the mommy club

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.

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12 Comments

Filed under Pregnancy

12 responses to “the mommy club

  1. Great post! When I get together with other moms sometimes, it does get to be a competition over who was the most sick, who had the longest, most painful labour, etc. I feel bad about relating my own experiences because I had it easy! I was never sick, had an easy labour, and recovered quite quickly. The death stares that I would get make me not want to talk about it ever again. Why do some insist that motherhood has to be so miserable? Is there a club that I don’t know about?

    Anyway, take care with everything. Enjoy this journey!

    🙂

  2. hw

    I’m not so sure this is such a one-up-manship, as much as it is that people need to regain and reground themselves in some sort of new reality daily with children (or with any new experience) that they’re constantly trying to make sense of. In a sense, these sorts of comments have nothing to do with the person they’re being given to, they’re almost like personal realizations being uttered in the presence of someone else. Not that it makes it any less biting.

    When it comes to the misery train, everyone always wants everyone else to know that they have it worse and that theirs is valid and matters.

  3. we do have quite a wonderful and beautiful tribe, dont we?

    hoping you feel better soon…
    FYI – the stuffy nose may continue and may not necessarily be a cold ~ you have all this increase in fluid volume and it may just be that is causing “congestion”…

    xo,
    gypsy – future nurse

  4. Just wanted to add that at this point, negative comments are seriously driving me insane. What have we gotten in the past couple days?

    1- We said we’re due in one month. The person replies “Are you sure that’s not 2?” (meaning Nutella’s measuring small)
    2- We said we’re due in one month. The person replies “Are you sure that’s not one week?” (meaning Nutella’s measuring big)
    3- “Catch up on sleep now!” (gee, thank you for that helpful advice)
    4- Nutella fans herself because she’s feeling hot. Person says “Oh, don’t do that now, you still have a whole month to go!”

    It goes on and on. As excited as I am to meet our baby soon, I can’t WAIT until these freaking comments end!

    /rant

  5. Rosany

    I enjoyed your post. I am a mother of 2 boys. A six year old and a 13 month old. It’s true what you said, at times I tend to bitch to mother to be about how hard it will be. I don’t know why I do it, maybe missery loves company??? Your post was refreshing and eye-opening. Thanks for the insight.

    Rosany

    • reproducinggenius

      I am so delighted to see so many different perspectives here. For those of us who are still pregnant, it’s hard to know where this comes from, but I imagine it’s hard to know where it comes from even once you’ve got your kids.

      And lovely soon-to-be Nurse Gypsy, thanks for the reminder. I definitely am having some of that lovely pregnancy stuffiness too, which is why I think the cold got so bad. Everything was already so swollen that once my sinuses were full of ick, they weren’t going to let any of it go. I thought at one point my face might explode. For the record, it’s better now. 🙂

      xoxo

  6. poppycat

    I have noticed this before as well and been annoyed by it aslo. I think that group of women approches most things in their life with the same… competitive misery. Yes people, parenting is HARD but why did you sign up for it if you weren’t willing to accept the difficulty as part of the joy of being a mother. I think your explinations for this behavior are dead on and you expressed your distaste for it beautifuly; I feel the same way.

    I too am constantly impressed by and greatful for this online community for being so wonderful, supportive and caring. That of course includes you my dear. 🙂

  7. Lyn

    Pre-kid, I was welcoming to many kinds of advice and loved nothing more than a good “tell me exactly what it’s like” conversation with a new parent (but I’m like that, I love both getting and giving advice, for good or ill). However, certain kinds of advice really dug in, and I really wished people would stop offering them (in my case, I was most sensitive to people saying we really needed a bigger apartment and a car, turns out we did fine with neither).

    But I also know that now that I’m a parent, I’ve occasionally said things that have come across this way (one of which was to you!). When I do slip up and deliver these doozies, I think they are usually offered in a “welcome to the club” spirit (my comment about hobbies to you, for instance, would have been delivered with a smile and a wink IRL), but also probably reflect some of the things I miss from pre-kid days. (And believe me, I’ll take the kid. I absolutely love parenting, but sometimes it is really hard, and when it is hard, it is nice to have folks to commiserate with).

    And I hope your cold gets better.

  8. I never understood why some moms worked really hard to scare me about labor and delivery by telling me the worst stories that they ever heard. What is this about?
    I like the advice and I hope that anytime I give advice, solicited or unsolicited, that it is in the spirit of leading and helping. Thanks for the reminder to be mindful of the approach.

  9. I’m guilty of begging, imploring pregnant women to go see movies while they can. I know the reason. The reason is we never go out. (Until two weeks ago, now I’m on a roll.) And i wish I had. And I want to save them from the same fate. (Not everyone who has a kid is as terrible at securing babysitters as we are.) Then I recently realized that I was home for two whole weeks before I gave birth and not a single matinee did I venture out to see. So I think these women are just talking to themselves through you. Which is lame. But I think that’s what they are doing. Now I know that the best thing to say to a pregnant woman is, “You look great.” (If they don’t look miserable.) “Congratulations” works pretty well for all cases.

    On the other hand, I’m afraid of telling my quick-and-easy birth story (unless they ask.) I’m not sure why.

  10. reproducinggenius

    I think the advice you ladies have offered is of a different variety than the type I’m complaining about here. Lyn, unfortunately, your suggestion just came on a particularly moody day for me–I’m sorry about that), but honestly, these are clearly in the spirit of helping us see what’s truly in store. You’re being honest without being mean spirited. I know that’s generally the sort of advice I enjoy. Please, OOHM, remind me to go see movies; Lyn, tell me to streamline my hobbies; let me know what I REALLY need to know to be ready. For these sorts of urgings I’m utterly grateful.

    It really is more the cryptic “You have no idea how your life will change, but it’s going to suck, Miss Pollyanna” messages that I find a little troublesome. The good thing is, I don’t see these every day, and I RARELY see them in a community like this one. Perhaps it comes with getting pregnant with such intent.

    And frankly, I don’t understand why we can’t celebrate all pregnancy and birth experiences, both relatively easy or filled with complications. Already, though, I’ve learned that I’ve had things pretty easy so far with this pregnancy, and I’m a certainly reluctant to share that with those who can’t keep a speck of food down.

  11. This may have been my favourite post thus far.
    I’m trying to catch up on all I’ve missed!

    I don’t think you’ll be that kind of Mom though. Really.
    I appreciated this post so much. It always annoyed me too!

    Yes, there will be times you’ll be annoyed, tired and frustrated…but I promise you, motherhood is the most amazing thing in the world. I can’t wait for you to experience it. And, you will be SO good at it!

    Ps You’re on FB?? email me lady!!

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