When I decided to have kids, I knew I was buying a ticket for the SS Heteronormativity – settling down with a man, having biological kids, buying a house, the whole nine yards; I became indistinguishable to the ideal life path that’d always chafed me.

The thing is, I never really felt I was good at it. I just didn’t really put a lot of skill points into the things that make really, really good mothers, well, good. I’m impatient, I’m lazy, I’m chaotic, I get angry. I never have tissues in my sleeve, or bring crayons to restaurants; I’m the last to notice a rash or whatever, and I can never remember an age-appropriate song. All these things I thought I needed to do to be a good mother (and I knew ’em, because I HAVE one), and I kept seeing myself failing again and again to measure up.

It wasn’t until we started Momo at daycare, essentially outsourcing a lot of the day-to-day grinding repetition of caregiving that I hated, that I was able to see the good things about my motherhood: I’m fair in my discipline. I work hard and set a good example of following your passion. I solve problems. I’m good with money. If the family has a goal, I will make us get there.

And, hmm. HMM. That sounds. That sounds like… gosh, that sounds like things that get championed as good traits… in… fathers, huh? FUNNY. Gendered assumptions strike again.

When men reject this immense, life-altering labour of caregiving, when they pass it on to their female partners as society encourages them to do, no one thinks less of them as fathers, or as people. They’re good fathers, for sacrificing time with their family in order to support them. Mothers aren’t afforded the same regard, when we return to work. The very idea of actually preferring to work is downright scandalous to some people. We’re treated, in some ways, as failures, not just as mothers, but as women.

I felt like a failure as a mother for a long time. I had been labouring under this idea that excellent caregiving made for the ideal mother, and nothing else. Realizing that I could settle for ‘meets expectations’ on THAT metric and knock it out of the park on the ‘badass go-getter who loves you’ metric – usually reserved for fathers – changed my view of myself. I relaxed a lot, and also, without the stress of being 100% on my own ass about being bad at the soft stuff, I actually got better at that part too. Sometimes, I even remember to bring crayons!

We just… we gotta stop conflating ‘ideal’ motherhood with… doing all the emotional labour of a family. It’s bad for women, it’s bad for men, it’s bad for our kids that they only see mom icing the cakes and writing the thank you cards and wiping the tears and making the appointments and carrying the shopping loyalty rewards cards and ‘being the heart of the family’ and all that jazz. I’m not just the oooey gooey center, sometimes I’m the hard candy shell, and that’s okay. That’s just as good and valuable.