Saturday, April 14, 2007


The green eyed monster?

I started commenting on Rootie's post - about whether her 'omega' reactions to the 'alpha mom' phenomenon was just good old-fashioned envy - and my comment was turning into a long-winded post, so I've made it a long-winded post here on my own blog instead. Not what I was going to babble on about today, but whatever!

Rootie reckoned that it suddenly hit her that much of her ranting criticism was born out of envy - that if she'd had the money, hell, she would have hired a nanny too!

My thoughts are that, hmmm, maybe there's an element of envy in the Omega Reaction, but again, even that is individual. My reaction, for example, is not a 'financial' one, but, I do confess, there's a bit of that monster lurking.

I believe we all react 'uniquely' due to our own 'baggage'. Because I haven't worked (yet!) since I had kids, I am mostly hypersensitive to those mums that do, because they look to be so much more effective than me! - what with balancing a career and motherhood... I am always looking for 'reasons' why they appear to be able to "do it" where I can't. (And I can relate only if they admit to other self-perceived "failings". If they don't, I need to pick out the differences in our circumstances because only that makes me feel better.)

The reality is that most who look like they are 'doing it all' manage only with the 'village' that whatshername mentions in 'that' article. Extended family: minding the children while you go to work. Or go shopping! (Pfft! - the grandparents of my kids are hundreds of miles away, but even if they weren't, my mother wouldn't have, and I wouldn't have asked her.)... The husband not working away for days/weeks at a time like mine was... The husband finishing work by 4.30/5.00 so they can share in the afternoon 'stuff' with the kids: I still get stirrings of envy when I see the dads picking up their kids from school and taking them to whatever is on after school. 3.00?! How do they do it?!... The husband actually being home in time for dinner with the rest of the family, even. "Your husband is home by 6.00?! I'd just about faint if mine got home from work by then!" ...Paying a lot of money for long day care, or nannies (not that I saw much of the nanny thing in my social circle!) - no, well, I couldn't afford a nanny even if I wanted to... Or what still gets up my nose, getting non-working suckers like me to take their kid somewhere for them because they 'have to work' - Hello! I choose not to work, but not to be a taxi driver for other people's kids. We don't live beyond our means.. we have never owned a new car.. haven't felt like we just HAD to have a pool.. or resort holidays... etc etc.. (you get the picture?...) Yes, yes, I know that many are doing it much tougher financially, and they need to work.. but.. just don't make me feel inferior because I don't work, ok!)

Then I'd see single parents doing it all on their own. The only 'excuse' I could come up with for me then was that I was single part of the time and partnered part of the time, and couldn't get into a routine!!! *Ahem*. And, sheesh, well, many of those single parents get time out from the kids when their ex takes the kids! (Yep, I've really been desperate for excuses!)

Well, really, when I was honest with myself, all I could really do is take my hat off to them. And take my hat off to the many working mums, who, even with an ever 'present' husband, in the majority, still do most of the domestic 'management'. I knew that me trying to do that would tip me over the edge, because I'm just not that good!

Personally, I can't admit to feeling the financial 'envy' about being able to afford babysitters, nannies, sleep consultants!... With slightly more 'spaced apart' kids, and with no really bad sleep issues, no, I didn't have it quite so tough as some, although looking back I think I've actually managed a lot of it on my own quite well, thank you very much.

Somewhere in that first year, even though I didn't set out to do it, I realised that I wanted to be the primary caregiver; I didn't want to outsource that part to anyone else. A few times when they were little I considered the notion of going back to work, and I'd start crying because I didn't WANT to.. I couldn't bear the thought of putting them in childcare a few days a week. (And I was very lucky that financially, we could manage that.) Maybe part of that was because I didn't have the career drive (and thus the earning capacity from a high powered job)I turned it into a matter of pride that I could do it 'on my own' - so to speak. I don't know!!

Mind you, I did explore family day care for one day a week when my first baby was about 12 months old. I didn't have any paid work, but as we'd been owner building a house (doing all the work themselves), I felt I actually could have done with a bit of time out - emotionally - and I thought if I could have one day a week where I could work on the house - painting or whatever...(rather than me finding a job, then paying a painter with the proceeds.) The Family Day Care coordinator I struck was incredibly rude. It wasn't that I wasn't 'eligible' for it, but because I wasn't working, I was certainly not a priority. She could have stopped there, but she had to imply that I didn't NEED it, only REAL working mothers needed it. Besides which, 'it would be better for the child to be in 2 or 3 days than just one'. One day would be detrimental to the child's emotional state! Apparently! I do still remember getting off the phone and bursting into tears for the way she made me feel... and I think the bad way she handled my enquiry very nearly did push me into a nervous breakdown, because I really was very borderline on needing some time out. If I had been any closer to the 'edge', I don't like to imagine the consequences... and looking back, I think there was a period when my baby might well have been better off emotionally had her mummy had one day - 6 hours! - without her. Mummy would have felt like she'd contributed more to the building of the house, and .. yes, well.. a lot of things...

Hmmm, so anyway, my "envy" is not so much the money issue. When my husband worked overseas for 3 months straight one year, we did say that I was 'earning' the money as much as him, and that I should at the very least pay someone to mow the lawn. It wasn't that we couldn't afford it, but I was so stubborn, I wanted to be able to prove that I could do it - without support. I could walk up and down pushing a bloody lawn mower! It was a matter of pride to me that because I wasn't trying to work as well, I should be able to do everything else. (Even when each time I got the mower out I'd nearly have a breakdown because it was very temperamental to start!) It's a pity I don't have the same pride thing about the housework - but at the same time, pride wouldn't let me get in a cleaner at that time as well. Nor now, even though we could probably afford that too! The house is just a debacle and it would be too embarrassing for anyone to see at close quarters my failings in that department.

So I am wondering if, yes, perhaps my reaction to this 'alpha mum' thing is because the term 'alpha' makes me think that they "think" they are 'better', somehow. To use a Dooce-ism, it's as if this whole alpha thing is about striving to be the 'valedictorian' of mummyhood.

And we who have reacted latch on to an area that we don't feel strong in, or choose not to - for whatever reasons we have. With me it's working. Yes, I feel inadequate because I have kind of stuffed up in the career department!! Or doing stuff like preparing the meals with my children since they were 2 (because even though it sounds like a wonderful thing to bring your children up to do, I just wouldn't have the patience for it!). Or having an immaculate house, and a trim, taut, terrific body.

With others, it's stuff like "Yeah, well, I could look that 'alpha' if I could have afforded to have paid a nanny", or had the time and money to go to the gym... Or they say 'just because your kids do a lot of organised sport/activities afterschool (and I choose not to) DOESN'T MEAN YOU ARE BETTER THAN ME!

The term 'alpha' somehow implies striving to be 'the best'.. and when, in our own eyes, we don't measure up to the hype, the examples, the 'advice columns', then we feel inadequate, and that old green eyed monster peers over the shoulder and whispers stuff into our ears that we really should know is rubbish.


Care to be a contributing author at Omega? That was wonderful! Can I post this there? perty please?
'Course you can post it at Omega!

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