A few years ago, I posted about how I felt completely unable to be “me” and a mother. I was unraveling, trying to reach my personal goals while being everything to everyone, and I was struggling. I wrote that post in fear of the backlash that I would receive, but at the time, what I needed more than anything was to be honest. I was surprised in that moment how many women spoke up and confessed to feeling the same way.
I was surprised, because that show of support from other mothers can be unfortunately rare. More often, it can feel as though everyone is watching your every step, waiting for their chance to judge your every move. You see it with mothers like Toya Graham who was lauded, scorned, and one week later has been basically forgotten. You see it with the mothers trying to manage screaming babies in the supermarket under the glares of other mothers who “would never have a child act that way.” You see it when brand new mothers mention desperately needing a break, and instead of hearing “I understand” are told to suck it up because that’s what motherhood is all about.
We can all admit that as much as we love our kids, motherhood is not always a crystal stair, but we can be so critical and nasty to one another during the times that we need that support most.
So in honor of Mother’s Day, I want us to take this opportunity for each mother to show compassion to another mother. I have written this pledge, so that instead of being judgmental, we can take responsibility for creating a better environment for the mother next door, and ultimately, ourselves:
I pledge to know that my way isn’t always the right way.
Just because another mother is parenting her child in a way that you don’t parent your child doesn’t mean she’s doing it wrong. We are all different people who were raised by different people and we bring those different personalities to our parenting. As a mother of three, I even have to parent each child differently, because each one of them needs something different. Your parenting style being different from someone else’s though, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better.
I pledge to keep my eyes on my own own house.
Why? Because you’re messing up too, even if you don’t know it. As the mother of a 15-year-old, I think that I’ve done a good job, but there are things that I look back on that I thought I was doing right way that I would do differently if I could turn back the hands of time. Any parent who tells you they get everything right all of the time is probably the one doing everything wrong. The next time you’re tempted to jump to judgement, take a pass through your house and pick up whatever mess is on your own floor, because I know you have one somewhere.
I pledge to help instead of criticizing.
This is where things get tricky, because mothers coming from a place of “right” can tend to think their statements are helpful when in many ways they are just affirmations of their own righteousness. Here is a way to know whether your statement is helpful: 1) you are offering a very practical solution that has worked for you 2) you are offering nothing other than compassion and understanding 3) you are offering to actually lend a very real hand in helping. If you can’t offer any of these things, always remember that it is completely okay to be quiet.
I pledge to allow mothers space to be human.
Motherhood is not like one of those paper towel commercials where your kids purposely spill grape juice all over the carpet and you clean it up with a smile. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we forget. We lose our tempers. We don’t have the right answer. We try our best and we fail. We are not superhuman. Real mothers are humans with two hands and 24 hours a day trying to do our best with the tools we’ve been given in order to figure this thing out. It makes it a lot easier when we can help figure it out together.
Do you take the pledge? Do you feel that mothers tend to be supportive of one another?