I had an hour’s sleep last night.
Really? Breastfeeding was so easy for me. I never would have given my children formula.
I have (this many) kids.
My child walked/talked/read at (this age).
Oh, that’s nothing. Let me tell you what my child did.
We all have war stories and proud moments of mothering. And, believe me, I have found friendship and community in sharing them. I wear my badges proudly, from twin parenting to difficulties with sleeping, breastfeeding, discipline for strong-willed children. I am proud of my children’s accomplishments; I enjoy sharing them.
But as any mother knows, there can be an undercurrent of competition beneath those stories.
I have overcome more than you.
I am a better mom than you.
My children are smarter, better behaved, more advanced than yours.
I don’t believe it’s always intentional, but it is there nonetheless: that subtle, one-upmanship (especially) between mothers. As if there was a gold medal we were all striving for.
I’ve had these conversations with moms before. I’ve felt the sting of the insinuations. It has lead me to a place where I wonder if I’m less of a mother because I only have 2 kids, not 4 or 5. Do I lose mothering stripes because I really can’t handle puke at all and my husband pretty much cleans up the mess while I comfort the (out of puked-on clothes) child. Two kids, 3.5 years and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been puked on.
I have struggled with feeling like less of a mother, less of a woman, because my breastfeeding experience was not spiritual. If I was praying in the middle of the night, it was through tears asking God to please let these babies go to sleep! I didn’t meet God through my labour experience. I was induced and had an epidural; I didn’t feel the pain of contractions. I don’t remember connecting with God in a special way. I remember being exhausted and thirsty. I remember being sick.
I’ll send my kids off to school in September and not have any more kiddos here with me. Does that make my job easier than the mama who sends off 2 and has another 1 (or 2, or more) at home?
I don’t want to be in a mothering competition.
It pits us against one another and creates winners and losers. It takes the solidarity out of the experience and has us finding ways to trump our neighbour. It removes the freedom to be vulnerable and honest, to reach out for help, to find support. It turns this incredible experience into something cheap and one-dimensional. There is no room for grace.
We probably won’t have anymore kids. Pregnancy was hard for me, and I didn’t love it. I have career aspirations and other goals and dreams that don’t involve a maternity leave and a new baby.
I don’t change diapers right now. My children eat the same food we do. They play together, on their own. And the bigger they get, the more I remember why I work with teenagers: I love big kids. I am a big kid mom. I feel like I’m just tasting independence and freedom, and I don’t want to go back.
Does that make me less of a mom, less of a woman?
I thought it did. Then I remember that when my monkeys are in school, I’ll be at work. Then I’ll be picking up exhausted kids, making dinner, doing bedtime and preparing for the next day. I remember that when other moms were cuddling their one baby, nursing their one baby and putting their one baby to sleep, we were doing that with two babies and it was hard. I’m not saying that parenting two 3-year olds is easy (it’s not), but it is easier than those first few months when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was just trying to keep two little people alive and not lose my sanity in the process. I remember that I am happy that it is a little bit easier now.
I didn’t feel contractions, but I did live on bedrest for 3 months. A lot of my labour is a blur, but I remember the weight of my babies on my chest when I met them for the first time. I remember days that never ended, feeding sessions that lasted an hour and sleeping with a baby on my chest just so we could get some rest.
I hate puke, but I’m the best person in the world at calming down my daughter during one of her epic meltdowns, and I have the magic touch that relieves my son’s growing pains. I’ve stumbled bleary-eyed into their bedroom to prop them up on pillows, get water and rub Vicks on chests when they won’t stop coughing.
We all have stories, and sometimes I worry that we invalidate others’ stories when we try to trump them, try to show how we’ve have it the hardest, how we have overcome the most.
There isn’t a medal. It isn’t a competition. We’re all doing our best, loving our kids, cleaning up messes, trying to keep our identities in the process. One of the biggest lies that keeps us from knowing how beloved we are is the one that says “you are not enough.” And the worst lie that can seep into a mom’s heart is the one that says you are not mom enough.
You are a good mom.
You are the mother God gave to your children, and whether you have 1 child or 7, it doesn’t matter. Whether you had a C-section or natural childbirth. Bottles or breast, super crafty mom or a “crafts make me want to scream” mom. Stay at home, work at home, or work outside the home. You are the best mom for your children. The more us moms can come alongside one another and offer support and cheerleading and encouragement, the more we’ll all realize that we are doing the best we can. In the midst of all our stories, good and bad, is a woman. A woman loved by God. A woman called by God. A woman who is in the middle of the hardest, and most rewarding, thing she’s ever done.
So share your stories. Be proud. Find comfort in someone saying, “I’ve been there.” Walk this rich road of motherhood together. But no more shame. No more competition. We all get the gold. I promise.