I got into an argument with Oprah Winfrey the other day. It was a one-sided argument in my head, but an argument, nonetheless. You see, when one of the most influential women in the world comments on the topic of motherhood, I feel the need to weigh in.
I was tuned into the Today Show on my kitchen TV as I fed my kids breakfast and I caught a soundbite from an interview with Oprah regarding her role as “Mama O” to her all-girls academy in Africa. I commend her for all the philanthropic roles and accomplishments in her life, but her comment on motherhood struck a nerve.
“I never thought that that mothering instinct was something for me. I like babies, but I like them like, ‘Hi, baby, OK, now go over there.’ I like children when they can actually speak to me and tell what is the problem. This is how having children was supposed to manifest for me.” (‘Oprah Winfrey opens up on why ‘mothering instinct’ is not for her.’ view full interview here )
As a stay-at-home-mom of two little ones (and as I am on my hands and knees scrubbing some type of unidentifiable crust off the floor below my son’s highchair), here’s where my mind immediately went: “I like when my children are able to speak to me and tell me what’s wrong too, Oprah. I don’t find it enjoyable when my baby is screaming in my arms for the 15th time that day and I cannot for the life of me figure out what is the cause of his distress, Oprah. And I sometimes (let’s be real, oftentimes,) prefer that I could tell my kids to just ‘go over there,’ too!”
Honestly, though, my rant isn’t really about getting offended over what any one person said. It’s more about the cultural perception that mothering just comes naturally, or dare I say, easily to moms. Because what I believe Oprah is getting at is that you need to be naturally understanding, naturally patient, naturally nurturing, a natural caretaker, (and a whole other slue of good characteristics that just come naturally) to be a mom. And that’s just not the case for me (or anyone else, frankly).
After the spat in my mind with Oprah ran its course (and I finally got that crust scrubbed off the floor), the fire in my belly quickly blew out. I then fell into that nasty trap known as self-doubt. I thought, “maybe this lack of ‘mothering instinct’ is why I have such a hard time with motherhood. Maybe I am not cut out to be a mom either. Maybe motherhood was supposed to “manifest” for me in some other way? Or maybe not at all? I was never really crazy about babies. I am not a ‘baby person.’ And I’m definitely not the ‘preschool-teacher type’ who enjoys being surrounded by a bunch of little kids. I don’t have a ton of patience.” And the big, honest, whammy-of-a thought: “Although I obviously love my boys, I sometimes, quite frankly, don’t feel like being a mom. It just doesn’t come natural to me.”
But as I began to feel myself sinking into that emotional pit, I quickly shot that self-doubt down because, although it has taken time, a few mental breakdowns, and a whole lot of encouragement from parenting books and an awesome mom tribe, I am convinced it is normal to not feel like being a mom every day. Actually, I am convinced that you would be abnormal if you didn’t ever feel the emotions of self-doubt, regret, and utter despair in motherhood at times! Momming is hard! And for those moms who are killin’ it in the mom game, well it’s just not fair to assume it comes naturally to them.
I can’t say for certain that Oprah was insinuating that women need to be a certain “type” to be a mom. But what I do know is that there needs to be an open dialogue about how people, both moms and dads, aren’t ever naturally good at being parents. Being great at anything takes effort, experience, practice, and time, especially in parenthood. Don’t ever for a second let yourself think that your not good at being a parent because it doesn’t come natural to you. Cast those thoughts aside, sister, you’re killin’ it.
And if you’re curious what types of books I read that help me to be my best mom-self, here’s a couple of my favorites:
What do you think, moms? Does motherhood come natural to you or do you have to work at it?