The other day I saw this post on a local Mom’s Facebook group I belong to:
“Is crying in your car on the way to work totally normal on days you feel like your failing at mom life, housework life etc? Asking for a friend…….. “
The responses from the group were overwhelming and unilateral: Yes. Yes, it is normal. Yes we all have those days. I am grateful that a site like Facebook gives this woman a safe space to be able to reach out for her “friend” (she later admitted it was for herself, no shocker) and hear from others in her shoes. Because the thing is all moms have been in those shoes – maybe you’re wearing them right now, sobbing into a glass of wine on your couch or reading this while you’re up late nursing your baby or between screams of a toddler tantrum or…. you get the point.
While I’m glad this mom turned somewhere to ask the question, why didn’t she ask her friends? I am sure this woman has friends. I took two seconds to check when writing this post and she has over 1,300 friends on Facebook, and I am assuming some of them are real friends, and real moms. The post on the Facebook group isn’t anonymous and the group has 11,000 members, so she was exposing herself to more people than her friend group by asking it on that page vs. her own Facebook page. But for many women, for many people, really, its harder to say your truth out loud to people you know vs. people you don’t.
I am an oversharer on my Facebook page about my parenting struggles, which is how this blog came about. I’ve admitted weakness, anxiety, depression, resentment – all sorts of fun stuff. I’ve asked questions I thought were fairly benign that based on the answers showed a stunning lack of awareness on my part (trying to force my daughter to brush her teeth with fluoridated toothpaste even though she hated it so much she gagged and ended up vomiting was definitely not my finest hour as a mom). In other words, I’ve been real. But a weird part of my defense mechanism as a person is to call out my shortcomings before someone else can. So I share my shame. But I think for a lot of moms the mom shame burns inside of them, and they don’t know who to turn to to confess.
What I want to encourage, what I hope this blog and my Facebook posts encourage, is the idea of being real with the moms in your life when you are having trouble. I know it’s not in everyone’s nature to share, and it doesn’t need to be done so publicly, but you need to find your support system. Whether it’s your mom, your sister, your best friend, a new friend, a stranger you meet in a store, you need to tell your stories, good and bad. You need to ask for advice. You need to cry, and be ok that you cried. You need to know that you are not alone, that your feelings are not just yours, and that we are always stronger if we do this together.
I used to be judgy before I was a mom, and even for a while after I became one. I won’t say that I’ve gotten over it completely, but what I’ve learned from mom confessional sessions with friends and strangers alike is that we’re all just trying to make it through this. You want to judge the mom who co-sleeps? Maybe her child has terrible nightmares that wake her up ten times a night, and mom is a zombie at work if she has to jump up and go into her kid’s room every hour so for now it’s easier to be able to just roll over and hold her tight. You want to judge the mom who is bringing special food to a birthday party for their kid instead of having them eat pizza and cake? Maybe their kid have such severe food aversions that the doctor told them that the next step if they can’t put weight on him is a feeding tube, and so they are just trying to keep their kid fed with one of the three foods he likes. What about the kid you see in the store screaming and hitting his mom? You want to judge her for not having control over her kid? Well maybe he’s on the spectrum, and he is feel overstimulated by his environment and mom needs to just grab 2 more things on her grocery list before she takes him home otherwise there won’t be anything for dinner tonight.
In other words, we are all struggling, we all have our secrets and we are all just doing what we can to get by. Even those of you who love being a parent and find the experience to be like riding a magical unicorn through a fairy forest must experience moments of doubt or anxiety or exhaustion. So tell someone. Tell me if you want, but tell someone. There’s a good chance she’ll have advice, support, a similar tale, or a nice glass of wine to take the edge off.