I never intended for this post to be a “two-parter”. I feel like you can only use that technique once every two years, and I’ve already reached my quota.
In fact, while standing at the kitchen sink this morning when the idea for this post popped into my head, I had originally intended for it to be this brief, bullet-point type list.
But I got started on this one, and it turns out I had this “opinion” that was kind of lengthy, and I realized (when the word count got to about 3000), that no one likes reading War and Peace on a blog post.
So while the second part is mostly already written, I’m saving it for a different post. I can’t have all 8 readers here falling asleep on me.
And thus begins…CHAPTER ONE…
If you know a mom, and I’d venture to say that we all do, I have some things I want to tell you.
First of all, being a mom…well, that’s super stinking hard. (You probably already know that. And if you don’t, do a quick YouTube search for Mother’s Day…you’ll get the idea.)
And to my fellow mommies, mommies of ALL ages and stages, I want to say this:
YOU. ROCK. THIS.
You OWN this motherhood thing. Like a boss.
And there are just certain things that I wish everyone had in their “common sense” bucket (which I know is not “a thing”…but for today, it’s “a thing”…just go with it…)…because being a mom is hard enough as it is. Really, the mommies of the world don’t need anything else making life harder. (And that can sometimes go for “fellow mommies”…and that makes me SO. VERY. SAD.)
To the mommies of the world: You HAVE and you ARE spending your time in the trenches…and girlfriend, let’s be honest…sometimes it sucks. That’s okay…we can admit that. It’s true…MOTHERHOOD IS UGLY at times.
So let’s freaking BE NICE to each other.
And being real and honest doesn’t hurt anyone either.
I’m going to say what I think every mother has thought at some point on Mother’s Day…
There are going to be those Mother’s Days where you just want to sleep. You want a nap. You don’t want to go out to dinner with your screaming baby or your whiny toddler or your sassy tween. Or maybe your teenager has plans with friends and not you, or your adult child forgot to call…and you really just want to throw your hands to the sky and yell, “THANKS A LOT, WORLD. THANKS A WHOLE FLIPPING LOT.”
In fact, you might even be all, “For Mother’s Day, I kinda just want to be alone. I kinda just wish I could sit alone with my margarita and/or chocolate and/or ice cream and relish the quiet. Give me a book with words that don’t rhyme that I can sit and read a whole chapter without being interrupted. I don’t want to be the taxi driver today…I want to go where I want to go…and I want to go when I want to go. And I don’t want to pack anyone’s lunch and I don’t want to soak baby clothes with poop stains and I don’t want to change pee pee sheets and I don’t want to wipe anyone’s butt or be on homework duty or figure out what’s for dinner that (most) everyone will eat.”
Let me be honest…BRUTALLY HONEST.
I really think that I have been there at SOME POINT on every Mother’s Day. Even if just for a brief fleeting moment, I wanted just a smidge of solitude where the kids don’t fight and the moon and stars align so that everyone is calm and not creating chaos.
This morning, I kid you not, I woke up to water flowing in the bathtub and two of the kids howling with laughter.
And then I heard my middle child say,
We better stop or else we’re gonna get in big trouble.
I find it intriguing that she has been the one that I have heard say this before. And while I’m proud that she had the moral conscience to decide that whatever they were doing was a bad idea, I wish she had the impulse control to stop it when she realized that.
And I sighed as I sank back on the pillows, “Happy Mother’s Day…”
So while I wish i could give all you amazing mommies a week-long paid vacation that includes moments of solitude yet somehow mixed with all your best girlfriends and then have your children pop in at random times to give you snuggles and hugs and shower you with the most poetic compliments ever all while simultaneously remaining clean and quiet and not fighting and basically being NOT. YOUR. PROBLEM…I will settle for this message to “the others”.
You know “the others”. The ones that make you want to scream and cry and shout obscenities that you yourself have made up because the “traditional” ones don’t carry enough weight. (I kid you not, one time I yelled, “HOT JELLYBEANS ON A STREET!” in a moment of frustration.)
