Last month, my 12th grade daughter was denied acceptance to the college of her dreams. It was shattering, and as a writer I did what I do during emotional times. I wrote and subsequently published the details of her experience.
I imagined that moms everywhere would empathize with my story after being there themselves or would sympathize if they hadn’t. I never dreamed that moms would turn my painful story into an opportunity to post hurtful comments and judge me as a mom and as a person (really!!). I was shocked that moms found it so easy to be so critical of my mothering techniques. Because…aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t there an unspoken sisterhood in motherhood? Aren’t we all doing our best to be good moms? Don’t we all want to raise healthy, happy, kind and honest children? Who cares if our methods vary?
Many of us watched our bellies expand as we grew babies inside of us. Others of us fought tooth and nail to adopt, foster or follow harrowing and winding paths to motherhood. We accepted stretch marks and heartburn and middle-of-the-night Pop Tart cravings because we knew they were stepping-stones to the dream of becoming moms.
We marveled as our babies emerged into the world with fingers, toes, tongues and vocal chords. We rejoiced when those babies allowed us to sleep for more than three hours at a time and we rolled our eyes when they grew into teenagers who could sleep until noon. We filled our iPhones with thousands of photos documenting dance recital solos, middle school orchestra performances and prom night smiles. We hit up our own moms when we needed help cleaning crayon drawings off the kitchen walls and subsequently cleaning our daughters’ black mascara stains from every washcloth in the house.
We experienced the same ups and downs when our kids vomited Cheerios deep into the crevices of brand new car seats and years later when they begged us to sit in the passenger seat as they practiced for their road tests. We commiserated with and celebrated with all of the moms in our lives, as well as those on TV and in the movies, and we felt an inexplicable bond…a sisterhood.
But somehow along the way, somewhere between diaper rashes, grocery store temper tantrums, teenage acne breakouts and college orientation weekends, moms began to judge other moms. The emotional synchronicity faded, warm smiles shared between expectant moms were forgotten, mutual anxiety about raising children didn’t seem so mutual anymore. All were replaced by disdain for the way others were parenting.
But why? What happened?
I can confirm with certainty that no mom opens her eyes at sunrise and says, ”I think I’ll take the opportunity this morning to yell at my son when he can’t find his backpack and then drop him at the bus stop crying.” No mom spits her toothpaste into the sink and thinks, “I sure hope I’ll lose my cool when my daughter continues to ignore my request to put her dirty clothes IN the laundry basket instead of near it.” And I’m positive there’s not a mom among us who prays for the moment she has to face the world after her quarterback son curses out his high school football coach and becomes the talk of the town. Yet each of these moms exists and each one of them is doing the best she can day in and day out.
There are the highly protective moms, whose lives are ruled by the Life 360 app and delivering forgotten lunches and notebooks every day to their kids at school. And there are the moms who would rather see their kids miss their mid-day sandwiches than enable them by dropping off the little brown bags accidentally left on the kitchen counter in the morning rush. Oddly enough, both approaches are approaches that work. I may feed my kids only organic and homegrown fruits and vegetables while pumping Beethoven through our Sonos speakers, while your kids may scarf down Taco Bell burritos three times a week with rap stars crooning in the background…but that doesn’t mean that we’re not both good, loving and caring moms.
We all manage our mom-hood in different ways. We all do our best. We all pray each morning that we are making good decisions for our children, that we are providing good guidance, that we have the strength to stay calm when our kids cause us to chew our nails until they look like they belong on the hands of a ten-year-old boy. We beg our best friends for mommying advice and we share whatever tips we have, as well. We wake up at 2:00am sweating and panicking, wondering if we’re doing okay as we manage the myriad of challenges that motherhood sends our way. In our hearts, we are all the same.
And so it just doesn’t seem right to judge other moms because they don’t parent the same way that you do. How can we teach our kids kindness to others if we are not living it ourselves?
If you’re a mom who finds yourself scorning another mom because you “can’t believe someone would parent her child like that,” it’s time to look in the mirror. We’ve all had those moments, days or even weeks when we’ve tried to be the best mom we could be and somehow every move we made was not the right one.
The old adage, “Never look down on someone else unless you’re helping them up” might just be the advice we all need to follow. Your kind smile might be the push that helps a frustrated mom trying unsuccessfully to appease her 3-year-old in the pediatrician’s waiting room. Your understanding look might help calm the mom whose teenage daughter chooses the Black Friday line at Target to start a high volume argument about why she has to go to a friend’s party instead of her grandfather’s 80thbirthday dinner. You just never know.
I circle back to how it felt to be skewered by other moms for the way that I helped my daughter survive the heartbreak of not being accepted to the college of her dreams. In truth, I’m still a little scarred. But like I tell my kids: “Never let anyone else steal your sparkle.” So I’m not. I’m using the experience to remind myself and anyone else who will listen that as moms, we need to support one another and be each other’s champions. We need to remember how hard it is to be a mom, and how important the encouragement of our “motherhood sisterhood” can be.
Go smile at a mom who needs your smile. Go hold the door at the diner when you see a mom struggling with her three screaming kids. Go offer your help or a suggestion or a hug to a mom who looks like she’s one breath away from a breakdown. Go remind others to do the same. Go and go now…be a part of making a kind and warm motherhood sisterhood.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.