Something's been annoying me lately- namely, all the "mommy blog" posts which are flitting around the internet, patting moms on the back for whatever they do, however they do it. Don't get me wrong- I think that being a stay at home mom is a hard job, an incredibly important one, and deserves oodles of encouragement; however, if a pat on the back is going to actually mean something to me then I'd prefer it be more than a celebration of the barest adequacy.
An example of some things I would find helpful would be, instead of "you're awesome, forget the laundry, go hug your kids:" "Getting All The Stuff done is really hard. Here are some ways you can do it more efficiently" or "how to evaluate whether being a stay-at-home parent is right for your family" or "how to prioritize and balance work and home more effectively" or "In praise of mom X, who rocked it like a boss and did X."
Encouragement is great, but it should be about praising great actions, carefully cultivated traits, and focused effort- the bare minimum of adequacy shouldn't elicit an ode, and when it does, the veracity of the source comes into question for me. How much is approbation really worth when I did nothing to earn it, and how cherished can a medal for participation really be? When praise is a given despite results, I think that it's meaningless.
One of the hardest things, for me, about not working full time/not writing/composing/performing much, is that there is very little measurable sense of accomplishment on a day-to-day basis. Yes, I know that raising smart, kind, humble, successful, Jesus-loving, Church-loving, feminist sons is the most important job in the world at the moment and that it has monumentally far-reaching effects on my kids, their kids, and their world. I understand the concept, but it's still difficult to stay focused and keep a vision for what I'm doing when so much of it is boring minutiae. This makes the things that I can turn into measurable achievements all the more important to my general sanity. I don't want to hear that getting the laundry done doesn't matter- I want to be pleased that I got it done faster today than I did yesterday. I want to know that my work is important, and that doing a good job with it is important. I want to up my productivity and streamline my routine and spend time with my kids, homeschool, keep a fairly tidy home, eat healthily, and pursue my career. This, this "work and mother" path, is a difficult path, and "moms who limit their facebooking and discipline their internet time so that they can clean the house and work on a freelance project and take dinner to their pregnant friend and make it to choir practice on time are The Greatest" just sounds better than "Don't worry about the house or the other stuff- cuddle with the kids and relax." Relaxing is great, but uncompleted work makes me stressed and less productive. (That, and cutting everything from my life but my house and my kids would make me go stark, raving mad. :) ) I'm not saying that stressing out about perfection is healthy, but that setting priorities and goals and striving for competence and self-improvement is far superior to accepting the status quo as my only option and accepting my current level of performance. I know my worth to God and to my family isn't based on my performance, but I'll be darned if I wouldn't go a bit bonkers without a bit of friendly competition with myself from time to time!
Also, I sometimes think that people are making the avoiding of evaluative judgements into an art form. While diversity is great, and the same parenting/housekeeping/professional strategies won't work for all of us, there is such a thing as doing a bad job, an ok job, and a great job. (And yes, while there is a scale, it is somewhat subjective, depending on our specific goals and priorities) We shouldn't be harsh or unkind to those who are lower on that scale than we are, but we should be ready to help if we're asked and to give genuine, constructive encouragement. In the same way, we shouldn't make fun of moms who have laser-like focus and who are extremely disciplined and efficient- we should ask them for some helpful tips. Genuine, well-earned encouragement makes my day and gives me strength, but a pat on the back for something that should be a given, or a celebratory endorsement of mediocrity, is just depressing.