I think within every woman there is a desire to save little creatures. I did not realize this within myself until one afternoon when I witnessed a collie mix locked inside a parked car on a near 100-degree day. As my husband remembers in jest, “Oh, the day you flipped out?” Yes, Sweetie, it was that day.
Something snapped within me at the thought of a helpless animal being trapped inside the subpar conditions of a motor vehicle without any ventilation. Immediately upon entering a nearby store, I found a cashier, explained the situation in one breath, and desperately found myself peering back, between the closing doors, at an animal left to perish. An announcement was made and repeated several times before the owner, angry and scowling, returned to her car and drove away.
I may have never learned what happened to that dog, but what I know is this: I was an emotionally and physically drained middle and high school teacher of three different subjects making $20,000 a year in Silicon Valley (this was 2012, after all). It was also Sunday, one of my only days off. I will refrain from offering more details of the job to maintain relevancy, but I now can see how I was channeling my negativity into an “easy” target: a person that I had never met. Despite what my eyes had seen, I have since been plagued with a sense of overreaction and have pondered if I actually added any goodness to the situation.
We’ve all been there. You wake up to a new day full of potential only to be smacked in the face with reality: an event or a series of occurrences haunts you with a looming sense of “I’ve failed as a mother”.
For me this moment came last week when two mothers, with good intentions I am sure, approached me with “knowing” eyes and a strong verbal reprimand. Their words, expressed more through their posture than their mouths, said, “I disapprove. All mothers disapprove.” In all honesty, it took hours for my confidence and sense of purpose as a mother to return. Unfortunately, these were hours that were also stolen from my children.
I would argue that when we, as mothers, are tempted to step in, save the day, and correct another mother, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is the situation and does it really warrant intervention (i.e. Is it an emergency?)
- Is it illegal? Who is in danger?
- Have I considered time, context, and place?
- Do I really see/hear what I think?
- Will intervening endanger me, or others?
- What is my situation, and what is prompting me to take action?
- Have I had a good day/week?
- Did I get enough/any sleep?
- How are my relationships? Am I misplacing my emotions?
- Can I empathize?
- How might I respond similarly given the time, context, and environment?
- Is it possible to help and lift up this woman, AND am I willing to do so?
- What kind of grace would I want afforded to me?
I am willing to bet that, with practice, we can all learn to position ourselves as peacemakers in the greater battles of motherhood and even make some surprising allies along the way.