I was seventeen when my eldest daughter was born. This fact, along with the fact that I am now thirty-seven, combined with the fact that my youngest daughter is now seven, in addition to the fact that I was born in 1977 (hello sevens!) all add up to one fairly unique reality:
I’ve raised young children both with and without the internet.
Which means, of course, that my mothering experience has straddled the single most influential shift in human awareness the world has ever seen.
Wow, right? (If anyone wants to pay me to study my brain toward the salvation of the species or anything, we can probably work something out.)
As you might expect, early childhood parenting of my firstborn felt quite different than the experience of raising her sisters. Though my age stands out as the most obvious factor, looking back, it doesn’t feel near as big a determinant as the difference in my access to resources.
Back then, I had approximately four places to turn with my parenting questions:
Thing is, the pediatrician knew less about mothering than my own (awesome) mom, my dad, as a family counselor, was a wealth of information, and the library was hard to manage with a wiggling baby, so when it came right down to it, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and MY FOLKS were pretty much it.
That’s right. I raised my firstborn with essentially two sources of information.
Unbelievable as it may seem to today’s search-happy, post-internet parents, this reality felt surprisingly adequate. Despite my circumstances, I felt confident, well-supported, capable and empowered as a mother right from the start, and it sure wasn’t because I knew What to Expect.
My confidence boiled down to this:
As a single, seventeen-year-old junior in high school, I didn’t question whether or not I was a good mom. I just knew I was.
Fast forward twenty short years (inserting the internet half way through), and few mothers I meet would say the same. Though most are striving, hardly any of us are actually arriving at a level of self-assuredness and satisfaction proportionate to our dedication and investment. In fact, the amount of self-doubt I’ve experienced in my own post-internet parenting has been exponentially more than my pre-internet days, even though I know about a kajillion more things than I did then.
How can this be? How can such a wealth of information be both increasing our understanding AND decreasing our sense of self-worth?
It’s quite simple, really. Our brains aren’t wired for this much intake. We’re suffering from not from actual inadequacy, but from a false sense of ourselves that has reached epidemic proportions.
I call this collective confusion Mythological Motherhood.
A concept I describe at length in Motherwhelmed (my book-in-progress), Mythological Motherhood is the modern phenomenon responsible for the discontent, disillusionment and disconnect plaguing parents of every demographic. It speaks to the enormous gap between what we believe to be possible (based on stories we’re both being told and sold) and the way our current realities look and feel. The greater this gap, the more of these myths a person has likely subscribed to.
The consequence of this mass mythology (presented to us as TRUTH) is an entire generation of mothers who — though more attentive, compassionate, involved, patient, knowledgeable and educated than any other group of mothers since the beginning of time — suffers from so much self-doubt, inadequacy and overwhelm that we barely even benefit from our position of relative privilege.
It’s tragic, but it’s also a trend we’re capable of reversing.
Doing so starts with recognizing the myths being perpetuated, examining their detriment to our lives and digging deeper for our own personal truth beneath them.
As you’re reading, ask yourself where these myths seem to be rooted within our culture, then allow your heart to tell you whether or not they were truly meant for YOU.
Though untangling ourselves from these myths takes time (and can be a painful process), the benefits go well beyond increased confidence. Future generations depend on our investment in ourselves.
The Dalai Lama said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.”
I say mothers must lead the movement.