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A couple of years ago on Mother’s Day, I shared a call to peace in the mommy wars and to step into our power as moms and women.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a shift. The “war” between working moms and stay-at-home moms seems to have calmed a bit… maybe we’ve realized that we’re all both! All moms work, whether outside the home or in managing a household day to day. And moms who work outside the home leave their hearts home with their children and are forever divided in their attention.
But even though the mom wars have calmed, we all don’t seem any less stressed. Every mom I know has more on her plate than she knows what to do with. Every mom I know is looking for ways to simplify and optimize just to get some peace and space.
Is this just the way life is? A stage that will pass? Or is something about motherhood today off balance?
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.
Do Moms Need More Than a Day Off?
Flowers, cards, and some time “off” is welcome and appreciated, but what do moms need on a deeper level?
I don’t think this question can be answered without recognizing that motherhood has changed a lot in a generation or two. We may have moved past the mom “labels” for the most part (I hope), but mom guilt seems like it’s sticking around.
I know I still struggle with it. When I’m working, I feel guilty that I’m not spending time with my family. When I’m with my family, it’s hard not to let my mind drift to all the things I need to do for work.
This amazing time in history lets us have it all… a career, a family, relationships, etc. But it also puts pressure on us to do it all. Statistically, moms are spending more time working AND more time with their children. We’re all working more, sleeping less, and often more stressed.
But what’s at the root of it? I have a guess…
One major thing has changed in motherhood in the last few generations is the level of support. Of course there are exceptions and this can vary based on where we live and how much family we have nearby, but overall, we’re trying to do more with less support.
And that is the one thing we all seem to need and want the most right now! Real community and support. So today, I’d encourage us all to consider a few things…
What We Agree On…
While it’s easy to focus on the things we disagree about (often vaccines, parenting, food choices, etc.), the truth is that we agree on a lot of the most important stuff.
Like the fact that we all love our families dearly and want to do the best we can for them. That if we’re being honest, we feel like we’re failing at that some of the time… or even a lot of the time.
That motherhood may be the most fulfilling thing we’ve ever done, but it’s also often the most exhausting.
This applies no matter what stage of motherhood we are in. If we are single moms, stay-at-home moms, working moms. We all feel it and we’re all in this together.
Mom Guilt Isn’t Fun
It’s easy to focus on the stuff we don’t agree about. Or to staunchly defend our choices… maybe sometimes to convince ourselves that we’re right. This can lead to a lot of mom guilt, but this is a two-sided act and I’m going to propose a counter-intuitive solution…
That we actually get better about talking about (and hearing about) the parts we don’t agree with. Here’s what I mean…
I’ve heard several examples from friends lately where one expressed an opinion about something and another disagreed. The first friend felt that the other was “mom shaming” her because she stated a different choice or opinion.
But here’s the problem…
Disagreement isn’t shaming. In fact, our world needs more examples of people being able to have different opinions while maintaining love and respect for each other.
Moms are incredibly powerful. Our everyday actions shape the next generation. Our buying decisions shape markets.
Let’s use this power to set the example in another way…
Moms Are Amazing
Moms are incredible. They care for the little people (and oh yeah, grow and birth them too!). They care for their loved ones (all of them), work, volunteer, cook, clean, learn, teach, decorate, listen, drive, organize, coordinate, celebrate, and basically keep all the wheels of life moving.
It doesn’t matter where or how you work or how successful you feel… odds are you work overtime (and care tremendously while you do it).
So if we’re so amazing, why don’t we feel like we are most of the time? How do we get rid of the term “mom guilt” forever?
I don’t have the perfect answers to these questions (apologies if you were hoping for that). But I do think the key to breaking the cycle lies with us.
What We Can Give Each Other This Mother’s Day
We could talk for hours about the support moms need from their kids, their partners, the workplace, and the culture. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb when I say that improvements could happen in all of those areas. For moms (and women in general) to thrive, everyone needs to take responsibility for their share of the balancing act.
And we haven’t quite figured this out as a culture. Case in point: how many times is a man asked “how they balance it all“? (Probably the most common question I’m asked by men and women alike…. here is my answer if you’re interested.)
Without getting into all of that, today I just want to focus on the gifts we as moms can give each other, no matter what path we travel.
It boils down to this: While we figure out this brave new world of mothering, let’s have each other’s backs!
Here’s what I long for (and am trying to work on myself!):
#1: Recognize That Different Opinions Don’t Equal Judgement
Moms are vulnerable to a constant input of opinions from all sides. Nothing like putting your thoughts out into the blogosphere for 10+ years to teach you this one!
