I was sitting at Starbucks not too long ago and overheard two women complain that their friend had nothing to talk about but her child. One “friend” states that this woman used to be fun, but now is quite boring since becoming a mother. The overall complaint was that this woman is now not only boring but also uninteresting. I felt defensive of this woman and wished I could find her and tell her to make some new friends. But as I sat there eavesdropping, I realized there are probably quite a few people who feel this way-not just friends but probably family as well. So I started to wonder, why do we shame mothers for sharing what consumes the most significant part of their day? Most parents agree that parenting is all-consuming, stressful, and the hardest job in the world…why do we have to be silent about it to remain interesting and relevant?
Full disclosure, as a mother of 2 young children and a child psychotherapist, I spend a lot of time talking about kids and parenting, so it’s understandable why I became defensive. And because I also work with mothers, I know that they often need someone to bounce ideas off of or vent about the ups and downs. Most of the women I work with listen to podcasts, read countless parenting books, blogs, and immerse themselves in the latest child development research. These are some smart cookies that have chosen to invest time in their children and do their best to raise happy, smart, and resilient kids. I find these women fascinating and am always amazed at how much they know prior to coming to see me. And then there are my girlfriends, my mama tribe that picks me up when I’m down. We complain about the bad days and celebrate the good. Totally ok to ask if you are feeding your kids too much sodium or admit that you hid in the closet eating cookies for a moment of peace. Because we’ve all been there and we all need human connection.
The more I think about it, I understand that my anger isn’t actually directed towards these 2 women at Starbucks, it is actually directed at a society that devalues mother and really just women in general. It honestly seems as though it’s just another way to keep moms, and specifically stay at home moms down. It’s a sad fact that our society does not value mothers the way that they should. We see it in the way we treat women with regards to maternity leave or in the way we talk about stay at home moms as “just a mom”. But the truth is we should be uplifting women that make the choice to stay at home just as much as we uplift women who “do it all” by being a full-time mom.
Being a mother does not define a woman, but it can be a huge part of her identity. If a mom needs to talk about parenting a lot, perhaps she has some anxiety over a certain aspect or just trusts enough in you to vent. Don’t betray that trust and brush her off -be interested just as you would if someone was talking about an issue related to their career. If you don’t have kids yet and can’t relate, please know that motherhood will humble you, so be the friend you would want to have. Compassion goes a long way, and if you don’t have compassion for your friend or family member that is a problem you need to examine. And to the mama being talked about, please know that I am always interested in hearing about your parenting theories and your craft ideas.