-adventures in being a mom, recorded and published to make you feel better about your own parenting life. You’re welcome.
My mother often jokes (OK, not really jokes… proclaims) when she sees me raising my two girls, “Moms: they don’t make them like they used to.” I usually laugh off the comment, attribute it to her typical wiseass ribbing and get on with my parenting but one day recently – perhaps due to the frequency of her use of the phrase – I took pause to really think about it. Is she right? Were the moms of her generation somehow better than us? Instead of instantly getting defensive about it, shouting out the rally cry of women’s lib and delving deep into suppressed housewives who didn’t have the choices we currently have, I decided to lighten up and truly consider it. Let’s examine all the evidence.
Exhibit A: Mom, In the Flesh
We’ll start with the optics – the way we dress and care for ourselves. When I see photos of my mother at my current age with my brothers and me, let’s face it, she looks about a decade older (plus, she was in Niagara Falls, which never helps the situation). It’s not that her skin wasn’t perfection or that she in any way let herself go once she became a parent – on the contrary, she was put together to a T. And that’s the thing… from her coiffed hair to her neat clothing, she looked like a mom. Let’s now take present-day me and all my mommy friends as an opposing example. Ripped jeans, beachy waves, Outdoor Voices crop tops, Golden Goose sneaks, tattoos… you see where I’m going here. You can no longer differentiate the mommies from the non-mommies. My parents call it sloppy dressing and not a good example to my girls; I call it keeping it real and an A+ lesson to my kids that personal style is an important form of self-expression, so don’t change based on old fashioned rules thrust upon you. Now, excuse me while I lace up my Doc Martens for a market run…
Exhibit B: You Are What You Eat
I may not be the best person to report on this portion of the debate as I grew up with immigrant parents who fed us whole, natural, unprocessed foods 99.9% of the time, not because it was the trendy thing to do but rather because that’s all they knew from being raised in Europe and therefore that was all we knew in our house. Until it came to cereal. Yup, cereal. My brother and I somehow managed to convince my German mother that Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops were indeed a nutritious breakfast because, duh, there’s fruit in the name. And thus began my life-long love affair with Fruity Pebbles that still blazes brightly to this day, but I digress. Fact is, parents do have a lot more information nowadays on the quality of foods and what ingredients are indeed most beneficial to growing kids. Plus, my five-year-old eats sushi, octopus, artichokes, calamari, olives and dim sum… shit I wouldn’t touch as a kid, so I’m going with the modern mamas on this one.
Exhibit C: Work/Life Balance
Is there such a thing? No, not really. As a parent, you just figure it out and I truly don’t believe that there is a better way, meaning that kids with stay at home moms don’t somehow have the upper hand on children with mommy heading to the office each day, and vice-versa. What I will say though, is that as women we are lucky that we have a choice and much more opportunity than the females of our mothers’ generation. They truly did pave the way for us, and for that I’m forever grateful and hope to continue that fight for my own daughters so they can one day earn as much as their male counterparts for the same work. My mother cooked us a homemade dinner each night and we always sat as a family for that meal, which is something I would love to offer my kids but is just not a reality of our frantic New York City life. However, my girls do get evening walks on the pier with mommy and daddy and regular trips to the West Village’s somewhat infamous Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant. The same but different; different but the same.
Exhibit D: Self-Care
Today’s Pinot Noir-sipping mamas are much more apt to take part in that modern day catchphrase everyone is loving right now: self-care. We meditate in the mornings, we workout, go to yoga, grab dinner and drinks with our girlfriends, regularly hit the town with our partners and likely spend a lot more time and money on fashion, skincare, wellness and the like. I’ve heard some people call that “selfish,” which is not accurate nor fair. It’s a known fact that people who take care of themselves are better able serves those around them. Motherhood is full of endless demands, rewards, sacrifices, sleepless nights, countless unscheduled interruptions and many beautiful gifts to experience. But in order to be a great mom, you must feel great about both yourself and your life, and if that means an occasional facial or an evening out when you can get dressed, feel pretty and unwind with friends then so be it. Do I sometimes blast the Sonos, solo dance on my coffee table and open the good wine on those rare occasions when I’m actually alone in the house? Absolutely… try it; it’s cathartic.
Exhibit E: The “D” Word
I adored my parents but that adoration was mixed with a bit of fear. Or perhaps fear is not the right word – let’s go with deference. There was indeed a level of respect and looking up to your mom and dad back then that I don’t often see today. It’s not that we don’t discipline our children but we more gently guide them to the right path, bringing us a bit more on their level. There are pros and cons to both schools of thought. On the one hand, I wish my kids would actually listen to me in the way that I immediately sprang into action when my parents asked me to come to dinner, change my clothes or finish my homework. Hell, I still can’t get my daughter to wear something (anything!) other than a sparkly maxi skirt to school. Yet at the same time, I have a silly, lovely relationship with my girls that I never had with my own mother. She was always “mom,” whereas I think my daughters view me as that crazy, hot mess, sometimes smart woman who adores them and occasionally bosses them around. This one is a tie.
So what is the verdict? You may have already guessed that there is no right or wrong answer here. Both moms today and those of our parents’ generation have flaws and fabulous traits that are inextricably bound up with one another, plus our society has changed so vastly that it’s impossible to truly do a side by side comparison. As the saying goes, “It’s not easy being a mother. If were easy, fathers would do it.”