Okay, so…. I’m gonna be honest. I’m not a mom like you. When people talk about parenting and they say, “moms like us” and they wish they had more moms like them to talk to, they’re not talking about me. Not because I’m trying to stay on the outside, it’s just… I know that while we may have some things in common, common isn’t same. Now, I’m no stranger to this world of being an outsider, it’s pretty much where I’ve been living since birth. It all started when I was a child… *que dreamy flashback music*
No, I’m not actually going to tell you my life story. But, I will quickly sum up to tell you I related more to Sally Stitches than Barbie, my dream house was on 1313 Mockingbird Lane, not in 90210, and yeah, the “two Coreys” were super dreamy and all, but I actually spent an entire summer crying over the death of a vampire with a faux-halk from Santa Carla. Yep… weird. Toldja.
The thing is, now that I’m a parent, I’m STILL weird. I realized it pretty early, when my friends couldn’t understand that I didn’t want to take my child with me to parties where there would be alcohol and loud music. I realized it when they couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that I didn’t want to pay a babysitter to be able to go out and drink with them. I realized it when their eyes glazed over as I told them we were co-sleeping and that my baby wouldn’t take a bottle, so I didn’t make him. When I chose to stay home instead of returning to work, I was set apart once again… when I filtered what they watched or what WE watched around them, once again, I was one step farther away. I’m a conservative parent for the purpose of bringing up children with innocence, compassion and inner strength.
Before children, I was just a weird person, a liberal-minded woman who was part of a few different subculture groups. Now, I’m a conservative parent with liberal-minded ideals and absolutely no one has a clue what to do with me.
After laboring over the reality of my lack of “mom tribe” for some time, I’ve finally come to an important realization about being the weirdo of the group. When it comes to family, I spent a whole lot of years pretending to be something I wasn’t to make others more comfortable even though it made me miserable. I kept that up for years and I fight the tendency to swallow my words, hide my true self and allow people around me to believe it really had all just been a “phase”.
But guess what? It wasn’t. (Yeesh, that’s actually hard to type!)
So, now that my children are old enough to pick up on things and learn from my actions and words, I’m catching myself and internally cringing every time I’m purposefully not being honest about who I am. Do I want them to learn that? Do I want them to feel ashamed of their interests when they are around people who don’t like those things? Do I want them to learn that I cannot risk disapproval becuase I’m lonely and need friends, so I pretend to be something I’m not when I’m around certain people, or that I leave out huge parts of who I am becuase I worry that I will lose people if I don’t?
No. I cannot teach them these things. I understand that the needs of my own, tiny family are more important than the opinions of those who do not live under the roof I pay for. What they need is a mom who won’t be afraid to be honest about who she is, what she believes and wants out of life. They deserve a mom who is okay with standing up to people and doing the right thing, even if that makes people uncomfortable.
What I’ve realized is I don’t have anyone in my life who is just like me, who actually agrees with every facet of my parenting style or is completely open to all the research I’ve done to back up the choices I’ve made, but here’s the thing, guys…
That’s okay. My children deserve a mom who doesn’t need a tribe to survive if lying is the only way to get a seat in their circle. What’s more; I deserve to feel good about who I am as a parent and not rely on the opinions of others to validate me. What’s even MORE important here, was the realization that those women who are different are still my friends! I can still respect them even if they’ve chosen options I wouldn’t have for myself. I can still enjoy their company and I can love spending time with them. I can have real, lasting relationships with them as friends – even if we don’t both put our kids in school or to bed before nine or whatever else.
Everyone is a weirdo in some way and we all worry that no one will accept us if we are honest, but I just wonder… maybe if I were honest, I’d find there WERE actually others more like me than I expect. Who knows, right?
I know we all do this, though. Every single one of us, even the ones we look at and think are the super popular, trendy moms with loads of friends and stroller buddies… even they worry about someone finding out just how weird they are. I bet as you were reading this, you were considering all the ways in which you are kind of a weirdo parent, too. Maybe you were considering the differences between how you and your best friends manage your households and maybe you realized, possibly for the first time, just how different you really are and… Wow, isn’t it amazing you can still be friends?
We judge a great deal in the mom world – we see parents who do things differently. We assess their skills and choices by evaluating a 10 second interaction in a grocery store or on the road and we think about all the ways we would have done things differently.
The mommy wars are born out of these differences and how we react to them. We make the choice to condemn without context. We make the choice to assume we know better before we even ask them if there is some way we can help to better understand. We offer suggestions and advice before it’s offered and we blanket-solve problems that are unique per child, per year, per household, per culture… We assume if someone gives us advice, that must mean they think we are stupid and we misunderstand the rejection of our advice by taking it personally when a mother says, “thanks anyway”. We allow the rejection of unsolicited advice to affect our egos and we retaliate with further judgment. It continues the cycle, only making things worse when it doesn’t have to be this way.
The reality is, we are all weirdo parents. Honestly, I promise that we are, it’s just that no one wants to talk about it because everyone is afraid of being judged or cast out by friends who don’t understand. I guarantee you there is something your friends won’t share about themselves because they fear your reaction.
Working moms, bottle feeding moms, breastfeeding moms, baby-wearing moms, co-sleeping moms, un-schooling moms, private school moms…We are all outcasts in one way or another and none of us are safe from the scrutinizing eyes of every other person out there.
Can you do it? Can you be honest and accept the honesty of another mom without feeling the fire of judgement build up behind your eyes? Can you do it and calm your desire to fix or teach or correct them and just give them support, or a hug or a latte if that’s what they need right then? Can you watch their baby in THEIR parenting style, not in your own because you respect their differences? See, it’s the judgement that makes us feel like a tribe of one – not that we don’t have people nearby. We HAVE to be willing to not only honor the weirdos in ourselves, but honor the weirdos in others.
Being the best at being who we are as women, as parents, as humans, being open to always learning, growing and changing as we move through each year of motherhood is something that should be easy… but cannot be until we make it safe for mothers to be honest without fear of judgement.
So, let’s share confidence by being confident. Keep doing what you know is right for your family and don’t be afraid to share what that looks like to others. If they don’t agree, so what? You already knew you were an outcast anyway, right? So, no loss… just keep moving on and doing what is right. Becuase it’s not about what the other adults in your life see in you, it’s about what your children see. What they need from you as a mother is always going to be more important than what some other, random mom might think of you. (I learned this the hard way, when my baby was watched by a friend who didn’t respect my parenting style and he was treated in a way I did not approve of… I was too afraid to speak up and disagree, to speak up for my baby and to honor what HE needed most. I still regret that.)
So, please mamas – Revel in your weirdness. Honor the weirdness in others. Find strength in your unique version of motherhood and never forget the one question that should always be asked above all others; “What does the smallest voice, the one who cannot answer for themselves, need most in this moment?”.
All my love and support to you on this wild and defining journey called motherhood.
An un-schooling, extended breastfeeding, attachment/natural parenting, essential oil using, anti-sleep training, co-sleeping, goth/hippy, ultra-geek, glitter loving mama tribe of one who loves you and your babies. I promise to support the choices that are best for your family, even if I don’t understand and yes, even if I don’t agree.