Yesterday I signed my 5-year-old Hannah up for soccer. Which I suppose means that I am now officially a soccer mom. Wikipedia has this to say about me:
The phrase soccer mom generally refers to a married middle-class woman who lives in the suburbs and has school age children. She is sometimes portrayed in the media as busy or overburdened and driving a minivan. She is also portrayed as putting the interests of her family, and most importantly her children, ahead of her own.
Married? Check. Middle class? Check. Woman? Check. Lives in the suburbs? Check. School age children? As of September I’ll have one school age child, so I guess that’s a check. Busy? Check.
However, I would balk at being described as overburdened. I drive a Honda Civic, not a minivan. And I would also hesitate to say that I put the interests of my family ahead of my own. Although at certain moments I subsume my needs for those of my children, on the whole I place a priority on my own well-being. Or at least, I try to.
From the outside I am probably the very embodiment of the soccer mom. I am an extremely vanilla, white bread sort of person. My big rebellion was waiting until after the registration deadline to sign up for soccer. But that wasn’t so much rebellion as ignorance on my part as to what the registration deadline was. You can bet that if we sign up again next year I’ll be more on the ball. Aside from not wanting to pay late fees, I do love following rules. It’s the soccer mom in me.
Really, though, I sort of wonder about the image of the long-suffering mother. It’s very popular in our culture. Maybe in all cultures. The ideal mother is selfless, giving, patient and self-sacrificing. The ideal mother always makes nutritious meals and never yells, “NO! I will not get you another glass of milk because I am eating here and I want to sit down and enjoy my meal in peace!” The ideal mother doesn’t tell her children that she’ll take them to the park after she finishes answering her email. I’m pretty sure the ideal mother doesn’t even get email.
I take parenting seriously. I aspire to be a good mother. Or a good enough mother. Or, at minimum, the sort of mother who manages not to mess up this parenting gig too badly. I read parenting books and try to be present and kind and respectful towards my children. I try to balance needs and provide fun activities and create memories.
But do I want to be a soccer mom? Actually, no, I don’t. I’m totally cool with being the mother of aspiring young soccer players. Or non-aspiring young soccer players who just like running around and kicking balls. But I don’t really want to participate in a system that says a mother is supposed to put the interests of others before her own. Because you know what? That doesn’t serve anyone.
I want my children to see that I value myself. I want them to understand that while I love them dearly, I also have a life and interests of my own. I want them to see that I work to balance it all as best I can. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. That makes me human. But it also demonstrates that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the mom who spends her days in her minivan, making sure that no one is ever late and that the orange slices are fresh and organic. You can just be … you. Showing up every day. Sometimes a little late, but there all the same.
So, tell me. Have you been a soccer mom, literally or figuratively? And what do you think of when you think of the term? Do you wear the title proudly, or do you bristle at it a little? Please share!