A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of calling in to a radio talk show. Stupidly enough, I thought the host, a contemporary of mine in age and many ideas, and I would be able to have an intelligent dialogue. I had forgotten the talent that radio hosts have to turn every conversation on its ear until it follows the tack they had intended for that evening’s show.
I called to counter that ridiculously inflammatory article ‘timed’ to coincide with Mothers’ Day. I said that the issue was not whether this woman should be breastfeeding her child, but that this magazine had the chutzpah to title their article in such a way. As if mothering isn’t a hard enough job on its own, as if women don’t constantly question themselves, and as if some of us don’t already feel tempted to attack others’ decisions to validate our own. There is no need to create divisiveness where there should only be support and camaraderie. For when it all comes down to it, aren’t we all just struggling to make it through as best we know how?
The topic of blogging came up, the host wondering about the now infamous woman from the cover photo’s own blog. I said that while I hadn’t read it, blogs can be an enormous help to other readers going through similar experiences. He said, yes, I can see if you or a loved one are suffering from some rare disease and there is a support group or information on a blog, but a blog on mothering? Sharing your ‘fresh’ experiences on something that has been done down through the millennia?
I felt the fire rise up the back of my neck, but I knew the conversation was over.
This man does not know I am a mother. Who blogs. Who receives enormous benefit from it as I come to grips with the person left in the wake of postpartum. Who has felt like less of a woman because I didn’t do X, Y, Z with my babies and children like I knew other moms were doing. Who has suffered in misery thinking I was so completely and totally alone. Like a failure. Who shares my story in the hopes that other women will not suffer as I did.
And he could never possibly understand.
And that, I understand. This post is not about attacking him. Everything’s relative, this I know. My own husband said, Jen, when he’s a father and watches his wife go through it, he’ll know.
But there are many people who already know. The women – my aunts, my grandmother, my friends, my cousins, women wrangling their children at the grocery store, women struggling to drop their kids at daycare and get to work, women all around the world – with whom I’ve shared my struggles. It took me a long time to admit I wasn’t the perfect mom I tried to portray. But when I did, my confessions were met with nods, knowing smiles, affirmations, similar stories. There is a special bond with these women. A comfort. An unspoken feeling that they’ve got my back – if for no other reason that they’re not going to judge me because they’ve been in my same position.
That’s what women need to share – not the stepping on each other in the struggle for perfection, but the imperfection. That’s the only way we can shatter the idea of ‘the perfect mom’ and end the war for our self-esteem and self-image. Because who the hell are people trying to sell magazines and get radio ratings to tell us if we’re mom enough? That’s up to us and our fellow moms, the women who are all in this together.