I really, really do try not to get too preachy on this blog, unless it’s about something silly, like lipstick. Most of the time, I try to keep in check the fact that I usually have no idea what I’m talking about and you probably don’t need to hear me ranting about whatever I’m irked by today.
I’ve been a mother for exactly 6 months, not counting the 10ish months this kid was gestating, and I have already completely had it with this whole mommy war business. It’s the stupidest thing of maybe ever. The venom with which people go after each other, aided, obviously, by the anonymity of the internet, is nothing short of ridiculous. We have a culture of mothers behaving like 5 year olds. Lord help us all.
So I’m going sanctimommy on all of our butts. I have mounted my soap box and am saying my piece. Listen up.
Okay, first look at this face. Take a breath.
Ready? Now listen.
Hear ye, hear ye, mommies old and new, the pregnant, the hopeful, the sleep deprived, the empty nested, the proud, the fearful – hear me.
Well done, you. This thing you are doing, it is hard. It is mighty. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging, every day, all the time. For all of the unbelievable fun you are having, there are always moments of fear, moments of shame, moments of wondering if you are truly cut out to be a mother. I acknowledge you and the work you are doing. However you are doing it, you are raising kiddos who feel loved and cared for, who are fed and safe, who will grow to be adults who tie shoes and drive cars and make good choices. It’s a miracle, this thing you are doing. You should be so very proud. I’m proud of you. I admire you every day, when I see you wrestling a tantrum in a grocery store or playing on a playground, consoling a weepy kindergartner or coaxing a laugh out of a sullen teen – you inspire me. You teach me.
But you are given a finite number of children to parent – you will recognize them because they call you “Mom.” All those other babies out there, the ones in the arms of new mommies who don’t yet know the right number of layers for a cold day, or the ones running amuck in the library, or the ones eating ice cream for dinner or dangling in front facing carriers or sleeping in or out of their parents beds or sucking on boobs or bottles – those are not your children. Those children are the precious work of the woman (or man) who has them in arms, who has wiped their butts and dried their tears. They are hers to parent, not yours. Your care for them, your concern, your good intentions – those are beautiful. But unless those babies are in real danger, and I mean the really obvious kind – you know the horrors and I will not name them here – your ideas for them are welcome on a very limited basis.
Please advise your sister, and your girlfriends, and any and every mama who asks your opinion and seeks your expertise. But that stranger at the mall or the park doesn’t need to hear from you unless A) It’s to tell her how gorgeous she and her children are or B) She or her children are in real and immediate danger (a train is bearing down on them, say, or a child is being indisputably injured, or they are about to fall into a hole or something).
That said, mamas old and new, be open to advice. Be open to change. Just because you did it for your kid and he or she turned out fine doesn’t mean that the world and mankind and all of science should stop looking for better ways, or that parents new and old shouldn’t be able to access and embrace them when they are found. Celebrate the sharing of new information, the options available to new moms and the changes you can make to your own parenting style. Laugh with a young mother about the contradictory books she’ll read, but don’t shame her for seeking out truth for her baby. Motherhood is scary and wonderful. Let her seek her peace. No one, I repeat, no one will take away your good parent card because someone discovered that the crib you used is not so safe after all. We are all doing the best with what we know. Fads will come and go, but some will be based on truth. Celebrate progress! Remain confident in your choices. Greet opinionated others with love.
How is it that we are not all 100% in support of each other in this? We are all sharing experiences – each of us is counting smiles and toes and years and finding poop in places she’d really rather not. We have so much to learn just from watching each other – why do we all insist on playing the teacher? Practice radical encouragement and stubborn grace. Encourage each other into the best mothers we can be. We have no reason to be at each other’s throats and every reason to pass around a squishy baby or two, share a laugh, and swap stories.
That mommy you want to judge? Smile at her. Say hi to her crazyoutofcontrollibrarydevil toddler. Offer her a comrade in arms. Your correction, however well meant, could be the story of shame she tells, the basis for her defensive online ranting, the joke she laughs about with her spouse. But your encouragement, however slight, your acknowledgement of her hard work – that will change everything. That’s how confident mommies are made. What a gift you are.