I sat across the table from a new friend recently, martini and wine glasses collecting between us, in a bit of awe. It had been one hell of a week and we both needed to downshift, dumping a bit about motherhood, womanhood and the general state of our hoods when what seems to have become a painfully reoccurring conversation amongst women spontaneously erupted.
An accomplished woman, she felt disconnected from the expectedness of motherhood. Life hadn’t taken her in the direction of sewing handmade skirts in the living room and stenciling her kid’s room on her day off. Martha Stewart wasn’t her role model and it pissed her off a bit that she felt constantly judged by the collective of motherhood for choosing a different path.
The landscape of moms is populated by all types. There’s no denying it and – yes – there is plenty to shake our heads at, sometimes even from our own selves. But, I am forever stumped at why women as a collective are so stinking hard on each other – like it’s a great competition to see who can finish the race on top. Not that any of us know what the definition of “on top” actually constitutes or what winning means or how our children – who are their own humans – will actually turn out based on any of our own personal knowledge.
When you think about it, the fact that we all sit around determining who has the best philosophy is incredibly self-defeating. Just from my own personal experience, the faults of the parents do not necessarily determine the life of the child. Not that we want kids to suffer or spend 10 years in therapy repairing themselves. But, plenty of people have come through childhoods that could be categorized as nothing short of utter sadness and become absolutely amazing adults.
Yet, the competition continues. On a daily basis I see and hear about moms who have become isolated and feeling disconnected from the whole over things that ultimately have no bearing on relationships and the value of a woman. Let’s check a few out and ask why:
1. Cloth diapering vs. disposables. I cannot tell you how many moms – including myself – constantly apologize for using disposable diapers and hope they don’t run into anyone at the grocery store with a package of diapers in their cart. Reasons for using cloth and using disposies vary greatly and even now I’m feeling compelled to explain away why you may occasionally see my kid in a diaper that will go in the trash can so that I don’t get judged. Eeep.
2. Breast feeding vs. bottle fed. Oh my goodness, I have never seen an issue that separates women more than boob versus bottle. Let’s get real people. It doesn’t always work – even for the experts. I once had a midwife tell me that she didn’t have enough milk with her second child and had to bottle feed, hiding it the whole time from her co-workers and other women. We should never have to hide with our children for fear that other women will think less of us.
3. Stay-at-home vs. Working Mom. Careers can bring great peace and satisfaction to women. So can staying at home with our kids. We are amazingly productive and great contributors to bettering society. Staying at home is an awesome choice – that is an amazing contribution. Going to work is important too. Both take guts. Both can mean healthy, solid families. No judgers please.
4. Crafty Mom vs. Vogue. Creativity at any level should be celebrated. If you make cool stuff, right on. If you put the funkiest outfits together, right on. No one wins the race here, this is a level playing field of art, life and personal sensibility.
5. Homemade vs. Takeout. More power to the mom who loves to spend her time in the kitchen creating incredibly wholesome meals for her kids. Life isn’t always that gracious. Take out Chinese food works just as good. Party on.
6. Public School. Private School. Home School. Families have to make the educational and personal choices when it comes to their kids that work for them. The club atmosphere that can be found in different educational choices is challenging at times, other times it just seems like parents think they are better because of the path they took. Yay for advocating for the choice you make. Ease up on the folks who make different ones.
Motherhood is such a tricky hood to navigate. None of us REALLY know what we are doing and our kids challenge us constantly in terms of that reality. Challenging each other on the small stuff seems kind of silly when, really – as a friend said recently – “I just wanted someone to listen with a sympathetic ear and pass me a drink.”
I know that a giant love fest isn’t very realistic either. But, the next time you see a mom in the store having a rough day, yelling at her kids or doing something you may think is completely ridiculous, reaching out with a sense of sisterhood may just make a giant difference. Sometimes we don’t need advice or “you should”‘s. We just need each other, flaws and all.