We live in a world that seems designed to incite us to have strong opinions about everything. Social media allows for debate (ahem, full-blown battles) on a wider scale than ever before. Motherhood and parenting topics are no exception, as we debate on every topic from car seats to meal choices to discipline.
There certainly are important things that warrant strong opinions and action. But let’s start from a perspective of considering that we could *perhaps* be wrong, or at the very least that we could learn from someone else. From there, let’s be in each other’s corners even (especially) when we disagree. And let’s also stop taking it personally when someone else doesn’t share our opinion!
It takes strong mental and emotional boundaries to be able to take in different ways of thinking and filter out the worry that an opinion is a judgment on our own life. And I’d argue that it’s a skill that we as moms need more than ever.
#2: Model Respectful Conversation Even in Disagreement
I’m not suggesting that we water everything down and avoid important conversations. In fact, I’m suggesting the opposite! Rather than shut down difficult conversations, let’s learn to do it respectfully so we can learn from each other.
There are a lot of things I don’t know and only a few I’m absolutely certain about… but one thing I do know for sure is that love, kindness and respect are things we should give freely to every single person.
In a world with so much pain, division, and hostility, we need to all become a gentle army who can say honestly and to anyone we meet “I love you and I respect you” without any qualifiers. Who can be kind to everyone, even when we disagree with them. Who have the courage to be able say “I fundamentally disagree with you, and I’d like to have an open and kind discussion about this topic while maintaining mutual respect.”
Is it possible? I think so! We may have to break some engrained habits and it may take some practice, but what better to model to our children…
#3: Acknowledge What We Have in Common (& Talk About It)
The thing about moms, is we all share a vocation — motherhood — but sometimes not too much else. We’re an incredibly diverse group! We don’t all look the same, talk the same, or think the same. Not even close.
Our differences are easy to notice. Still, there are plenty of things we share. We all worry about our kids, our health, our families, our careers, and whether we’re doing it “right.” We all feel insecure. We also all do a lot of hidden work that no one ever sees or acknowledges.
It can be really easy to admire another mom, to see what she does well, and to never say anything about it all. Let’s start saying it! It only takes a second to compliment another mom and improve her whole day, if we can only look for and seize the opportunity.
After all, who else can understand what we’re going through and what we need but another mom on this same crazy ride?
Similar to my gratitude alarm, I’ve started setting a daily reminder on my phone so I don’t forget pass on a positive comment to a friend, a coworker, my own mom, another entrepreneur, or anyone I can think of who deserves some extra acknowledgement. This practice has made me realize that I am often already recognizing the good in others mentally, but need to start verbalizing it as well.
Bonus: Working on this habit has made it easier to speak kindly to my husband, my kids, and even myself.
#4: Seize Opportunities for Real Connection & Community
As moms, we’re given a lot of advice about “leaning in,” slowing down (aka “enjoy every moment!”), and “washing our faces.” These are valuable perspectives, but I’m starting to realize that what I need most as a mom is to let other people in.
In other words, more than anything, moms (and our entire culture) needs real and meaningful community.
I get it… we’re busy. We exchange thoughts, feelings, and information on social media and through texting all day long. In this wonderful and crazy modern world, the days where we live in the same neighborhood where we grew up, surrounded by extended family and friends, may be gone for most of us. And we are feeling the effects as parents.
The fact that things have changed doesn’t make authentic community any less important… it just means we have to be more intentional about cultivating it.
In today’s world, community might look a little more like a dinner club with friends. Or a moms’ night out group. Or in our case, a neighborhood that feels like a small glimpse back into earlier decades and where kids roam freely and zip around on bikes under the watchful eye of friends we love.
Get rid of the word “busy.” Reverse engineer the schedule and build in times to connect. Forget the clean house or the fancy snacks. Easier said than done, I know, but it is so, so needed and worth it.
#5: Most of All, Moms, Let’s Have Each Others’ Backs
If the mommy wars have ended, it’s time to rebuild.
Until the world figures it out, let’s stand in the gap for each other. Let’s look for the opportunity to slay mom guilt and replace it with affirmation and support.
Let’s push ourselves out of our comfort zones and not be afraid to learn a new way, a new opinion, a new skill.
Let’s stop ourselves when we feel threatened by what another mom is doing well and take a deeper look at why…
Let’s put down the to-do list, flip on the porch light, and let others into our messy, imperfect lives.
Moms have a unique power to shape the next generation, and we can make a difference for the women trying to “do it all” after us. I firmly believe being vulnerable is our new superpower, and a huge gift we can give to other moms and in turn, our daughters.
Those are my thoughts, but what do you think moms need most? I’d love to have this conversation!