Long before I became a mother I was exposed to the “mommy wars” aka the idea that moms believe a certain way of parenting is the best and there’s a war between conflicting philosophies in every form. We’re talking the moms who use formula feel shamed by the moms who exclusively breastfeed, and the those who breastfeed feel shamed for any breast exposure in public, just to name one example. It takes every form of product loyalty vs. distaste, feeding method, sleeping method, learning methods, etc.
I’m by no means a mom expert, I’ve been at this gig 19 months and still learning constantly, but it took years of infertility to learn there was only so much control I’d have in this role to force me into some flexibility and understand that there are different ways for different people. Some of the best parenting advice I was given came from the CEO of my last job who told me you have them and have big plans, and you realize pretty quickly they come as their own person who you are lucky enough to shape and influence to some degree, and you take whatever moments you can to help guide the person they already are to the best decisions and opportunities. He told me the sooner you learn that the more you learn to love the individual and also seize every learning opportunity you get. It was wise, and I remember it often when I realize my toddler has a mind and preference of his own. I may have both crunchy and silky mom tendencies, but I’ve glad I’ve made the connection that different babies need different things, and there’s a lot of ways to skin a cat…errr….raise a child.
Maybe it’s Infertility Awareness Month, maybe it was my interview on The Birth Hour podcast (you can download the episode here), or maybe the fact that Mother’s Day is nigh, but I’ve found myself going back to the thoughts I had as an infertile woman, the thoughts I had as a brand new mom, and the thoughts I have as I try to subtly sideline parent so many nieces and nephew who magically became teenagers and legal adults this past year. And I’m realizing there’s another social awkwardness that clearly I can’t be the only person who has observed, and it’s about Mother’s Day and our treatment of the different types of moms and different phases of moms.
Mother’s Day used to be a very rough day for me as someone who wanted to join the club so badly and felt the sting so much deeper while mothers were asked to stand up and be recognized at church with a flower or candy bar. I appreciated that my church had women 18 and up stand up and be acknowledged no matter what their state in life was, it was awesome to feel included. But I went on to hear someone talk in a meeting how all forms of mothers should be treated the same. And I sat there watching an exhausted mom wrestling seven young children with bags under her eyes and I thought, nope, she deserves a lot more praise today than I do, and certainly more chocolate! I’m not saying infertility moms aren’t moms and shouldn’t be acknowledged, but I am saying it’s not quite the same. I remember a similar event last year when I was a mom of a seven-month-old just hoping to get more than a three hour stretch of sleep at night and thinking how I’d earned a flower or chocolate that year more than ever. In a way, I was still competing with myself, comparing the different phases of motherhood and in a way mommy shaming myself for thinking or feeling a certain way at a certain time. And that’s when I realized I’m part of the problem I’d like to change.
There’s some thought that some phase or state of being makes a mom more of a mom than other times. Or that more children means more of a mom, or that certain types of kids (gifted, special needs, etc.) means you’re more of a mom. And I’m ready to take a step back and just acknowledge there are things that are harder, there are times that are more time-consuming, but that motherhood isn’t a competition or a war, and every mom should be celebrated.
I guess I’m writing this post that’s been a draft for years to share my deep heartfelt thoughts that women in every form should just be wished Happy Mother’s Day, and we should really mean it for moms of all phases. It shouldn’t be the new mommy war of who deserves to be wished Happy Mother’s Day most. I honestly feel like we should just wish Happy Mother’s Day to every form of mom and sincerely mean it.
If you’re someone who longs to be a mother and has waited and hoped for years to be one, you have earned that flower, Happy Mother’s Day. You can cry all you want, you can ache, you can feel, and your pain and longing are valid and your mother heart is heard and your longing felt.
If you’re someone who is expecting, but you feel ashamed to complain about the discomfort because others have it worse, Happy Mother’s Day. Pregnancy is rough, and you have a right to complain and to fully call yourself a mother.
If you’re a mom with a baby and you aren’t sleeping, you’re feeding 24/7 (with whatever was best for you and baby I’d like to add) Happy Mother’s Day. Your sacrifice and non-stop calling to a small child is amazing, and you deserve to know you’re doing an amazing work, you’re doing a hard work, you’re entitled to hard days, and you deserve a flower and a good night’s sleep.
If you’re a mom who has several children and your life has emerged in non-stop motherhood, we bow down and thank you for giving so much of it.
If you’re a mother whose kids are grown and moved on, and you still love and worry about them and their adult problems, I hope you know you deserve a Happy Mother’s Day.
I don’t believe any phase of motherhood or womanhood makes one any less of a mother, and I don’t think any particular phase deserves to the crowning definition. It’s all a title, full of ups and downs and many phases, and for all mothers in all phases, and all mother hopefuls, I hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day!
*Photos by Chrissy Blake