Mothers are mean.
I don’t mean to their children; that’s our given right, and one that frankly, more of us should exercise. If your kids don’t think you’re mean once in a while, you’re probably going to be looking at a whole lot of problems down the line.
But what I mean is, moms are mean to each other. We are, without a doubt, the most vicious, backstabbing, judgmental group of people on the planet. We’re “Mean Girls” with spit-up stains and minivans. I won’t even try to delve into the psychology of the whole mess-like I tell my kids on a regular basis, “Why doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you’re actually doing.”
The fact that you have underlying jealousy/insecurity/fear of pink bunny/whatever issues doesn’t make it okay to act like a jerk to other women who are, when you take away all the exterior trappings, you.
I was a teenage mother. Are you going to stop reading because I told you that? Some women might; I hope you won’t. When my son was born, I was seventeen years old and looked maybe thirteen. My maternity wardrobe consisted mainly of heavy metal t-shirts I’d swiped from ex-boyfriends and stonewashed jeans left unbuttoned to accommodate my girth. I rocked my baby to sleep to the sound of the Grateful Dead, Nirvana and old hair ballads, and dressed him in tiny flannel shirts and black canvas high-top sneakers.
I was a good mother. My son was always healthy, happy, and cared for. But because of my age and the connotations it carried, I was looked at by other mothers as inferior. I was looked down upon for doing what most people my age were doing-I just happened to get a beautiful little boy out of it. I was lucky.
I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to say it was a tragic mistake, that I wish it hadn’t happened, that having a child at such a young age made my life hell.
It didn’t, and it wasn’t, and I won’t. Do I wish his DNA had come from a better source? Of course. Do I wish I’d been through with my education and well on my way to independent wealth when he came along? For sure. But I wasn’t headed toward great things anyway, not until he showed up. My son, all of my children, grew up happy. They knew they were loved. They had everything they needed and a good bit of what they wanted, and my age had nothing to do with that. Still, there was the mother who came right out and told me that I shouldn’t have children when she found out I was twenty with two babies. There were the mothers who assumed I was babysitting, and when they found out I was this child’s mother, made clucking sounds and began dishing out parenting advice. I wonder how they’d feel if they knew I used that experience as the basis for a paper I was writing for the college sociology class i was taking at the time.
It isn’t just age that pits moms against each other. The cruelty comes out any time a difference is picked up on. I’ve heard heavier moms put down thin moms, claiming they must be anorexic to have lost the baby weight so soon. I’ve heard skinny moms trashing heavy moms, because they must never get outside and play with their kids. Moms who go out in sweats and a ponytail are lazy and let themselves go. Moms who go out in full makeup and hair are self-centered and don’t spend enough time with their kids. If you let your kid eat junk food you don’t care about their health. If you don’t, your an evil food nazi, depriving your kid of pleasure. Let your kid watch TV and you’re turning his brain into Jell-o. Don’t let him watch it and you’ll never get so much as a minute to talk on the phone undisturbed. People who let their kids sleep with them are hippie weirdos. People who make their kids sleep alone are missing a valuable chance to bond. And oh, we can’t forget the great Working Mom vs. Stay Home Mom War, which started somewhere in the early 20th century and continues today, with no real hope for resolution. And then there’s the biggie: Breast vs. Bottle. Mothers get downright hostile toward each other when this subject comes up. Here’s the thing: unless you’re close to someone, close enough that you respect her choices and her right to be who she is, don’t ask about what she is or isn’t doing with her boobs, okay? If her baby looks healthy it’s nobody’s business. And this is coming from someone who nursed my youngest till she was old enough to try and rip my shirt of in the mall while screaming “EAT!” at the top of her lungs.
There’s no reason to judge each other harshly. Your child is not my child. What works for yours may not work for mine. When everything is stripped away, years and fat and nipples of whatever sort you choose, we are the same. We are all working women. We all value, love and respect our children. You can’t look at me and say you’re a better parent than I am because I have an unconventional look and don’t work outside my house. I can’t say I’m a better parent than you are because your kids are in day care and you wear a fanny pack with your leggings. None of that matters. Listen carefully: it. does. not. matter.
We are faced with the hardest job in the world. Forget all that stuff about how rewarding and wonderful it is… that’s true, but this is me you’re talking to now and I’m not into sugar-coating things, okay? Bottom line is, it’s hard. It is HARD. We are charged with taking these little squalling blobs of pink cheeks and fuzz and smelly bottoms and making them into actual people. We have to grow these tiny zygotes into real live functioning humans. We owe it to these people we made to be the best we can be for them. And the truth is, my darling mama friends, if we’re constantly putting down other mothers, it’s not saying anything good about who we are. Children need to realize that the world is huge and bright and full of all kinds of different and valuable people. We can’t teach them that if we are constantly making assumptions about others without knowing them.
Kids deserve happy mothers. Negativity, by definition, sucks the happy right out of us, and kids pick up on that. Remember the important thing: that we raise our babies to be happy themselves, and to make the world better. You thinking someone shouldn’t be a mother doesn’t pop her or her child off to some parallel universe. They’re here. We’re here, together, all of us mothers. Rather than turning away from what’s different, reach out. Look for the common threads rather than picking someone else apart at the seams.
You made a life-we all did. That alone deserves respect, no matter how old you are, how you look, what your job title is, or anything else.