Motherhood is a weird, wonderful and messy journey. It is filled with moments of awesome success and obscene failure.
Several years ago two of my very best friends (Alice and Becky) each had toddler boys very close in age. Our story begins with Alice and her toddler both having a very bad day. Alice’s toddler was voicing his displeasure by screaming bloody murder from his car seat and generally pitching a fit. Alice was attempting to make a phone call to Becky but Becky did not answer. The call went to voicemail, so Alice left a quick “hey call me back” message and hung up…or so she thought. What happened next was the kind of verbal debauchery that can only occur when the mother of a toddler has been pushed past the absolute limits of sanity. I am pretty sure flowers along the roadway wilted and angels lost their wings when they heard the language coming from that car on that day. Alice ranted and raved and generally just pitched a big fit. A fit of epic proportions. A fit so big that when Alice realized the call was not only still connected but actually recording Alice’s entire hysterical mommy rant onto Becky’s voicemail, Alice felt she should re-call Becky and leave a second voicemail stating that both she, Alice, and Alice’s toddler were, in fact, safe and unharmed.
Now this story on its own is fabulous, we can all relate to that frazzled, twitchy look we get when our kids utter the same obnoxious phrase for what feels like the billionth time. Seriously, 2 and 3 year olds should be used for hostage negotiations. I assure you, toddlers can and will use every weapon in their arsenal to get whatever their heart desires. But I digress, back to my friends and what makes this story the sparkly purple unicorn of motherhood stories. After Alice’s second voicemail where she calmly vouches for the physical safety of herself and her child (who is no longer pitching a fit because he has been outdone by the master) Alice cries. My dear friend who is such a loving and nurturing mother cried for her moment of weakness, she cried because she lost her patience, and most of all she cried because she lost her temper on such a massive scale and left a voice recording for all of posterity. But then something utterly amazing happened, Becky listened to both of those voicemails and she called back with this statement for Alice: OMG I’m so glad I’m not the only one who loses it like that!
What I absolutely adore about this story (other than the pure comedic elements of cursing on such a monumental level) is the validation given so freely from one mom to another mom. It would have been easy to dismiss Alice’s meltdown as something crazy and irrational. It would have been easy to judge Alice’s behavior, to condescend to her, to preach to her but instead Becky skipped the drama, sidetracked the cattiness and offered the Alice the gift of empathy.
Of course the above story did happen between two close friends which probably made it much easier for Becky to respond the way she did but imagine if we just gave all moms (or all women for that matter) the benefit of the doubt when we are witnessing their worst moments. The social worker in me would like to think I am open minded and approach others with the dignity and respect that all people are entitled to. BUT in all honesty I have been the smug, superior “I’m so glad that’s not my kid pitching a fit in the middle of the grocery store” catty mama. I have been that mama. I have been that catty mama this week.
I have been the mama who rolled her eyes and questioned your parenting ability because your child is losing their mind in the mall.
I have been the mama who listens to you talk about your parenting ideas only to make fun of you behind your back because I thought your ideas weren’t as good as mine. Just keeping it real.
I have been the mama who thought “well at least I’m not as bad as ____”
I have been the mama who cringes because your child is walking bare foot in Wal-Mart (although, for the record that is absolutely disgusting).
I think on some level we moms all want to feel we are doing the right thing for our children. Motherhood is tough and just as with every aspect of our lives, some days go smoother than others. Sometimes pointing out what we perceive as the “wrongness” of others is just our way of making ourselves feel better after we’ve had our own “Alice” moment.
Think about all the things we moms do in the course of one day: we compromise and discipline, arrange complex sporting schedules, volunteer our time to charity, homeschool our children, and balance our work outside the home with our work in the home. So how unfortunate is it that our entire parenting philosophy is so often ridiculed and the object of judgment based on these tiny snippets of what could be the worst possible moment of the worst possible day. And yes, even the mother of that bare-footed kid in Wal-Mart may just be picking the battles she can win today.
Imagine how powerful moms could be as a force of good if we offered each other the gift of understanding and empathy. What if we met each other with compassion and humor rather than judgment and condescension? So maybe next time I see a mom at Wal-Mart walking with barefoot children, I’ll offer her a friendly smile and avoid being that catty mom.
AIBC Team Member