It is fairly common knowledge that when one becomes pregnant or a parent, unsolicited advice suddenly pops up from every corner of one’s life. In many ways, it seems to me a sign of solidarity, a sort of welcoming in that experienced moms do for the uninitiated. I’ve gotten some really excellent solicited and unsolicited advice since I’ve been pregnant. I do admit that I’m the sort of person who likes to think she knows everything, and if she doesn’t, can research it to death until she does. But I have accepted that that is not always possible with pregnancy, so I enjoy the help along the way from those who are walking this path ahead of me. It’s comforting. Even when the advice is bad or simply doesn’t apply to me, I still appreciate the intent behind it. It’s an age old practice to pass this pregnancy and motherhood lore on, and I honor that.
But there is also something I’ve noticed happening amongst some moms that is not so helpful and not so much in the spirit of solidarity. Let me try to explain with a recent example:
Yesterday, on Facebook, I complained on my status that I hoped one day to be able to taste things and breathe through my nose again. I’ve been pretty sick with this cold. I haven’t slept much, and I’ve been rather miserable, so it’s fairly natural–complainer that I am– that I would say something. Well, an old college acquaintance of mine (who has a toddler) commented to say, “Yeah, good luck with that. You’re going to be wanting lots of things back…” Now, here’s the thing: I think she thinks she’s being funny, and I believe she thinks she’s warning me about the selflessness of motherhood, but comments like these are not helpful. It’s not the first I’ve heard one of these. In fact, there’s this subset of the mommy club that seems to take pleasure in making sure new and aspiring members know just how miserable motherhood is. “Oh just you wait!” said with a mildly bitter tone, is a phrase I hear all too often from these moms. It’s disheartening.
When I look at our beautiful blog community, I see a whole bunch of women who support one another, offer advice respectfully, and tend not to throw newbies’ naïveté in their faces. However, the “Just you wait” subset of the mommy club does just that, and it seems to be their response any time a mom-to-be has even the most legitimate of complaints. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s not helpful, not at all. I can’t imagine telling a newly pregnant woman who is puking up everything she eats that this is only the beginning and that she has so much more misery in store. What does this do for her? What provokes some women to do this? And why, oh, why can’t we women support one another?
Maybe for some women it’s a matter of competition. Who can be the most miserable? Who is the wisest, most experienced mother of them all? Who has lost her sense of self the most in her children? Or maybe it’s something else. I know the woman in the example above has always been socially awkward, and I’ve noticed that other particularly socially awkward friends have said similar things, but I don’t think that’s the extent of it. Maybe it’s a little like joining a sorority, and while you’re pledging, you have to expect to be treated like crap and led through some ugly initiation rituals by some of the mommy club members, while others take you by the hand and leadyou into the sisterhood a little more graciously. Or maybe it’s a way of reminding those of us still on this journey that we’re not card-carrying mommy club members yet, that we ought not get too big for our britches. Maybe I’m taking this too far.
I think I’m writing this more than anything so that I don’t do this, so that I don’t become that woman who makes prospective moms feel like they know nothing about the journey they’re embarking on, or who seeks to be the party pooper any time someone gets excited about her ideas about motherhood. Frankly, most of us don’t know what it will be like until we get there. That is not to say, however, that when we do get there, we suddenly know what every other mother will experience either. I just wish more people were mindful of this.
I am so grateful that here, writing this blog, I’m surrounded by so many who are mindful and conscious and gracious. This journey is a hard one, and I’m learning that having the support of a tribe of moms, moms-to-be, and childless moms is the best tool a woman can have to help her through it.