Parenting is a mixed bag. Some days are glorious, love-fests sprinkled with dew, and others are exhausting nightmares spawned from the depths of hell. We all do what we can to maximize the glorious days and minimize the hell days. We all know what works for us and our family, that what we are going through in our family is likely different from each other’s and that we all should just support each other. At least in theory.
But, as with everything in parenting, this support gets tricky real fast.
In today’s motherhood culture, the messaging oscillates so frequently between “it takes a village” to “Judgey side-eye”, I can’t keep up.
I’m not dealing with this directly at the moment, but these are my observations from over the past few years, particularly online and in mixed circles, and felt compelled to rant a bit. (I feel so protective of mothers, it’s a hard enough job as it is!)
If you say too much about all the things that are amazing and that have worked for your kid or in parenting, you’re bragging and arrogant. If you say too much about all the things that you’re struggling with as a parent, you’re probably a bad mom because geez, it’s not THAT hard, lighten up, lady.
A mother can end up feeling more confused and deflated after admitting her struggles than prior to saying anything. Sometimes, it seems easier to never talk about anything ever.
There is simply no winning. And it is not okay.
It’s not okay because I, for one, need to talk about my struggles. I need to know that I’m not alone in them. I also want to be able to talk about how very proud I am of my son or myself without worrying that I look like an arrogant ass who is #humblebragging. I suspect we all do.
It’s not okay because I wish I could seek advice out, as well as give it, without it being layered in subtext and guilt.
It’s not okay because while I worry that I’m doing it wrong so much of the time, the only time I ever know I’m doing it wrong is when I actually isolate myself for fear of judgement. Not speaking up about a rough day/patch/period. Not using my precious time with my friends who are also moms to share and vent and cry if I need to and instead glossing over the hard stuff with a “I mean, it’s all worth it!” (Of course it’s worth it. We should never be expected to qualify our hardships, as if having them precludes us loving our kids).
It’s not okay because when I give advice and support to my fellow moms, it is only ever out of love, but I fear it gets misconstrued anyway because of this weird mom culture. It is only out of hope that what worked for me could work for you (the royal you) and help ease your struggling, or at least give you more information that there are different ways to do it that could work. It is never sanctimonious. I am never so full of myself or my parenting choices that I think what I’m doing is all right all of the time. QUITE the contrary.
It’s not okay because as well-intentioned as I am, I can still get it wrong. We all can. When we ask leading questions. When we assume the worst of a mother. When we talk and talk and talk instead of listen. When we let each other get away with not sharing the hard stuff. When we accept judgement by a stranger as truth about ourselves.
It’s not okay because of the damage being inflicted to ourselves, our self-worth, our confidence as mothers, when we cower in shame for struggling.
It’s not okay that we fail each other by pretending we have it all together, by acting like we have it under control, when we don’t. By rejecting advice because it makes us feel stupid we didn’t know how to do something in the first place (when how could we if we’ve never been through it before??) By glossing over, instead of sharing our hardships, especially when being open and honest could really help validate one another.
It’s not okay that our children see their mothers competing with invisible, impossible, conflicting expectations and standards of how to be a woman and a mother in this world, instead of celebrating the beauty and richness that their unique selves bring to the role.
I know not everyone is like me. I know that some people feel very private about their struggles and some people aren’t verbal processors. But I think more moms would feel compelled to share how they feel and are, and in turn get the supportive advice they could use to actually ease their stress, if the fear of judgment, scrutiny and shame weren’t associated with honesty.
Not to imply that we should all agree on everything. Of course we are going to have value differences, we are people after all. But having that deeper sense of support, that shared belief that we are all doing our best and that even if we disagree, we don’t judge. Not really. This is wishing for a utopia, but I don’t care. I know it’s possible because I’m lucky enough to have this in my own life, more often than not, and I want it for all of us. It’s what we deserve.
Because when there is no winning in motherhood, we all feel like losers. And that is not okay.