Sunday, May 12, 2013

Love Another Mother

In writing a Mother's Day post, the simplest thing I could do is remind everyone to value their own mothers or take time to be grateful for their children. I could have written a nice little story about things my mother taught me and applied it to my own first experience of being a mother, and that would be that. Simple, honest, loving.

Instead, I'd like to point to something that I think needs some societal attention: mother-to-mother negativity.

We modern women are very hard on ourselves. We expect ourselves to have full careers, beautiful homes, strong marriages, and perfect children. At no point in women's history have we been more successful, but at no point have we faced more of a challenge to "do it all." Because of this, women often take their own feelings of inadequacy out on each other. In a recent high-profile example, editor of "Real Simple" Kristin van Ogtrop trashed Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In, despite the fact that Sheryl and "Real Simple" are both about empowering women, albeit in different ways. Women commit this crime on a daily basis. We gossip and criticize. We pass judgement on others without knowing the full story. I am just as guilty of this as other women. It's in our natures, or at least our collective nurtures.

I say: let's fight it. Let's fight the urge to go negative on other women, and particularly on other mothers. Everyone thinks they know the one best way to raise children, even though we should be aware that each parent-child combination contains a completely unique set of personalities, problems and outside support. If you believe strongly in breast-feeding, that's wonderful, but it does not give you the right to tell a bottle-feeder that she's depriving herself and her child. If you used the "cry it out" method to get your children to sleep, don't pass judgement on the mother who feels she needs to sleep next to her child. For some children, for some parents, that's the only thing that works. If you go back to work after three months, and your co-worker takes an extended maternity leave, neither of you is a better mother or better worker than the other. You're each making the decision that is best for you and your family.

Let's say you're out in a restaurant and a child is screaming at the next table. It's disagreeable. You might want to say to your dining companion, "Why doesn't she take her kid out of here?" Instead, look at the mother and smile. This might be the only chance she had to catch up with a friend. Maybe she had a babysitter, but it fell through. She's not getting the opportunity to enjoy a lunch that might be an unusual treat for her. She's probably feeling stressed and embarrassed at her child's behavior. Instead of judging her, support her. (And try to distract the screaming child, if you can!)

Give your mother, grandmother and godmother plenty of love and appreciation today, but don't forget to extend some positivity to other mothers, be they friends, co-workers or strangers in a restaurant. We all have our own stories, our own difficulties. We all work hard to be the best we can be for our children, spouses, parents and employers. Let's not have to work to impress each other, too.

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