Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why I Can't Have Mom Friends

Ok, that title is not actually true for me, personally. I’m blessed and extremely grateful to have several “mom friends” that I regularly chat with, share life with, and meet with every few weeks (seriously girls, did you think I was referencing you?!).  But it goes with this blog. I stumbled across this video not long ago, watched it with Tommy, and we were both almost crying by the end of it from laughing so hard. Even though it was really funny and way overdramatized, I think part of the humor in it is because it stems from truth. But before I go on, you have to watch the video. It’ll make you laugh. ;)

Now in light of my previous “chemical free, organic, cloth diapering, etc., etc.” post, I know you’re thinking I’m that crazy blonde headed lady! But I actually don’t care to focus on that part. What stuck out most to me is that as I’ve begun to notice this very thing amongst women. Some of these things I knew before having kids-- I know that most people think their children are advanced either physically, cognitively, socially, or in all areas. I know that a lot of parents read into a situation, something their kid said or did as some token of their child’s deep understanding about life. I also know that most people think that people who do things differently from them are parenting ineffectively.  But to start to experience that as a parent is different than experiencing it as a spectator.  And friends, it is BRUTAL. It’s like a war amongst the mothers. It’s not usually straight forward and obvious the way it is in this video (I mean, that’s what makes it funny). But I’ve begun to discover that there’s almost an undercurrent of superiority amongst mothers. Nine months in and I’m already tired of it. (FYI-- this post does not refer to anyone in particular. In fact, if you’re concerned it’s about you, that probably means it’s not ;) )  

For example, people start asking you if your child is sleeping through the night right about the second they’re born. They would applaud you if you said yes and if not, it must be because you’re doing something wrong. That made me crazy in the first few months, particularly because that idea doesn’t support  a true knowledge of how infant sleep works. We were extremely grateful that Abi Kate was a good sleeper early on, but we were about 99% sure that we didn’t have much to do with that. She just slept. I notice the same thing in discussions about physical development, particularly gross motor skills. Parents are convinced their child is a genius if they’re crawling at 6 months, walking at 9, and on and on. Everytime I hear these things, I secretly want to let them know that gross motor skills are not indicative of cognitive development, that physical milestones run on a continuum of months which doesn’t much lend itself to “advanced skills”. Maybe their kid is just going to be a kinesthetic learner, or maybe their little muscles were just ready to achieve that skill. Don’t get me wrong-- I support the view of a holistic child. I know that much of what most people think about a child’s abilities depends on what theories they subscribe to regarding development. But let’s be honest-- how many of you knew a seriously gifted athlete that seriously struggled with reading?!  One great skill doesn’t equate perfection in another. Thankfully, I can’t say that I’ve been the target of these scenarios. (And it is not because Abi Kate is gifted or advanced.) I think people just leave me alone in general because I’m a newbie. But I notice it just the same.  Like for example, a woman will say when her child achieved a certain skill, and you hear another mom chime in, “Oh that’s great! Of course my little boy was just off and running several months before that. Such a go-getter.”  And I’m sitting there thinking, “Wow. Way to make that other mom feel like her kid is a big lazy terd.” Don’t get me wrong-- I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stating when your child achieves a particular skill or even being proud of them! Trust me, when Abi Kate first pulled up on the ottoman with those chubby little thighs quaking all the way up, the joy and admiration was pretty palpable in our little living room.  But you can tell when there’s an air of self-righteousness, as if they as a parent have done something that the other parent just hasn’t quite gotten a grasp on. Therefore, their kid is advanced and the other kid will “catch up soon, I’m sure!”

And it’s not even just in situations like that. There’s the age old war of staying at home vs. going to work. Formula feeding vs. breastfeeding.  Public school vs. homeschool. Attachment parenting, discipline, vaccinating, and the list goes on and on.  I’ve even noticed it amongst people who hold the same views. I’m not even joking when I say that it’s like a competition to see who can be the “greenest” mom amongst those that shun some mainstream ideas. I have seen women on forums just crucify another mom because they use a disposable diaper at night and only cloth in daytime hours, or because they only allow their children to play with natural wood toys not those chemical plastic toys. REALLY?! And of course it works the other way, too. Women who jest at others for breastfeeding past a certain age, avoiding chemicals, or using cloth diapers.

That’s not even embarking on the whole world of birthing and all the vehement feelings that brings up.  Please believe me when I say that I believe it is important to know why you’re doing what you do as a parent, to make informed decisions, etc. (Nothing gets me more riled up than someone who outright disses another parent’s decision making without having done any studying on that subject themselves.) I think maybe this is the reason that there’s so much hostility amongst women. Or at least part of it. Usually, or hopefully, when we do something as parents, it’s because we believe in it. So by default, it seems that we disagree with someone who is doing something different. Most women that I know, including myself, are interpreters-- always reading into what someone else was saying instead of taking it literally. I don’t think it has to be that way, but it’s hard not to be. Because if I’m being completely truth-on-the-table honest, I struggle not to be that way. I may not voice it, but in my mind I might think otherwise. I think the issue is deeper than that. I think it’s a sin issue. And I think it is about pride. I’m working on a gut-wrenchingly honest blog that I’m still working up the courage to post-- it’s a lot about the ugly topic of pride (and how it controls me, specifically)… and in these last few months, I’ve come to notice  that it is often a main deterrent in allowing us to form meaningful relationships with other women, particularly other mothers. It’s pride. Our child’s behavior is better than theirs. Our child can do more than theirs. We pat ourselves on the back for being successful in this journey of motherhood.  And we feel slightly more validated because our child can do things another child their age can’t.

It’s easy to be around people who are like-minded and do things like us. But what about those who do things differently? I struggle to find a balance in that. I struggle because I focus on myself instead of my purpose in relationships. Watching that ridiculous video made me stop and consider what my responses are to others. But mostly what my heart’s motivations are-- and sometimes, it’s not pretty folks. I’m in no way suggesting that it’s wrong to have strong ideas on any topic or that it is wrong to tell what you’ve learned. It’s no secret that I hold some pretty definitive views. (It's also no secret that I have friends who don't support those views. Please don't be paranoid after reading this and think I've been sitting around hating you & your choices!) But if those ideas aren’t grounded in the goodness of Christ, if I can’t mercifully love others who do things differently than me, then I’m out of line. If I have to make someone else feel small to advance a cause, my need for validation as a mother, then I’m out of line. It’s not really a place I thought I’d find myself in because I’ve always been very, “If we don’t see things the same way, let’s happily go our separate ways.” I’ve found in recent days that Christ continues to call me to leave things behind, even more so now that I’m a mother. This is one of those things. 

So, even though the mompetition will rage on, I want to disassociate myself from that. I want to love as Christ has called me to and to serve as he has commanded me to regardless of parenting decisions. Maybe by kid #??? I’ll actually be there…..


  1. it is hilarious that you ended the blog with "maybe by kid #". while I was reading I was thinking, man, having 2 kids 19 months apart has stripped me a lot of the pride issue. (don't misunderstand that there is still plenty of pride.) but you are just proud at the end of the day that both kids are alive and asleep. and if you managed to even talk with anyone without your same last name (maiden or married), that is an accomplishment. :)

  2. That must mean there's hope for me yet :)