You haven’t really lived as a mother until you have survived your first mommy-shaming birthday party. What does one look like, you may ask. Allow me to offer a few examples of what you might hear:
“Oh, yes, we only use bamboo and wool diapers.”
“Does your child attend the Jewish Montessori preschool?”
“No sugar or food dye for our son!”
Last year our family attended such an event, and I literally thought my ears might fall off from the weight of collective pride pouring into them. Every mother seemed focused on a particular agenda and, if you were nearby, you were going to hear about it.
I think this is part of the bigger lie that our culture projects onto mothers: you not only have to have it together ALL the time, but you also have to make sure everyone else knows you do.
Needless to say, I have never run from a party faster than I did that day.
This past weekend, I helped host a baby shower, and I couldn’t help but ponder how little I knew about motherhood before my first child was born. And yet, I was much more confident in those early days.
In academics, it’s no secret that we are all pursuing knowledge, and it’s generally agreed that the more you know, the better you are at teaching young minds.
In motherhood, however, the opposite seems to be true. The longer you are a mother, the less you feel prepared for any given moment.
Recently, my son reminded me of this truth when, before my very eyes, he accidentally tumbled into a swimming pool at a friend’s birthday party. Despite all of the precautions we had taken and the endless warnings we had offered our son, the unthinkable happened. As I saw his motionless body – just out of reach – sink, my mind reflected on all the moments I have felt equally powerless over the first three years of my motherhood journey.
Miraculously, another mother in the pool was able to save my son before he swallowed any water. And, from the comfort of an oversized beach towel in my arms, a special child excitedly shared his adventure – over, and over, and over again.
In that moment, uncertainty gave life to experience.
Some days we will be tempted to tell the world about our mothering, and others will leave us wanting to hide behind an obnoxiously large diaper bag. I would argue that the sweet spot of vulnerability is somewhere in between.
And, every so often, you will see that little boy – the one whose mother espoused a gluten- and flavor-free existence – devouring a piece of cake smothered with cheap red icing, and you will discover the truth your heart knew all along: the perfect mother doesn’t exist.