Moms, we need each other. We need someone who understands what it is like to live on cold coffee and rows of oreos during breastfeeding binges. We need that person who we can text at 3 a.m. to keep us going through those late-night feedings, and who totally understands what we mean when we call our kids assholes without worrying that they will call Child Protective Services. We need each other because we get each other.
But we also need our partners, families, neighbors, co-workers, baristas, mailmen, you name it. Whether or not someone can relate to the brutal realities of pregnancy and parenthood, they are still a part of our circle in some small way. We need our communities in their entirety. It takes a village, right?
But how can we expect a village behind us if we are building our own walls up at the same time?
I've been reading so many blogs and hearing so many complaints on everything that people need to stop saying and stop doing around mothers. Today, especially with the advent of the Internet, we are sharing glimpses of our journeys to motherhood more than ever before, but we're also using the Internet to berate our villages with everything they're doing wrong:
- Don't touch the belly
- Don't comment on the belly
- Don't ask about baby names
- Don't react to our baby names
- Don't ask about the due date
- Don't ask about the gender reveal
- Don't make jokes about the gender
- Don't share your birth story
- Don't ask if we planned it
- Don't mention sleep
- Don't give me your newborn advice
- Don't give me your parenting advice
- Don't question my choices
- Don't comment on my choices
- Don't call ever. Just text. - (What is up with this one? Is speakerphone considered old-fashioned now or something?)
The list could go on ...
Everyone has their own boundaries, anxieties and triggers; I absolutely understand this, and these personal boundaries should be communicated and respected. I'm not trying to argue that any mother's boundaries should be pushed, but maybe when a boundary is crossed, we can start using it as an opportunity to educate rather than let it create resentment.
When that passerby at Target asks if you are sure you are not carrying twins, give her a chuckle and say, "No pregnant woman wants to hear that she looks bigger than she should be! We all carry our babies differently. It is a beautiful thing, isn't it?"
When that annoying male co-worker asks when you're going to pop with 10 more weeks to go, chuckle and say, "No pregnant woman wants to hear that she looks ready to pop two months premature. Patience is a virtue, isn't it?"
When that family member won't stop telling you that your baby should really be sleeping through the night, give them a chuckle and say, "No sleep-deprived mother wants to hear that! Babies are all different, and we are doing what works best for us."
When your chatty co-worker asks when you're planning on having another one, give them a chuckle and say, "While multiple kids may be in the plan for you, my family and I are building our own life plan."
Or, insert any other variation that works for you depending on your comfort level with confrontation and desire for sarcasm.
I have a hard time believing that these passersby, family members and co-workers are trying to hurt us. They see us. They see us wobbling with our swollen feet and round bellies. They watch us transition to motherhood, and then they see us holding our babies with the utmost love, fatigue and worry. They see more than we give them credit for, and what if their prying is their way to engage, to learn, to help, even though they don't always quite know how.
Maybe we can teach them how.
We can wish for communities of silence; or we can build communities where it's okay to engage in conversation, even when a bit uncomfortable -- communities where breastfeeding is not taboo, where neighbors help us install our car seats and where we celebrate all approaches to parenting.