Advice. I'll admit it, it's not my favorite thing to receive as a mom. It generally comes across as smug, self-important, or even malicious, tainted with a twinge of You're going to suffer, and I'm going to love every minute of it! New and expectant mothers are generally presented with two contrasting schools of thought when given unsolicited advice from strangers, fellow parents, and family members who have been there: "Enjoy every minute," and its polar opposite, "Just you wait..."
Doesn't it go by so fast?
You think this is hard? Just wait until potty training!
These days are so precious. Savor every one.
Two girls? Just wait until they're teenagers! You're screwed!
I mean, really. This is so magical. Don't forget to be grateful for each blueberry-speckled bowel movement.
You think this is stressful? Wait until they have kids! You NEVER STOP WORRYING!!!
Thanks, assclowns. These gems suck equally. First off, no pregnant woman appreciates hearing the horror story of a veteran mother. "Oh, you're six months pregnant? Just wait until you deliver. I was in labor for four whole days and pushed for seventeen hours and then I was rushed into an emergency C-section. And then my baby had colic. And reflux. Oh, and gas. And did I mention he grew up to be a sociopath? Probably because of the birth trauma."
Fast forward three years, and you're standing in line at the bank with a sticky, screaming toddler and a new baby who wants your boob STAT. An elderly woman beams at you, sighing with nostalgia. "I had five children. And I have to tell you: I loved every second of it. Every. Single. Second. Don't forget to enjoy every minute! It goes by so fast."
Is there no middle ground? Pregnant women and moms of young children don't need to have the crap scared out of them, nor do they need sunshine blown up their elastic-waisted pants. They need support. They need reality. They need "Me, too!" and "You're not alone!" They need to hear that if motherhood happens to be sucking royally for them, that it's not their fault and they're not bad moms. The kind of advice new moms need is the kind that doesn't judge, make assumptions, or turn motherhood into a competitive sport. The kind of advice that isn't really advice.
A few weeks ago, the #SoGladTheyToldMe social media movement was born, after I received an overwhelming reaction from mothers about my recent article, "I'm Glad Someone Told Me." It was a response to a lovely post about a woman's extremely smooth transition to motherhood that made me think about how our culture views motherhood. What about women who don't adjust easily to motherhood? What about the mothers who suffer with postpartum depression, struggle with breastfeeding, or have a colicky baby? I believe that all mothers should have a voice in changing the way motherhood is portrayed. We need a more realistic, balanced depiction of motherhood: less sunshine and magic and more straight-talk and compassion.
#SoGladTheyToldMe proves that this kind of support exists. Women all over the world--including dozens of fantastic parent bloggers--have been sharing their real, honest motherhood advice that feels a lot more like support and solidarity than advice. These are the things that moms were actually grateful they were told ... or wish they were told:
- I'm so glad they told me I would need naptime more than my kids did.
- I'm so glad they told me a bad day doesn't make a bad parent.
- I'm so glad they told me it was OK to go back to work.
- I'm so glad they told me that most parents feel like they have no idea what the hell they are doing sometimes.
- I'm so glad they told me not to analyze my life or my marriage for at least six months after the baby was born.
- I'm so glad they told me to go ahead and pour myself a glass of wine, even though Happy Hour was now Crappy Hour.
- I'm so glad they told me I might feel 40 different emotions in 5 minutes... and maybe even at the same time!
- I was so glad every single time somebody told me "Me, too!"
The #SoGladTheyToldMe campaign has been making its way around; it's been featured on local and national news as well as websites in Australia, Canada, and the UK. On February 17th we're celebrating by having a social media blitz using the hashtag #SoGladTheyToldMe. We'll have a Twitter party at 9 PM EST, and moms will be sharing photos and posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all day. So make your sign, mama, and share your motherhood truth. Tell us about some support you received, or tell us about the support you didn't receive. Change your profile picture to your #SoGladTheyToldMe sign to help change the conversation about motherhood. When moms come together to share truth and provide support, we are all stronger.