First, a story:
About two years ago, I was walking to a UPS store with my baby on one hip, a box balanced under my other arm. My then four-year-old was carrying another box and walking nicely next to me, mercifully not doing anything to upset this delicate balance. I had it. I was ok.
But I was also ready for the whole thing to implode any second, to drop the box (or the baby) or for my older kid to stray into the busy parking lot. Even so, I almost said no when a nicely dressed lady offered to help. And even when I said yes, I had to tell her that I was only saying yes because I’d promised a mom friend that I would, now that I had two little ones.
As this other mom carried our box and walked us to the store, she talked about her grown kids, an older daughter and a younger son like mine, spaced three years apart like mine. She’d been there. She got it.
She knew that most of the time it’s all me, but that she could, however briefly, make me feel supported, like I didn’t have to do it all alone. Even though I thought I was handling it. Even though I probably could have done it alone. And often did, I didn’t have to. In this one moment, I didn’t have to be alone.
And in that moment, when I accepted help, without fear of being judged a mess, I couldn’t yet know that after leaving UPS, I’d have to change a poopy diaper in the back of my SUV, which was suddenly tiny and full of heavy things I had to move out of the way with one empty hand.
You never know what will go wrong next. Accepting help, feeling supported, lighter, put me in a better place not to freak out about the diaper change situation.
And I know, because since then, there have been moments when I could be the one to help ease another mom’s burden, I know how good it feels to support someone else. To feel like you’re strong enough to support someone else.
And then a rant:
This whole “Mommy Wars” thing puzzles me. We probably live in the most non-judgmental period in American history. Not perfect, but so much more accepting of the many ways of being. Just in the last 10 years, the magnitude of the change in attitudes toward gay marriage alone leaves me so hopeful.
But if I only knew other mothers from what I read in books and articles and online, in blogs and comments sections, I would be terrified. And pretty pessimistic about the future of the human race. Luckily, I can venture out into the wider world where I see not-one-mom who is anything like the moms we’re supposed to believe are everywhere.
It’s like they built “The Mommy Wars” and no one came.
And lastly, a de-bunking:
With six plus years of this mom-gig under my belt, having organized countless informal, weekly playgroups, volunteered at two different parent-cooperative preschools and attended dozens of music, yoga, ballet, soccer, and whatever else classes, I've met a lot of moms. And with very few exceptions, I can say this” Other moms are quite lovely. Actually, it’s more than that. Other moms effing rock!
“The Mommy Wars” is not just a laughable, media-contrived, non-existent phenomenon. It’s a problem. Its very non-existence is a problem. And it’s making being a mom harder than it needs to be for many moms.
I’m not going to deny a few internet trolls and a handful of random judgmental idiots. They exist in every other part of the real world, so why would we expect anything different from moms. Probably because we hold moms to a standard no one could possibly attain in every carpe-diem-moment of every precious day.
These imaginary war-mongering moms are nowhere I have been. But I have met a lot of women who are having trouble separating the self-doubt inside their own minds from constant judgment they imagine others are directing at them. Because we’re told that everyone is judging us and we believe it.
Before I was a mom, when I wanted to be a mom, I admit that I resented the moms of my peer group. They were a part of this club that I wanted to belong to and had this bond that made me so jealous and which I stupidly thought was fake and a fraud.
Well, now I know. Moms are bonded to other moms not to shut anyone out but to hold each other up.
Thank you thank you thank you, awesome other moms!