Hey, It’s been busy lately and someone pointed out that I haven’t been keeping up with my posts. Sorry about that. Here’s the latest Sun column (January 24, 2008):
Questioning Fitness in a New Year
Recently, a reader posed a question for us to ponder at the start of this new year, when many thoughts turn to fitness and resolution: What makes a fit mother?
I suppose you start with what makes a mother unfit. On the surface, that seems to be obvious—she’s someone who cannot care for her child or children. But everyone has a different level of fitness. For me, it starts with the basics: a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, some form and level of education and social interaction. In other words, you can’t provide all the basics, but then shut them up in a room without talking to them—at least not until they turn 13, when both you and the children want them to be shut up in a room away from you for extended periods of time.
There should be a mention of love or loving interaction here, but this is where it starts to get sticky. Yes, it’s better to tell people that you love and appreciate them, but if you don’t say it, does it mean you don’t love them? Can your actions as a mother, doing all the care and feeding basics and providing a fundamentally good life, add up to being a fit mother? Or, is there more to it?
My aim here is to note that mothering fitness is only clear-cut to a point. I wholeheartedly believe that you can provide the basics of life to a child and still be an unfit mother. Alcoholism, drug addiction, emotional neglect, physical and verbal abuse qualify for me. But how do you determine a state of mothering unfitness, especially if the basics are in place and obvious addictions and behaviors are not?
Maybe, a happy and well-adjusted child is the benchmark of good mothering.
There seems to be plenty of mothering lately in the press. Yes, I have to mention the unmentionable Britney Spears. However, I really don’t feel equipped to comment, because I only see what the tabloids promote and being a reporter for many years has made me realize that there are usually several sides to every story. Somebody, somewhere is caring for Britney’s children. It doesn’t seem to be her since she seems to have a lot of free time on her hands, what with all those photographers following her around all the time.
If a mother is chronically sick—physically or psychologically—and needs medical help, does that make her unfit? I suppose it does. It’s up to her to ensure the well being of her children. But, what if she is too sick to know that she’s unfit? It’s a crazy world out there.
Many people are questioning the fitness of Britney’s mother. Britney is 26 years old now, does that qualify as an adult? On behalf of Britney’s mom, when do you stop taking responsibility for your children and when do you stop blaming your parents for all of your mistakes? And, I suppose the ultimate question here is really this: Is a bad mother better than no mother at all?
It’s time to turn the camera around, so to speak, on me and let the evidence speak for itself. My girls have a roof over their heads, they have nice beds to sleep in and they have food in their bellies (with two brand-new teenagers in the house, it’s getting harder and harder to keep those bellies full! Where does all that food go?)
We live in Alameda, a modern-day Mayberry, with close-to-excellent schools, multiple physical activities and lots of social interaction. I tell them I love them as much as I tell them to empty the dishwasher, do their homework and say please and thank you. I am not a perfect mother, and never claimed to be through this column or otherwise. I lose my temper, I make mistakes and I have a tendency towards never-ending clutter.
This year, I resolve to continually review my actions and behavior and how it affects my children. Fit kids and fit moms are all you can ask for in a crazy, mixed-up world.