Do I have a wish, prediction, or message for Baltimore’s future? Well, maybe it’s more like a hope.
I mulled over the question of this wish at my favorite coffee shop in the suburbs, while I tried to convince my two-year-old that we were not in the ideal place for her to practice her lion/dinosaur/monster impersonation at a volume certain to be heard by the fine people down in Florida. Remnants of her meal were scattered across the table and floor. She didn’t appreciate my shushing and dramatically threw herself down, screeching in a very toddler-like manner. “No, No Mama! NO!”
My eyes scanned the room out of nervous habit. Who was annoyed? Did I need to leave before my latte was finished?
My eyes landed on a group of moms in the corner. All young, all blonde, all impeccably dressed. They all had sleeping babies in their arms and I could see their wide eyes sliding over to my daughter’s display. Their faces seemed to scream: “I would never let my child act this way in public!”
My face flushed. My mind was spinning. I shouldn’t have come here. I should know better than to take a two year old out like this. No, I should have come here. How else will she learn how to behave in public?
I found myself glaring at my diaper bag as I fished around for the wipes so I could start gathering up the mountain of crumbs on the floor. What gives them the right to judge me? Future suburban soccer Moms, with their brand-name clothes and impeccable hair. I felt ridiculously out of place in my chucks, worn jeans and Target tee. We were nothing alike. They didn’t understand me and my life problems. How hard could it be, with their perfect appearances and their perfect lives with their one and only child each and their little support system of each other.
And then… and then I had to walk past them to throw my trash away.
I awkwardly shuffled past the group to the trash can, keeping an eye on my toddler who, for the moment, was happily sitting in the high chair, coloring on an old receipt.
I found myself listening to their hushed conversation, wondering if they were talking about me and my terrible fashion sense and my atrocious parenting.
I heard fragments of sentences; concepts floating over to me across the aisle. Loss. Infertility. Breastfeeding troubles. Fear.
Nothing about me.
It was never about me.
Most moms will tell you: Mommy Wars are real, and they are, indeed, wars. Formula vs breast, cloth vs disposable, working vs staying home; wherever there is a choice, there is a line drawn in the sand. As parents, we spend so much time figuring out what is right for our children and our families, we often feel shocked when another parent chooses differently: Whose judgement is wrong?
Each mother has her own set of circumstances, histories and preferences. It’s natural that we seek out others like us, a tribe of support.
Social media thrives on forcing us to choose a side. The Mommy Wars are no different than political arguments, with each side declaring why they are right and everyone else is wrong. As we sit behind our screens making our snap judgments, it’s all too easy to forget that there are genuine, real women on the other side of this war.
When you take away the internet and erase the lines in the sand… magic happens.
I had the opportunity to experience this first hand when Baltimore hosted Listen To Your Mother. A group of women walked into the rehearsal room as complete strangers. Each shared her story, and by the end they were close friends. Each of us represented different races, classes, experiences and backgrounds. Together, we learned that the motherhood experience as a whole is far more unifying than how we fed our infants and whether we co-sleep.
Who hasn’t sat up at night, rocking a sick infant and worrying yourself through the sunrise? Who hasn’t trudged through a day covered in every bodily fluid imaginable, barely able to keep your eyes open but knowing you need to care for these little people for 6 more hours until bedtime? Who hasn’t broken out into a grin when little hands clasp the back of your neck in a tight hug?
Our society, our culture, tells us we are different from each other. And different is uncomfortable because it makes you wonder… if we made different choices, does that make one of us wrong?
But there is no actual wrong or right. It’s right for me and right for you. And when you look closely at us, we really aren’t different at all.
Back in my favorite coffeeshop with my screeching toddler, I was so afraid of the idea of being judged by the other group of moms that I judged them even more harshly in return. Like it or not, I perpetuated the Mommy Wars.
So my hope for Baltimore is that instead of focusing on what makes us different as mothers, we figure out how to celebrate motherhood together. Support each other. Help each other.
Because this motherhood gig is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and if I know one thing, it’s that I’d rather we had each other’s backs instead of talking behind each other’s backs.