10 Moments That Made Me Realize Motherhood Isn't Universal
When I found out and decided I was going to be a mother, I was insanely excited to be part of a shared experience. I assumed motherhood was pretty much the same for all who decided to enter into it, so I wouldn't be alone in my journey. While I'm not alone, per say, I can tell you that in two years of being someone's mom, there are more than a few moments that made me realize motherhood isn't a universal experience. While we like to say we're "all in this together," as a way of providing necessary and earned support and solidarity, we're not really "in this together" when "this" means different things to different people.
This isn't a bad thing, though, and I'm truly grateful that my life as a mom is vastly different than the life of another mom. We are stronger when we embrace our differences, even if those difference can leave us second guessing our own decisions, choices, and lived experiences. I know that in sharing my unique stories regarding motherhood (whether it was losing a twin at 19 weeks, having a difficult labor and delivery, or making one parenting mistake after another) I have realized that I'm not alone, but I am not sharing my mom-life with anyone else. I'm not the only woman who has lost a twin in utero, had a traumatic childbirth, or made a parenting mistake, but each one of those instances are unique to me given my background, my beliefs, my body, my mind, and every other part of my life that makes me, well, me. It's really an incredible thing, knowing that we can all go through something and feel so many different things about it.
Which is why I, honestly, don't like the notion that we're "all in this together." We're not, really, and that's the beauty of it. We don't have to all experience the same thing, think the same thing, or make the same decisions in order to support one another.
When I Shared My Labor Story
It's no surprise that every woman and every pregnancy and every labor and delivery is different, so it's pretty unrealistic (not to mention, absurd) to assume there's one "perfect" way to bring a child into the world. And while us birth mothers can all share in a few universal truths regarding procreation, there's no way we can all say we've all experienced the same birth.
When I shared my childbirth story with a few mom friends, I quickly realized that even if our births were relatively similar (medicated and vaginal) we experienced very, very different moments. Our team of doctors and nurses, our reactions to the pain of endless contractions, how we were coached, who supported us through labor and delivery, our unique mindsets during the entire process; they all varied.
When I Had To Explain My Pregnancy Was Complicated
Thanks to the media, there seems to be a very narrow view of pregnancy and how it's supposed to look like and/or be. I know that I, personally, had an idea of pregnancy and what to expect. Of course, life had a very different idea. My pregnancy was riddled with complication after complication after pre-term labor scares after more complications.
When I shared my pregnancy story, so many of my mom friends simply couldn't relate. They either had these "picture perfect" pregnancies, planned their pregnancies, or (sadly) lost their pregnancies early. We all knew what it was like to grow another human being in our bodies, but we had no idea what that actually entailed for every other person that wasn't us. We don't know what pregnancy is like, we only know what our respective pregnancies are like.
When My Son Experienced Breathing Difficulties After He Was Born
I heard story after story of mothers holding their babies for the first time, in awe and blissful and just lost in this new world of parenthood. I, however, didn't get to experience that picture-perfect moment. Instead, I was terrified as the nurse whisked my son away,because he had problems breathing. He didn't cry initially and even after we heard a whimper, the doctors had problems stabilizing his breathing. Those few fearful moments shaped the first year of my anxiety-filled life as a new mom.
When My Son Played With My Best Friend's Daughter
While my son is, by definition, just a regular toddler, he is definitely a unique kid (just like every other kid). Watching him play with my best friend's daughter, who is three months older than him, highlights just how different our children really and truly are. And, because our children are each unique in their own right, our lives as moms are very different.
When my best friend's daughter throws a tantrum, I cannot react to her the way I react to my son when he flails and throws and screams. Motherhood, for my best friend and I, is just different, even though we're going through it at the same time.
When I Share Stories With Stay-At-Home Moms
As a working mom, motherhood is a little different for me than it is for stay-at-home moms. We have different schedules, different difficulties, different pros and cons to the way we've decided to live our lives as parents. While there are more than a few similarities us working moms and stay-at-home moms share (and thank god, because solidarity is the best), sometimes it's difficult for one of us to relate to the other.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. As long as we support one another and support one another's individual journey through parenthood, our differences can actually be our collective strengths.
Anytime I Enter An Online Mom's Group
Nothing highlights just how different motherhood is for different women like an online mom group (or an IRL mom group, if you feel like kickin' it old school). From breastfeeding stories to pregnancy to labor and delivery, punishment tactics to how people toilet trained their toddlers; every single woman has a different way of doing something supposedly "universal."
When I Watched Another Mom React To Her Toddler's Tantrum
Ha, just kidding. I have a feeling every mother of a toddler knows the horror that is a tantrum (especially a public one). Some things really and truly are universal when it comes to motherhood. #Solidarity
When I Find The Courage To Share My Own Story...
It can be really scary to share something as important and intimate as motherhood, especially on a larger scale courtesy of social media. With the mommy wars and unbridled judgment that only the anonymity of the internet can provide, you're bound to be shamed for a decision or experience. Still, I would argue it's worth it.
Whether you realize you're not alone in a certain aspect of your parenting, or your eyes are opened to just how different motherhood can be for different people, you will always learn something when you share your story with the world. So, in the end, try not to be afraid of your own voice. It is truly powerful.
...And When I Take The Time To Listen
Of course, truly learning about the experiences of others means listening to the experiences of others. Nothing says, "You're life is not like the lives of others," like listening to someone else's unique experiences. It's truly awe-inspiring, humbling, and worthwhile to know that whatever you've gone through isn't necessarily the end-all-be-all. What works for you will not work for someone else. What you feel or think isn't necessarily the feelings and thinking of others. We are not alone, but we are unique. It's an awesome juxtaposition.
When I Check My Own Privilege
My experiences as a mom are different because I am truly lucky in so many ways. I have a full-time job; I'm in a heteronormative relationship with an involved father; I am Puerto Rican, but present as a typical white woman which affords me a boatload of privileges; I have one supportive parent who would help me financially if necessary; I have a support system of wonderful friends and extended family members. All of those privileges are worth remembering when I hear another mom share her story of motherhood. She might not have the same privileges I do, which will alter parenthood for her and her family.
I'm constantly reminded that it's important for me to check my privileges before I look down, judge, or shame another parent for how they decide to raise the next generation. We do not come from the same backgrounds, share the same life experiences, or even have the same beliefs that shape our views on parenthood. That. Is. Not. A. Bad. Thing. Instead, it's a chance for us to learn from one another, support one another without bias, and teach our children that there's strength in diversity. Motherhood doesn't have to be a universal experience for it to be a beautiful one.