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let’s skip the mommy wars

Susie I

She has that look — a shell of the formerly vibrant, social woman clinging to her last rope, reaching for a shred of hope as the overwhelming waves of chaos crash toward her again.  I know it well.  She’s usually in the back row of my parenting presentations, or quietly listening at the moms’ social outing, and she needs someone to tell her things are going to be okay. 

She may be the mother of a colicky baby, a defiant toddler, a learning-challenged fourth grader or a rebellious teen.  She may have wonderful, well-adjusted children but still feel completely overwhelmed by it all.  She also might be a he, of course, who feels like he’s the only one out there forging uncharted territory.  She might get paid to work (or not), but it doesn’t matter.  She loves her child with every ounce of her soul, and she treasures those moments of joy, but she still feels like she can’t pull it together like all the other parents seem to do. 

I know this woman because I have been there.  I am she, and she is we, and we need to do a better job reaching out to that person. 

Parenting is one of life’s most rewarding and toughest challenges, and anyone who says otherwise is not telling the whole story.  Yes, some flow through it more naturally than the rest of us do, but I don’t think it was ever meant to be easy.  Perfect parenting is a myth.  June Cleaver and Carol Brady do not exist in the real world, and the SuperNanny doesn’t even have her own children.  The difficulty isn’t necessarily bad: parenting is a great opportunity to for adults to stretch and learn beyond our imagination, and working through tough challenges is an amazing way to grow.

But I don’t believe we’re meant to face that challenge in a vacuum. We need a friend to hear about our latest episode and offer ideas to face the next one. We need someone to help us see the long view and assure us that we didn’t scar our child for life this morning. We need a frequent reminder that kids are resilient, that our mistakes are forgiven and that next time, we will respond better. We need a friend who pulls us out of that ocean of diapers and tantrums and shines light on the moments we can laugh about and celebrate. We can’t expect all that from one person: we need a community of grace.

So let’s make a pact to skip the judgement, finger pointing and mommy wars. Let’s stop competing over food, child care, schools and activities. Let’s reach out to one another and offer support.

What if we sat next to that woman in the back row and listened to her story? What if we reached out to the parent whose child misbehaves in school? What if we remembered how hard it is to simply get out the door with young children and congratulated that mom for a job well done?

Just for today, let’s stop pretending we have all the answers. Let’s hold back our judgment and encourage one another. It will make a huge difference to that struggling parent. And I bet it will make your day a little brighter too.

It works for me

Creative Commons License photo credit: Béni Rivière

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13 comments to let’s skip the mommy wars

  • peter j power

    CUDOS! (from a single father who struggles).

    ‘at-a-boy’s make the day feel worth it when they are randomly received. I think that everyone of us should carry 3-5 ‘at-a-boy’s around with us and hand them out throughout the day until they are gone! Soon, it would be second nature, everyone (giver AND receiver) would feel better, and the world would be a better place to live in.

  • Thanks so much for this. I don’t understand the competition, this is the hardest job any of us will ever do. It seems like we should be holding each other up, not tearing each other down.

  • I love the phrase “community of grace.” I try to do that with my writing…it’s so important to stop judging each other for our choices and instead, pray for and encoruage one another. Parenting is so difficult, and each mother and family is different. Thanks for writing about this!

  • pam

    Thank you so much for your feedback, Lori!

    Peter: I’m so glad you resonated with this post, and I love your ‘at-a-boy’ daily allocation idea. I’ll have to try that. So simple.

    Heather: I totally agree–we need to hold each other up for the sake of ourselves, and most importatly, to model it for our children.

    Dena: Thanks again. I’d love to catch up with some of your writing, and yes, all of us could use a little extra prayer for one another.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. So often I run across blogs and websites where it appears everyone has it all figured out – the perfect life. I agree with you – reaching out to other moms in their time of struggle is so much more productive.

  • pam

    Catherine: Thanks for stopping by. This definitely is not the place to come if you want to meet someone who has figured everything out ;-) !

  • Amen! Thank you for these soothing thoughts. I have a 2-year old and honestly, before I got pregnant I was looking forward to not having to be in competition anymore (I don’t know where I got this notion…) I thought that once I became a mom, I would join a group of women that were supportive and loving and accepting and while I have found that I found it incredibly overwhelming how critical and competitive mothers were: are you breastfeeding or giving formula? are you staying home (gasp) or going back to work (gasp)? do you have a nanny or a daycare? do you make your own babyfood or buy that jarred junk!? It was/is mind-boggling! I am grateful to have joined a few small groups of women that are strugglers like me, imperfect like me.

    Dena: I also loved the term “Community of Grace” and hope that I can not only benefit from one… but give back in one.

  • pam

    Jessica,
    Thanks so much for your feedback! It always suprises me how much time we women spend justifying our choices by one-upping each other. I’ve lived the lives of a full time working mom with two kids in day care, as well as a stay at home mom, and there are certainly benefits and challenges to both worlds. It’s tough enough to find the right balance.
    Let’s turn things around by doing our part wherever we can.
    Thanks again!

  • Amen, I love this. I go from a day of almost thinking I’ve got it together straight to a bluubering mess in less than a day. But I know I have been judgemental of other mom’s, I hate admitting it, I don’t want to be this person. I want to shower people with Gods grace and love. Thanks for this post, I needed to hear these words.

    Cha Cha

  • pam

    Cha Cha, you are definitely not alone! I think it’s time for all of us to admit it and turn in another direction. Thanks for chiming in.

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  • I really like the idea at the end–what if people really did sit in the back row next to that man or woman and listen? We all have a story. What if we would truly listen to understand, appreciate, commiserate, and encourage?

    Also, I love how you followed this post up with the next one, offering specific things we could say to a friend or even to a mom we don’t know who happens to be having one of those moments.

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