And…Fellow Mommies of The World…
Don’t be one of “the others”.
Before we begin, let’s keep in mind, these are all things that I have done. These are all things that I have to kick myself for, um, pretty much daily.
So I’m not coming at this with a “holier than thou” approach, I promise. If anything, and in keeping with cheesy church colloquialisms, I’m “preaching to the choir”.
I want to start by saying…
I honestly believe that unless you are maliciously and purposefully harming your child physically and emotionally, that there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY to do this mothering thing. (From henceforth, let’s just call this my Mama Creed…)
1. NEVER GIVE UNSOLICITED PARENTING ADVICE.
I get it. I get it. The irony of saying this in a list of rules is just ridic. I can’t even begin to explain that or come up with a creative way to say it. (which I think is 75% of a mother’s life sooooo….)
Basically and simply put, please don’t offer advice to any mother unless they asked for it…whether overt or in a subtle attempt to let them know that “there’s a better way”. Cause dang…it stings.
We moms interpret most every piece of unsolicited advice as someone mentally saying to themselves, “Bless her heart. Poor thing. She doesn’t have a clue. She would be a better mom/have better kids/solve all the problems she’s ever had and have a perfect life if she just knew this one thing that I know that she doesn’t. Poor uninformed little soul. Her kids/she is awful. I will fix this.”
And oh my word…maybe you mean well. Maybe you really think that you can solve all her problems…but I promise you, YOU CAN’T.
Hear me out on this one…. YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW ALL THE DETAILS BEHIND (fill in the blank with just about anything you want to give advice for).
And unsolicited advice just squashes a mommy’s spirit.
I can tell you about the several times that I have posted a picture or a funny anecdote on Facebook about my child/children’s quirky behavior that I thought was amusing…and then someone would respond with a bit of their “sage wisdom” on how I could’ve prevented that lack of decorum from my children.
To which I wanted to shout from the rooftops…“I WAS TELLING A FUNNY STORY…or trying to, you big ole joy-squasher…”
Or I can tell you about the time a lady asked me if I was getting much sleep when my second child was born. (I’m not even going to go into why I feel like that was a very bizarre question to start a conversation with, but whatever…) Anyway, I clearly wasn’t getting enough sleep…it was pretty evident by the dark circles and my haphazard look, I’m sure. Also…let’s be real…I had a 2 1/2 year old and a newborn…a newborn who had reflux and basically cried all the time. Oh…and my 2 1/2 year old never slept…like almost quite literally…NEVER.
So she says, “Oh…my babies never slept through the night till they were (blah blah blah) months old.”
Insert incredibly tired mom half-smile from me. That’s nice, lady. Thanks for basically giving me NO hope.
“But of course,” she said while casting a sidelong glance at the bottom of my stroller… “I never tried to fill up their tummies with cereal at night.”
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, THERE WAS A BOX OF CEREAL IN THE BOTTOM OF MY STROLLER.
NEXT TO A CAN OF FORMULA.
You feelin’ me? You gettin’ why that made me upset?
And the kicker is…the cereal and the formula were on my child’s pediatrician’s recommendation to help with treating her reflux issues.
Oh my word…and just to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she didn’t know. Maybe she “accidentally” glanced at the bottom of my stroller. I don’t know. I want to believe the best about people…cause I believe that it’s there somewhere. Also, I’m a sucker.
But truth be told, all this interaction did with this woman was make me cry. And then later, I took out my frustrations on my husband.
And….related to 1A…
1B. TRY TO REFRAIN FROM THE JUDGMENT. AND IF YOU CAN’T, JUST KEEP THE NONSENSE TO YOURSELF. (I hate to be so harsh, but…this is Mother’s Day. Indulge me.)
Again, you don’t know the reasons behind the actions…99% of the time.
