Our culture is afflicted with a lot of problems. That should be obvious. But what doesn't seem to be as apparent is what I would consider to be one of the major downfalls of our society. There's a trend that's been developing over the past several years. We celebrate mediocrity.
We celebrate it in classrooms, on athletic fields, in places of employment, and even in parenting. We reward sub par behavior, work, and performance all for the sake of sparing people's delicate feelings. We act as if we're on a mission to artificially inflate the self-esteem and egos of every person with whom we come in contact. We're eliminating responsibility and effort, victory and defeat.
I could go on about this for days. I could lament over the "participation" trophies awarded to every child who picks up a ball or joins an athletic team. Sorry, participation is simply that. You didn't win anything and you don't deserve a trophy. I could complain about the high marks given to children when they put forth zero effort to accomplish a task. Oh, you can't write a grammatically correct sentence free of 'LOLs' or 'OMGs?' Great. A+ for you! I could ramble on about the "everybody's a winner" mentality that rages through our homes and schools. It's okay, little Johnny, it doesn't matter what you do, I'm going to tell you that you're the best no matter what and you're going to believe it. I could make myself sick over the number of people who deserve to be let go from their particular employment because of laziness or law-breaking or general non-performance. You failed to perform the duties of your employment, we're going to have to let you go. Discrimination! You just hate me because I'm (black, white, gay, straight, female, male, etc., etc.).
See. I really could go on for days. I won't, but there is one aspect of this that I'd really like to address: the general lack of concern about mediocrity in motherhood (or just parenting in general).
I've read numerous articles and blog posts that tell women something to similar to this: "Okay ladies, let's stop beating ourselves up! Every mom is doing the best she can and we need to give ourselves and each other the credit we deserve!"
Uh, sorry, but no. By making these blanket empowerment speeches, what you're really doing is giving an excuse to every lazy, neglectful, abusive mother that exists.
Yes, there are a lot of mothers out there doing the best they can most days. But not all days and most certainly not all mothers. I'm all for ending the mommy wars that we hear so much about. I don't care if you use cloth diapers or disposable ones. It's none of my business whether you choose to nurse or use formula. If you've got the time to make your own baby food, more power to you. I think we can all agree that when it comes to these sorts of debates, every mother is making the choice that she feels is best for her and her family. It's nobody's business and placing judgment there is absurd.
But I hope we can also agree that there are many mothers who are doing far from the best they can. I hope we can acknowledge that there are children being hurt and ignored and mistreated.
And even more than that, I hope we can recognize the excuses behind this theory.
I'm sorry, but there are days when I don't do the best I can. I like to think that I give an 110% effort most of the time, but I don't do it every day. Sometimes I'm exhausted or upset or just plain don't feel like it. On those days my performance as a mother is merely adequate. That's it. I do the things I have to do and I ignore the rest. I let my kids watch too much TV so I don't have to deal with entertaining them. I throw frozen pizzas in the oven because I don't want to cook dinner. I read blog posts on the internet that justify my desire to sit on the couch doing nothing while my bathrooms get dirtier and my kids lonelier. That's not me doing the best I can. And I don't want people excusing my lack of effort.
We, as mothers, are not entitled to compliments or praise. Complacency has no place within this sacred role. Earn the praise you so desperately want to receive. If you yell at your kids too much (guilty), don't claim that you're doing the best you can and act like you deserve praise for it. You don't. Yelling is not praiseworthy. Take praise where it's due, but also make corrections where necessary.
Everything we do is not always good enough. We don't put forth our best efforts all of the time. And we shouldn't be rewarded with undue praise when we don't. It's far more beneficial and empowering to acknowledge our shortcomings and to work on correcting them. What good does it do anyone for us to proclaim that we're doing the best we can when we aren't? It's the plague of mediocrity and we're encouraging each other to be comfortable there.
No mother is perfect. This is all about effort. Your best effort is sufficient. It's all that is asked of you or required of you. But don't be satisfied with a puffed-up version of your motherhood. Acknowledge your mistakes. Identify your weaknesses and then give your best effort to turn them into strengths. Quit being satisfied with mediocrity and quit listening to fairy tale accounts of our perfection.
More than anything, let's take responsibility for our motherhood. Own it. Love it. Choose it. Take pride in it. And work at doing the best job you can.