Confessions of a Mama Wanna Be
By Alexis Carra
I want to be a mom. I do. I want to be one of those Lululemon-wearing, bad-ass-stroller-pushing moms who has ripped shoulder muscles, better abs than before my kids, and an ass like a shelf. I see those hot, “perfect” moms, usually in Beverly Hills or in Orange County if I’m down there for some random reason. I see them and I stare, perhaps inappropriately—my grandmother always taught me never to stare—, and yet I stare not out of judgment or scrutiny but out of curiosity and awe. How do these women manage to look so perfect and be moms? Do they have careers? Or did they let go of their careers to stay home with their children? I start to retreat into my own head making up stories about who these women are and what they do. I have all these limiting beliefs around Mamahood: I won’t be as attractive, my husband will love me only because I’m the mother of his kids (and is that a bad thing?), I will have zero time to focus on any other interests except taking care of my children, and the list goes on and on. A lot of these beliefs come from what other women realistically share about being a mom, and I appreciate their candor and honesty about how hard it is balancing motherhood, wifehood, and career-hood.
I also know that it is very narrow perspective of a particular socioeconomic class of upper/middle class, educated people which—let’s be honest—I am a part of. And still I see these women and I wonder: will I be the mess of the mom group who hasn’t lost the baby weight, whose workout pants are too tight and pull along the seams where the stitching is falling apart, who can’t seem to get my sex drive back into first gear, and oh yeah my kid is the one always crying because I haven’t been able to breast feed? Let me not forget to mention I also want to have a career, make a real difference in this world, have a loving relationship with my husband, and be there for my kid’s Pop Warner games and arts and crafts projects. Phew! I’m slowly starting to realize that perhaps my neurosis is a reflection of a much broader concern I see in women (mom or not): perfectionism.
Most of the women I know are under a lot of pressure. My friends are all ambitious, big players in life, but I notice—and I include myself in this—a lot of the pressure comes from me, and this need to be perfect, to be it all and to do it all--all the time! Why do women feel the need to be perfect? Another member of TNH, Cristina Cimerello summed it up beautifully:
“I think the interesting thing here is why women feel they must be perfect: we fought so hard to be here and equal, and we had to go above and beyond so long to ‘prove’ it, and that's something we inherited from the generation before us, that the media berates us with, and that we've bought into … Men don't have this unrealistic pressure on themselves, why do women?”
The recent media fiasco centered on Rene Zellweger highlights this insane contradiction in society where women are forced into an ideal of beauty or perfection and then ridiculed or shamed when they are striving to achieve it. The same irony exists in motherhood in the media, and I am one of those guilty ones who glances at the trashy magazine toting “Kim Kardashian Can’t Lose the Baby Weight”—or wait is it that she CAN lose it?—I can’t keep track. Even though I don’t buy those magazines, we are inundated with this type of sensationalist, superficial media in our storytelling and in what we focus on as a society.
So here’s my confession: I am one of those perfectionist women who want it all, and I want it all because I say so. I want to look good, feel good, have a family, and be financially free. Yes, I said it—I want it all. It doesn’t mean it’s going to look a certain way or feel a certain way all the time—for example, I know that to get the body I want to have post-baby I will be exhausted on some days (ok most days) and have to push myself to run or take the 20 minutes I may have to do Pilates at home in between feedings while Critter Jr. takes a nap. I’m going to feel exhausted, frustrated and scared. My friend said to me the other day: “The reality is you’re going to have poop on your clothes, be so tired you’ll fall asleep standing up someday and you might miss a moment in your child’s life because of work.” I think our obsession with perfection starts right inside our own minds and hearts, and we can transform that with simple little reminders that we are perfect the way we are—with wrinkles and an extra 10 pounds. As a “Mama Wannabe” I think it stems from the mentality of how we present motherhood or talk about how scary it can be, even while it is still exciting and desirous.
Recently, my boyfriend and I were on our first trip together, and we were both sharing that being with the person we want to have a family with is a priority. It was a romantic vacation in Hawaii where a lot of couples honeymoon, and we were on a gorgeous hike through bamboo trees, waterfalls, and luscious forest. As we were hiking we spotted a family of four: a mom, dad, and two girls, both over the age of 8 or 9 but not teenagers yet. I could tell we were both having the same thought: that poor dad surrounded by women! We passed them on the way up, and then ran into them again on our way down, our pace much faster than a family with tons of baggage and kids. As we passed, we noticed the dad holding the youngest daughter who was too big and old to really be held. She was covering more than half his body, and her long, blonde hair was seeping over his face. We could see he was in good shape, but he was struggling and reassuring her at the same time. We offered encouragement, passed the father/daughter duo and 20 yards later came across the mother/daughter team. We graciously let them know that the dad was up a ways carrying the youngest. Mom (one of those cross-fit, cut moms) said, “Oh yeah, it’s been a rough hike… Katie has to poo. What am I doing to my poor family?!?” We casually laughed and said our goodbyes and went on our not-married-no-kids way. About a minute of silence later we both looked at each other and laughed. “Wow—family vacation!” I said out loud. The rest of the hike we kept joking about Katie having to poo.
That scenario captures perfectly where the reality of parenthood changes the entire paradigm of life. It really isn’t about me any longer; a nice hike in a luscious forest, and—oh wait, Katie has to poo and can no longer hike!
True Confession: I’m scared. I’m scared that I will fail and won’t have it all or be it all, that I will lose myself so much that I won’t even know who I am anymore. And at the same time, I’m excited to love another human being so selflessly and unconditionally. The duality exists around becoming a mother like it does around most huge decisions in life. It’s normal to feel fear. And the question I’m asking: is that fear the exact thing that inhibits a person from enjoying how rewarding parenthood is in the moment when all of it is actually happening? Maybe now is the time for me to shift my perception and desire for something that is only an idea of what “having it all” means. And I think this relates to any area of life—fitness, love, money… you name, we want it. Elizabeth Gilbert recently said in her Oprah Soul Sunday talk: “Here's what I'm going to tell you about your fear: It's the most boring thing about you … The most interesting thing about you is your creativity, your passion, your love, your joy, your faith — all that stuff is fascinating."
I’m declaring now: I’m on a “Mama Wannabe Mission,” to be the best mother to myself and to live life with compassion and real understanding. Somehow I think being a loving, fearless, passionate mother is going to be a truer, more lasting legacy than being a mom with a tight ass and abs.
And yes, I still want and can have both!
You can follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiscarra and for further info and updates check out alexiscarra.com
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of the “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.