Dear Mom At Story Hour,
I don't know who you are. I didn't ask you your name. I saw you at the story hour working to wrangle your toddler just like me. Like me you stuck around after the story to explore more of the children's museum. I noticed you again in the under three area. I noticed you because you were sitting by yourself. The room was full of busy toddlers and chatting moms. You and I seemed to be the only two moms who didn't come with a friend. We both sat silently watching our kids play. You looked nice. I wanted to come over and introduce myself. I wanted to get to know you and ask if you were coming back next week. But I didn't. I was scared to.
I sat on the opposite side of the room wanting to talk to you, but too afraid to and I was struck again by how lonely motherhood can be.
You see I didn't come up and talk to you because I was afraid I would say the wrong thing.I worried that I would make a comment about schooling, or car seats, or diets that would upset you.
I was worried that instead of connecting over this beautiful thing called motherhood I would say something that would unintentionally push you away.
Something that would make one of us put up a wall and mentally declare the other one unsafe.
I have good reason for this fear. I stopped going to play groups over four years ago after multiple attempts. After having my second child just 20 months after my first, my mother kindly but firmly pushed me to step out side of my little duplex and try to meet some other moms. I tried (Honest Mom I really did!). Like most endeavors mine met with some hits and some misses.
I did manage to find a MOPS group that I loved and participated in for nearly two years before the closed down. I have seen what motherhood done together can be. I have seen the beauty and the fun and safety net other women can provide. I have also experienced the side ways looks and out and out unkind comments that come when you say something out of step with other moms.
I can remember with extreme clarity the moment a play group found out I had two c-sections or when I asked another group of moms their thoughts on a particular medication. I learned fast to keep my mouth shut unless I knew exactly who was there and had followed them on face book long enough to know where they stood on things like nursing, car seats, schooling, and vaccinations.
It's exhausting and lonely. The chances that I will agree with some one else on EVERY SINGLE parenting “issue” is pretty slim.
I took a photo of my daughter on her 1st birthday (or shortly after). She had just had her one year shots and was sitting in a forward facing car seat for the first time drinking whole milk out of her bottle. I went to post in on facebook and stopped. She was my rainbow baby after a heart breaking miscarriage. I was so excited for the milestones she had reached. We had made it through the haze of sleepless nights and weaned her just a few months prior. I was so proud of my baby girl. I didn't want to read the inevitable negative comments. I sent the photo to my mom instead.
I know I am guilty of these comments as well. I know my exhaustion and insecurities as a mom mean that I have times when I give in and let loose a sarcastic comment or two about moms who are different than me. I know that when I feel defensive my Mama Bear comes out and I lash out verbally at “them.” I'm so sorry.
Here is the truth. I don't care how you parent. As long as your choice aren't hurting your kid then I encourage you do to whatever works and keeps you and your kid happy and healthy. There is a good chance my choices will be different from yours no matter how crunchy or not you are. (I am maddeningly middle of the road.)
I may not understand your choices, but I do understand they are yours to make.
I know that at times I can make comments that are snarky or sarcastic about other parenting styles.
I can guess that you some times do to.
So let's make a deal.
I'll do my best not to do that any more, and to remember that when you do it's most likely out of a place of exhaustion and insecurity.
And maybe next week I'll work up the guts to introduce myself.