I know that the “mommy wars” blog posts have been beaten to death.
You can’t open your Facebook or Twitter feed without seeing an article about “Mommy Wars” and how to best counteract/avoid them.
Sometimes, I think articles like that are a bit overblown and make for good click bait. Other times, I shake my head in disbelief at some of the comments and encounters other moms have had to endure over their parenting choices – even with complete strangers!
Because if there is one thing that people think they have liberty to judge/comment on/assess/obsess over, it’s the parenting skills of anyone, even complete strangers.
And nowhere is this insensitive mindset more obvious and pervasive than in how we treat mothers/women with children in our society.
I want to tell you a story.
I met my husband in town for dinner with the kids at Chick Fil A – because where else are we going to take three small people out to eat?
As we were sitting down with our food and getting the kiddos settled in with their meals, somewhere in the restaurant we heard a small child erupting into a full-on-cover-your-ears-hang-on-to-your-butts temper tantrum.
After scanning the restaurant to see where the disruption was coming from, we saw a woman holding her two-year old by the arm while balancing a car seat carrier containing a newborn and her handbag on the other.
She was trying to make her way to the door. Her shrieking toddler son fought her every. step. of the way.
She tried to quietly convince her son that it was time to go, and coax him out the door without much more of a scene. Her efforts only served to make him dig his heels in further.
I was sitting with my children and trying to help them manage their food while not staring at the scene that was unfolding in front of me. But it’s kind of hard not to look, right?
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I looked up at my husband and told him I would be right back.
I stood up and walked over to the woman. She was stuck in front of the door to leave, unable to open the door and keep hold of her son. As I walked up to her…I smiled. I asked her if I could help her out to her car with her children.
She seemed blown away.
She nervously kept asking me if I was sure, but she seemed all the more grateful at the same time. I’m quite certain that I could have had three heads and she still would have eagerly accepted my assistance.
To our collective relief, her son came willingly into my arms and we walked out the door together. Turns out she was parked at the far end of the parking lot. How she would have gotten her squirming child and the car seat carrier across the parking lot without incident is beyond me.
We reached her vehicle and she unlocked and opened the backdoor for me. I lifted her son into the back of the SUV and on to the seat. As I asked him if he could climb into his seat, I looked around at her car and could see the mess. The mess that comes with having children but not enough time or energy or concern about cleaning the floor of your car because who cares anyway, right?
I have seen that mess before.
The woman was incredibly grateful. Before we parted ways, I reassured her that I had been exactly where she was. Literally. Same Chick Fil A, same parking lot. Probably about 14 months ago to the day.
I have been that mother trying to get out the door with two tiny hands in a firm, but not too firm so I don’t break bones, vice grip, just trying to make it to our vehicle across the parking lot. Just trying to make it home. Just trying to get them ready for bed.
Just trying to make it over the next thing. Over one…more…hurdle.
Because sometimes, it’s a hurdle by hurdle, day by day, minute by minute kind of thing, this parenting stuff.
I don’t tell you that story to pat myself on the back. I tell you because I am so, so guilty. I am so guilty of judging other moms.
I don’t always react this calmly. Unfortunately, ostracizing and assumptions come all too naturally, as I am sure so many of you have found in your own lives. Sometimes, I stare. Or worse, I try not to look at all because I can’t hide my shock.
We live in a culture that admonishes parenting failures and is quick to suggest “solutions” or “ideas” for parents. Yet for all of the ways we are connected, mothers are more isolated than ever before.
We currently live in the most connected, and yet most disconnected age ever. We catch tiny glimpses into one another’s day-to-day lives on the regular. And yet it’s foreign to get a knock on your door from the neighbor or a phone call on a landline from someone just calling to ask how you are, but not to receive the criticism of strangers at the grocery store for letting your infant chew on your car keys.
This isn’t to say that moms have never had their critics in the past. I’m sure that they always have.
Now? Moms live with all of these unrealistic and exhausting expectations about what makes them a good mother or not. You are one or the other, a good mom or a bad mom. No in between.
Pinterest. Handmade Halloween costumes. Straight A students who are involved in every extracurricular activity imaginable. A perfect, toned body that doesn’t have the look of someone who has given birth in the last handful of years. Working from home or working outside of the home, doesn’t matter, just get it all done.
These expectations and worries over what the mother next to us is doing leave us exhausted, moms. We are moms who don’t realize that beyond loving our children and keeping them safe and raising them to be good people, everything else that I just said is simply the gravy on top.
Something about this modern-day life makes us lonely. Which makes us strangers. Which makes us more inclined to misunderstand and judge each other. And it’s sad.
While I don’t think mommy wars will ever end, I do know this: We can each be a cog in the great mechanism of change by pivoting the conversation and simply by loving and helping other moms.
That’s it. Help other moms. Love other moms.
Motherhood and parenting are lonely. But they don’t have to be.
Until we start being the community to each other, it won’t get us anywhere.
You can reach out to the single mom in your neighborhood, and love her and accept her, because chances are this world probably doesn’t.
You can shake hands with the nervous, new woman who doesn’t know anyone yet at your church that you haven’t gotten the chance to say hello to yet.
You can stop by your best friend’s house with a cup of coffee in a moment of spontaneity and ask her how she is handling this parenting thing.
You can drop off supplies to the local crisis pregnancy center for moms who are struggling to make ends meet.
You can help the stranger with three kids and a shopping cart in tow out to her car on a Sunday at Target.
You can be that friendly face on a Monday that isn’t going so great because teething!
You can be a welcoming shoulder to cry on and hold your dearest mom friends when the season of life is hard and everything hurts.
You can be the community, right where you are.