Being a mom today is tough. I saw the following in a Facebook post the other day that sums it up well enough:
“How To Be A Mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are being met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably on a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development. Also don’t forget the coconut oil.
How To Be A Mom in Literally Every Other Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.
(This is why we are crazy.)”
I watch my mom and dad do real work with my younger siblings, and occasionally myself, everyday. The truth is with all the world has to offer - knowledge, access, communication - it comes with a price and as adults we have to not only navigate it all for ourselves but also for the next generation. It’s TOUGH. Even in my one month of motherhood I’m feeling anxious and a little lost and lonely. And while I know it’s not a singular experience, I also know that we moms (and dads) rarely get a chance to hear what we need/want to in order to feel confident enough to keep going.
I based this list first off of my own experience within the last month. One month isn't a lot of time but I need some clarity every now and then. Secondly, I've reflected on the experiences of moms I know who are dealing with real worries and struggles at home. These women tend to blame themselves, which is less than fair. Moms (and dads) deserve to have their efforts acknowledged because this is a job with limited water cooler breaks. And let’s be honest, our clients can be very demanding.
“You were an individual before you had children and you are an individual now.”
Throughout my pregnancy I often confided in Spencer the dread of being overshadowed by Bunny’s existence. There weren’t many people outside my house that I talked to on a regular basis. Suddenly I was the talk of town, or at least my baby and pregnancy were. Forget that I had interests or anything else to offer before that. This REALLY bothered me. It's so personal… Also I’m afraid of the rest of me fading into only one contribution. While I’m learning to love being a mom, I also want to keep my original self in tact.
Sarah Kolman, writing for Seventh Generation, explains it well, saying, “This paradox often leaves me struggling with how to integrate my pervasive identity as mother with my greater Self-identity… If not, I’m only mom.” Kolman goes on to emphasize finding balance, meaning seek out what makes you You. We love our children, but we have to take care of ourselves.
So instead of leaving a mom stranded on Planet Mommy, tell her she has always existed and she experienced life for herself once before. Then offer to watch her kids so she can go eat some ice cream, specifically a flavor she actually likes, in peace.
“I’m proud of you.”
As I mentioned, I’ve had the unique experience of watching 21st century moms in action while being a conscious adult myself. There is a truckload of emotion that comes with mothering these days. Added to the ever-increasing number of influences outside the home moms hold less ground and question whether they are getting through. Almost just as difficult is being a witness to the whole thing. We all have our fingers crossed that the next generation becomes everything they can possibly be.
Whenever I see my mom “guiding” my siblings I tell her I’m proud of her and I am grateful for her. She stands her ground against attitude- and angst-ridden teens on the daily, which is no easy task. At the very least what I have to say has to be nicer to hear than back talk. Keep that in mind next time you witness a particularly intense “teaching moment.”
“Sometimes that’s just how it is.”
Followed by a slight encouraging chuckle and maybe a hug.
Just after her two week appointment Bunny started having nightly fits. She would scream and cry and I was super self-conscious of how it was affecting everyone else in the house. One night after a bunch of nights where no one was actually sleeping, my dad was helping walk her around to help soothe her before bed and I blurted out that I was sorry.
“Why?” he shrugged. “Doesn’t bother me. This is what babies do. You’ll figure it out. She’ll figure it out. This is just how it is.” That was honestly one of the best things anyone could have said to me. In that exchange my dad had told me two very important things: First, babies cry and it’s not my fault. Second, there isn’t always an immediate answer, or any answer at all. Raising each individual child is different.
The moral of the story is next time a mom apologizes, remind her that life happens. Offer to help in whatever way you can, give her the advice she asks for, and then talk to her about something grown up. Who knows when her last adult conversation was...
“It’s okay to cry.”
In the shower. In public. During an emotional commercial on tv. Over your breakfast. While you’re “hiding” on the front porch. In the bathroom during lunch. Yup. Cry. Crying means we are trying.
If you see a mom crying, don’t let that woman believe for one second she is weak. Tell her she is strong for caring and working so. dang. hard. Help her find her truth: That she is doing something worthwhile, that she is not alone, that she will survive, and she will be rewarded. Then tell her the lamest joke you can think of and laugh together.
And now a shout out to my mom because she is totally reading this.
Mama, you are amazing at doing all the things and keeping it together. You inspire me to be the rock for Bunny that you have been for me. I am grateful for your ability to know your children, your perspective, your love of God, your attention, your advice, and your sense of humor. You've given me and my family a home, a safe place to grow. You're my best friend and my hero. I am me because of the life you and Papa have created.
If you have a special lady who needs to hear from you, go now! Tell her what she deserves to hear whether it's from this list or something else more worthy. Just make sure what you say comes from the heart.