Some days, I have one life-saving thought in my head: I may be incompetent, but, by God, I’m not virtuous.
I was once howling over the short biography of a woman who had recently published something or other. I’m still not sure if I was howling in pain, derision, disbelief, jealousy or I-could-kill-her-for-ruining-it-for-the-rest-of-us. The bio ran something like this: “Agatha, besides writing fiction and essays, teaches at Wholesome Community College, publishes a quarterly literary magazine, runs a design business from her home, home schools her two daughters, and is a gourmet cook, soon to publish a cook book for organic foods.”
I kid you not.
And she’s not the only one. There seems to be a competition among some women to provide a resumé justifying their existence.
I, on the other hand, feel that nothing could possibly justify my existence. Wait, that’s not quite what I meant.
I, on the other hand, feel I don’t have to justify my existence, as feckless as it is. There, that’s better.
Or maybe, no matter what I do or don’t do, I still exist and that’s justification enough.
Besides, I would have slit my own throat if I’d felt I had to home school my children. Or they would have done it for me.
A friend of mine has formed a loose confederation of women she calls “The Bad Mother Club.” It has no meetings, no rules, no standards for membership, but you’ll know when you’ve paid your dues. When you come up against some form of establishment –- educational, medical, legal, resumé mothers –- that shows scorn for you because Parenting magazine would get the heeby-jeebies just thinking about you and your children, you’re ready for “The Bad Mother Club.”
My friend invited me to be in it when the family was going through a bad patch, and I was feeling beleaguered. She described the advantages of membership: you’re free to stop trying so hard, because you’re a bad mother anyway; you’re free to enjoy what’s good about your children, because you can’t do for them what it will take their own growing up to accomplish; and you’re free to go to dinner with your family on a Wednesday night and say, “Eh, well, maybe homework will get done,” because you can’t please everyone, or anyone, so you might as well please yourself.
“The Bad Mother Club” is liberating.
I think most people could examine their lives and see if some equivalent of “The Bad Mother Club” would help them. You know, those areas of your life about which you feel a vague, constant guilt. How about “The-phone-works-both-ways-Mom Bad Children Association” or “The I’d-do-the-paperwork-if-I-wasn’t-doing-actual-work Bad Employee Union” or its sister organization “I’d-do-the-actual-work-if-etc. Union.”
My own personal organizations are as follows: “The Lazy Writer Confederation,” “The Good-God-It’s-Valentine’s-Day Thoughtless Wives Club” and “The Disorganized Sunday School Teacher Society.”
So, here, breath a sigh of relief and resignation. In spite of everything our culture tells us, our lives are not lived by template, with us squeezed into the blanks of a form listing our accomplishments. Life by resumé is a life bound for failure, because we can’t list all the unexpected, messy, horrible, glorious things we do and we are every day. Perfection is the enemy of the good. Something, somewhere has to give, and it’s okay.
Agatha Resumé, please take the day off. Home school your girls on the wonders of chocolate ice cream straight from the carton, read a trashy novel, say “Screw it all” and lay under a tree. Join “The Bad Mother Club” even for a day. Look in the mirror, your hair uncombed, and smile into your own face.
And to the charter member of “The Bad Mother Club”: thank you, my friend. Freeing ourselves from impossible expectations could be the best thing we ever do for our children.