When my oldest son was three I enrolled him in a Mommy's morning out program. I had searched high and low for a program not affiliated with a church or religious group, to no avail. With two small children; one just an infant, and no family support to speak of, I was absolutely desperate for some down time. So against my misgivings, I signed him up.
Since the baby's nap coincided nicely with the program's three hour timeslot, I had, for the first time since becoming a mother, time in which I could simply decompress. I began to look forward to those three days a week the way a drug addict looks forward to their next fix. That is to say; with equal parts longing and desperation.
One day, while waiting for an awards program to start, I overheard two mothers gossiping about a third, with whom they were quite put out. Finally they both sighed heavily. One said to the other "Well, what're ya gonna do...." and the other said "Well, she's not a Christian so...."
The implication was clear. She's not a Christian, so we really can't expect any better of her.
And that's when I first began to understand that my fitness as a mother would always and forever be in question as far as Christians were concerned; that no matter what I did, I would never quite measure up in their eyes. Over the years, that knowledge has evolved and solidified into a very weighty thing. It hangs over my head constantly. I have been slapped in the face more times than I can count; judged, criticized, denigrated and dismissed because I am not a Christian and I am not raising my children in a Christian home.
It used to be that I could simply avoid those types of situations. But as my children grew older and developed a wider circle of friends and acquaintances, it became more difficult. And now, with the prevailance of social media, I am bombarded daily with assertions that I am failing my children. Yes, daily. Every single day I see cutesy little religious proclomations that directly or indirectly criticize me for my choice to raise my children without benefit of Christian values.
But you see...that's the very thing that's so infuriating. Christians, you have not cornered the market on morality. I most certainly am teaching my kids Christian values. We call them simply, "values".
Honesty, kindness, charity, tolerance, acceptance, humility, love....these are all things I try to instill in my children. I don't do it because some doctrine or idealogy told me I should. I don't do it because I wish them to be rewarded in heaven or because I want them to avoid eternal damnation.
I do it because I want to raise children who impact the world and their fellow human beings in a positive way. I do it because I want them to be proud of who they are and how they have conducted their lives. I do it because I want them, when they are at the end of their time here on earth, to look back with peace in their hearts. I do it because I too want to look back and know that I did my best for them.
But because I do not couch these values in religious dogma I am a bad mother.
So let me just give it to you straight here: That really chaps my ass.
Particularly because I gave up almost 16 years of my life to devote myself entirely to motherhood. Sixteen years, folks. For sixteen years I had no other purpose in life than to be the steward of my childrens' well being; physical, emotional and psychological.
Now, in retrospect, that was probably a mistake. I lost myself in my role as nurturer. I failed to maintain a sense of self independant of my children. That resulted in one WHOPPER of an identity crisis later in my life, from which I am glad to say, I have recovered. But at the time, I thought it was truly the best thing for my children and so I did it without hesitation.
But still, I'm a bad mother.
I have been Room Mom, PTA Mom, Book Fair Mom, Science Fair Mom, Silent Auction Mom, Baseball Mom, Patient Advocate and Student Rights Mom. I have been hell on wheels when I had to, sweet as pie when it suited my purpose. I have negotiated, advocated, pontificated, educated and illuminated.
But still, I'm a bad mother.
I have spent countless hours reading, researching and educating myself so that I could make informed decisions about my children's welfare. I have written emails and made phone calls and made a general nuiscance of myself in order to affect change for them. I have lain awake nights agonizing over the decisions I made on their behalf.
But still I'm a bad mother.
I have practiced tough love when I wanted to be the marshmallow. I have been steadfast when I wanted to fold like a house of cards. I have been the bad guy when I wanted to be the bff. I have been the Warden when I wanted to be the emancipator. I have been the long arm of the law when I wanted to be the partner in crime.
But still I'm a bad mother.
Well STUFF that.
I am raising good kids. I'm teaching them how to be free thinkers and to embrace the differences that make this world great. I'm teaching them to respect other views even when they don't agree. I'm teaching them that good and bad isn't always black and white. I'm teaching them that that good people sometimes do bad things and bad people probably have a little good in them somewhere.
For all those reasons and more, I am a good mother. And I've finally come to realize that the only person who has to believe that is me. And I do.
So I could counter that you, Christians, are the bad mothers. For allowing religion to narrow your children's minds and close their hearts and color their judgement. For letting it be a divisive force, a justification for evil and an instrument of antipathy and ill will.
But I won't. Because that would hurt you and then I would be no better. Because I know you teach your children these things because you believe it's the right thing to do. And because I know that we all love our children. And love is what it really comes down to.
I don't agree with your doctrine, but I can't disagree with love. And I'm going to choose to believe that if you really think about it, you can't either.
Peace to loving mothers everywhere. Let's give each other a break...shall we?