You know, if I don't hate myself for having high standards, I hate myself for not meeting them
I've been thinking about my situation and my need for control. It's all connected. I never wanted to be a mom, much less a stay at home mom. But when I decided to go for it anyway. I also decided I was going to do the best job I could, and to think of it as a very serious and meaningful career. And I would take it as seriously as a career. I decided to look at it as an opportunity to take on parenting as something that mattered and required research, study, practice, and lots of attention. I also came up with a list of standards for myself, sort of challenges really, so that in some way I could measure my "success" at this career of mine. The list included things that I thought would be difficult but certainly not impossible, things that would prove to other people that they COULD be done with a little thought and attention, and that I thought were worthwhile to my children and my family. Setting a good example for them as well as casual onlookers was always part of it. I wanted to look back and have some sense that I took things to the next level and took it seriously.
So the list would include things like this:
My children will never have formula.
My children will never have pacifiers.
My children will never wear disposable diapers.
I will not leave my children with babysitters.
I will not leave my children overnight until they are much, much older.
I will strive to provide only the best quality organic foods whenever possible.
I will breastfeed for as long as possible.
I will bring my children to bed with me until at least two years old.
Now I realize, most of these things could be deemed...admirable but overkill. Or unrealistic and obnoxious. Or something. It's not that I care what other people do with their children (although early on, I used to), but what I want to challenge myself to do for my own because I am able to. If, as a stay at home mom, I chose to skimp on any of the things I actually did care about, I didn't think I could be happy with myself as a mother. I have made the choice that my children come first. Almost compulsively, really, because as a child I was never put first and still am a mere afterthought to my parents. I wanted my kids to look back and think, even if everything I ever did was wrong, that their mother paid attention and really tried.
In the midst of a lot of turmoil in other areas of my life, I have held on to these standards. Jake has raged at me about some of them, calling me unreasonable and unyielding, holding on to these things for the sake of it, going to far, etc. And when he says those things, I do pause and consider, and ultimately end up deciding to press on anyway.
It helps that I have a contrary streak a mile wide. When told a thing is impossible, that I think is worthwhile--or honestly, that I think is possible with just a bit of effort that most others have completely written off--I'm just going to do it to prove someone wrong. Can't go on vacation with cloth diapers? Can and did. Can't get a homebirth in Binghamton? Can and did. Can't breastfeed with thrush, bad latch, food sensitivities and a multitude of other problems? Can and did. And on and on.
And really, these things are all I have had to hold on to. These kids are my life, my job, my everything. The way I raise them is not--except with Jake--up for debate. I put a huge amount of thought and research and personal reflection into almost every detail of my own life, and especially in how I raise my kids. From the toys I buy them, to the clothes, to the toothpaste they use and the water they drink, the carseats they ride in, their crayons for fuck's sake, each one reflects a thought process and a decision. This may seem like a huge waste of energy. And perhaps it is. Perhaps mindfulness is not called for in every minute occasion, but I consider it to be a practice.
Perhaps it's the only practice I have left. When I had kids I pretty much gave up most of my personal standards one by one. Which I suppose is another reason I've held onto these so fiercely.
I have allowed myself to be set apart to a great extent by holding on to these standards. I am alienated from my family. It's more of a philosophy difference than about tangible things. And very few people realize that.
So yes, I may be a pretentious, self-righteous bastard, but keep in mind it's pretty much all I have that's even halfway in my control, that I can look at and be proud of, even if it's stupid and comes across as inherently judgmental.