Tonight I spent some time reading through the comments on one of blogger Rachel Held Evans’ posts called Why Moms Sorta Scare Me. In it, she shares her fears of maybe someday becoming a mom and having to deal with the advice and competition and waring that moms are so known for. I loved her honesty and while I didn’t think those kind of things before I had kids, if I knew then what I know now, I would have been scared too (we were the first of our friends to have kids, so we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into).
One of the commenters shared that she feared that Rachel will someday get pregnant and then her brain will turn to mush and just talk about parenting all the time. Basically, she was saying- don’t go over there Rachel! Stay with us cool kids.
My response is that if new moms aren’t talking about diapering, breastfeeding, sleeping, poop, etc., I would wonder if there was something wrong. In so many ways, becoming a mom comes with a dose of culture shock, no matter how prepared you think you are or how adament you are that it “won’t be me”. When a couple decides to have a child, they are making a huge decision. Kids are not pets. They are little human beings that God asks us to help shepherd. It isn’t easy. It’s not a 9-5 that can be turned off or turned on. It’s all day, and so yes, moms who stay at home are sometimes very obsessed with all things kids. How could we not be? In fact, there is a name for this. It’s called matrescence.
Matrescence is the transition that women go through when becoming a mother. I’ve only read about it in terms of spiritual formation, but it makes a lot of sense. When women become mothers, there’s a huge shift of life-center. There are physical changes, emotional changes, life circumstances changes, social role changes, relationship changes and identity changes.
They way our culture supports moms through this is appalling. Some groups do this well- the homeschooling community, “crunchy” women, fundamentalists- pretty much all the social groups that non-parents find so uninteresting (at best).
My plea is to give moms (especially of young children) a break. Please don’t call them MomZombies or lament that they are a shadow of their former selves. Because here is a secret:
Those tapes are already playing in our heads.
Many of us feel the tension between wanting to be smart and interesting and so chic. We want to do laundry and diapers and sickness and meal planning and kid researching by day and then be able to talk about all the latest news and fashions and books by night over wine and fondue after we’ve tucked our kids into bed. But the reality is- we are tired. We only have so much brain RPM. We can’t turn our brains off to the things that we are concerned about for our kids. We are sometimes insecure and don’t want to mess up our kids. We’ve never “done this before” and are on a huge learning curve. And every time we think we have it down, something new happens that we haven’t encountered before so we research it instead of reading CNN headlines. It can be intense.
Admittingly, a few super human women can do it all (as some of the commentors expressed). But most of us can’t. Nor should we have to. And perhaps these superwomen moms shouldn’t.
So for those outside of parenthood, perhaps instead of grieving our “old selves”, you could…
1. Don’t stop calling. Be our friend in this new season of life. Embrace our kids as new members of our community. Welcome them as if you would welcome anyone. Come over and play with our kids because when you play with our kids, you are loving us too. In fact, perhaps you’d be surprised by the interesting conversations and faith discussions that happen with a 4 year old.
2. Bring us a favorite book of yours and offer to take the kids for the afternoon while we read it. We’ll treat you to Starbucks after the kids go to bed while we discuss it.
3. Catch us up. Not on everything, but send us an email with a link to something you think is important for us to know and then ask us what we think about it. Not everyday. Maybe not every week. But sometimes.
4. Invite us out. Perhaps we can’t come every time, but we will come occasionally.
5. Ask us about how we’re doing or our opinions on various things and then listen. It won’t kill you. And perhaps if it has something to do with babies or preschoolers, you’d learn something new.
6. Celebrate our accomplishments. We do a lot in a day and not a lot of people outside of our husbands notice. I’m pretty sure every mom could use a little ego-boosting.
7. Change the subject. If we’re talking too much about ourselves or our kids, PLEASE figure out something else to talk about and we’ll be happy to follow you there. Sometimes we just can’t think of another topic so our default is ourselves.
Parents need their non-parent-friends. Hopefully non-parent-friends need us parent-friends too. Our kids are not obstacles to friendships, but additions to our community. Let’s grow and walk through all of it together and hopefully we’ll better learn what it looks like to love.