I could tell you about the time I took my oldest into Target when she was about 18 months old. She started a tantrum about something (I don’t even know what prompted it, honestly)…but she HOWLED.
And this sweet, innocent looking older lady came sauntering over.
You know the ones, right? The ones who grab your forearm just a little too tight and hold on for just a little too long when they’re talking to you? We used to have one at the church I grew up at. And she would corner us in the girl’s bathroom and tell all of us teenage girls to not kiss boys. (Little side note: Terri, Jennifer Thorpe…you know who I’m talking about, right?)
Anyway, this lady comes over to me and starts talking to McKenna.
Oh dear, you poor thing. You sweet little monkey. Why are you so upset?
I laughed…a little. I tried to explain that she was mad about…well, whatever it was…and that we were having to learn a tough lesson about listening to mommy (or some other similar dribble that all moms say at some point.) And then I probably threw in that it was time for a nap. That’s a great one to throw out when the toddler is losing it at the store. “Oh she’s just tired.”
Throw in something about teething and you’re golden.
This woman actually said to my screaming child, and I don’t think she ever once addressed ME,
Oh…bless your heart! You just have the meanest ole mommy!
Sure, she could have been kidding. She could have even been a little unstable. Or drunk. Or whatever.
And my heart wants to believe, eight years later, that she wasn’t fully aware of what the heck she was saying. In fact, I think I’ve convinced myself of that…just so I can make peace with it. Also, I’m a sucker.
Especially when I see that lady’s face in my memory when I hear my child tell me herself now that, I am, in fact, “the meanest mommy”.
But in the same breath…I could also tell you about how I was going to RULE THE WORLD with this whole “mommy” thing…before my kids were born. I remember having a conversation about an upcoming event with a mother out in the hallway at school once (pre-kids, in my teaching days)…and her two little people were just running all over and screaming and yelling. And she just COULD NOT get them to calm down and leave the building.
I had the “perfect” solution to that…and I was certainly never going to allow that to happen with MY kids. Now I didn’t say that to her (because basically, I hate confrontation and would rather just run and hide than to have to deal with it. Also, I’m a sucker.)…but good GRACIOUS, I hoped she knew how she was failing herself and her children.
I do believe that I told my assistant at the time that I would NEVER allow that…and I also said (please contain your laughter),
I mean, come on. I can handle a classroom full of 20 five year olds…what’s one kid?
She was a mother of three. She was wise. She smiled.
And never said a word otherwise.
(Christy, I can look back now and see what a gem you were. Thank you, my friend. Thank you.)
…what goes around comes around.
You should have seen my three kids at Target yesterday afternoon.
And here’s the thing…I could go on and on…AND ON…about all the different factors that were making them run in circles and be SO LOUD and how I yelled at my son in the parking lot…but let’s be honest.
DOES IT MATTER?
SHOULD it matter?
Nope. It shouldn’t. Just like it shouldn’t matter why that mommy so many years ago in the school hallway couldn’t get her children to follow her out of the building.
I didn’t know her full story. I didn’t know the background story, the physical or environmental or social or emotional factors that played into that moment. And, quite simply, I wasn’t a mother and didn’t know what I was talking about anyway.
Anyway…to “the others”, of which I have been one, I would like to say…
Don’t. Just DON’T make assumptions and judgments about those mommies that you see out in public. You have no idea what might be going on in their life.
And believe me, I KNOW, that it’s not always easy to let that urge to negatively judge another pass when you walk into Walmart at 10:00 p.m. and there’s a mom who’s dragging her crying kid by the arm.
(Let’s remember here what I said about “maliciously harming” your child…)
And…don’t offer tips, helpful hints, or advice that you think will help.
Unless you’ve been asked for it…
Then it’s a whole different ball of wax.
Advise away…but also give hugs. Cause if they’re asking for advice, they’re desperate and need some reassurance.
So…give hugs with advice.
And chocolate. Chocolate is good too.
–to be continued–