thoughts on this mother’s day

On this day, social media will be flooded with posts of people praising their moms, their grandmothers, their aunts, their older female mentors, and all other women in their lives who happen to be moms.  Mother will be praised as a sanctified role in the family.  Good deeds will be acknowledged, not-so-great deeds momentarily forgotten.  There will be peace, joy, and thanksgiving in the realm of motherhood and womanhood in general.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this is how we could be with each other always?

I’m not a mom yet, but I am really looking forward to joining a truly remarkable group of exceptional women.  One thing about motherhood that I’m not looking to, though, is the battleground that inevitably seems to form within the borders of that realm. 364 days a year, I see blogs posts and Facebook comments and hear snarky remarks that border on the vitriolic, flying from mother to mother, woman to woman.

Reasons to breastfeed. Reasons not to breastfeed.  Arguments for and against attachment parenting.  Should you use corporal punishment?  Should you use time-out?  You’re letting your children watch too much television.  You’re not letting your children watch enough television.  If you stay at home with your children and leave your career behind, you’re doing womanhood a disservice.  If you continue to work after having children, you’re doing motherhood a disservice.  Reasons why homeschooling your children is damaging. Reasons why not homeschooling your children is damaging.

And on. And on. And on.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not even a mother yet, and I’ve still already managed to get caught up in the crossfire of some of these fights.  I got married at too young an age.  I should have gotten married sooner.  I should have gone to graduate school instead of getting married.  How many kids do I want to have?  That number is too high.  Really, only three or four?  When am I going to have kids?  We’ve been married for a year already, shouldn’t I start thinking about that?  I need to wait another four or five years at least. I’m totally going to change my mind about having that many kids after the first one or two make their appearance. I want to stay at home with the kids if we are financially able? I’m insane. I’m naive. I’m awesome.

When I hear these comments (sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle), I usually smile and skirt around the subject as best I can, but internally, I’m cringing. I’m covering my ears and rocking back and forth, curling into the fetal position. I’m tired of women applying such harsh, strict scrutiny to each other because they make different choices regarding their status as a mother.  I thought that it was something new that had come about with the advent of the internet, the ease with which one can type out an acidic comment and press Enter, but women who were bearing children long before blogging and social networking were even thought of say otherwise. My mother, when pregnant with my sister (her third child), had people crudely ask her if she knew what “caused that,” and her mother before her was asked if she was Catholic or just crazy when she was carrying her, her fourth child.

It reminds me of something that one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted on Facebook the other day.  She said, “There are women who are born to be mothers, women who are born to be aunties, and women who should not be allowed within ten feet of a child. 

“It’s really important to know which category you belong to.” 

So I’m tired.  Tired of trying to explain to people why I want a large family.  Tired of my friends who have one child and don’t think that they want  to try for another trying to explain why they don’t want a large family.  Tired of women who don’t feel the desire to have children of their own being constantly harangued or told that they are going to change their mind one day.  Tired of women who have no business being within ten feet of a child being goaded and prodded into reproducing.

Let’s make this our Mother’s Day gift to one another, or at least try: let’s stop all of this and just love each other.  Accept that every woman is not going to want to  have the same amount of children that you want or have.  Accept that every woman is not going to want to have children, period. Some people will breastfeed, and some will not.  Some will home school, and some will not. Some will use cloth diapers, and some will not.

And it’s going to be okay.  Because it’s impossible to be a perfect mother, but there are a million different ways to be a great one. Let’s focus on being a great community of moms, of aunties, of willingly childless women.  Put down the sword, swallow the hurtful comment, and banish needless judgemental attitudes from these discussions, and let’s just talk. Mother to mother, woman to woman, friend to friend.