I came across a thread on Facebook yesterday in which several women were discussing motherhood – particularly the Mommy Wars. It wasn’t so much about what is the better choice – to be a stay-at-home-mom, or to be a work-outside-the-home mom – but more of a discussion about which is harder – being a SAHM or being a working mom. The general consensus was that both are hard, and that (a) we all need to stop arguing over which is harder, and (b) we all need to stop being so judgmental of other moms.
Awesome, right? A moment of unification.
And then someone said something along the lines of being tired of hearing moms complain so much because whatever moms are dealing with, “it’s better than the alternative.”
Let’s not dance around it – let’s just call a spade a spade, okay? “The alternative” refers to either (a) not being able to have kids, or (b) having a dead kid. So, basically, we mothers should not complain because at least we have kids, and at least we have alive kids.
What a crock.
I’m not minimizing either of those “alternatives,” I’m truly not. I dealt with infertility in my first marriage. I know! Seven kids later, right? Well, it took my first husband and I five years to have Kevin, and during that time, I experienced a pain and a longing like no other. I came to despise pregnant women and women with babies; I had this vague belief that there were only so many babies to go around, and everyone else was taking my share. Anyway, so, yeah, I know how difficult that is. And I’ve never lost a child, so I won’t even pretend to be able to fathom how horrific and life-shattering that would be.
But to use either of those scenarios as reason that mothers shouldn’t complain? It’s just ridiculous. I mean, no matter what any of us have going on in our lives, there will always, always be somebody somewhere who has it worse, who is dealing with harder, more painful things. But that does not cancel out the reality of our own pain and frustration.
I think this notion that mothers should just put on a happy face and not complain and be grateful has historically been extremely oppressive. It isolates and alienates. It’s what generates the competitiveness we’ve all come to know – motherhood as an Olympic sport. Who can turn out the best, most high-achieving children? Who can keep the neatest, most well-decorated house? Who can make the most organic meals? Who can chair the PTA and throw the best birthday parties and keep her husband in blowjobs, and do it all with a smile?
Meanwhile, everyone is popping Ativan and Prozac, visiting a therapist, drinking on the sly, or all three. Because it’s a motherfucking hard act to keep up.
I think moms who dare to complain – who actually say out loud, “This is hard,” or “I’m not always happy being a mom,” or “My kids piss me off sometimes,” are going out on a limb. Because the moment they are honest, the moment they admit that being a mom isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be, it’s pretty certain that someone is going to get sanctimonious on her and tell her she should be grateful, she should see the positive. Someone will come along and throw quasi-wisdom at her that will leave her feeling ashamed and inadequate.
Admitting it’s hard doesn’t mean a mother doesn’t love her kids. Acknowledging that sometimes being a mom actually sucks does not mean she is ungrateful. It means she is human.
Look, I’m not suggesting a butt-slapping, high-fiving kumbaya. Women are funny creatures; our friendships and love for one another can run as deep as that of lovers – and yet, we are so competitive with and jealous of other women, it’s almost pathological. I’m not sure what drives all of that, but that’s a whole other blog post. I am suggesting, though: what if we just listened when another mother complained? Without trying to outdo her with tales of our own hardships, and without suggesting that she be grateful because what she has “is better than the alternative.”
What if we just listened, really listened, and said, “Yeah. I hear you”?