Women United

I’m hearing from all corners of my digital world lately that women are tired of the divisions we create amongst ourselves and that we need to step out from under these shoulder-heavy labels and come alongside one another, banding together1.

I’m not talking about politics.

I’m talking about friendship. (Although the examples I’m starting with relate to motherhood, this is broader than that, oh women-without-children. I’m getting there.) Both online relationships and in-person interactions.

It can be tough to advocate for what you feel is right or best without cutting down people who chose differently, but we need to find a way. Can’t we promote breastfeeding without ostracizing mothers who couldn’t or didn’t for whatever reason? Women who, say, adopted, shouldn’t be made to feel less like good mothers because they didn’t breastfeed their babies. Although we may philosophize that c-sections are performed more often than they need to be, let us not forget that there are so very many factors that lead up to such decisions (if they’re even decisions). How a woman gave birth (or if she even did so, physically) does not have much, if any, bearing on what kind of a mom she is. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, OK? We’re all doing the best we can, given our circumstances, education and support structure. Which isn’t to say that people who choose differently than I do are less educated. There is (often) no one absolute right choice, it can vary depending on the players and the situations.

Why do we criticize the women who chose to go back to work after having children (or look down on those who stay home)? How do we have time to fight with each other about extended breastfeeding when we’re so busy caring for our families? I, for one, have enough mother-guilt without other moms adding to the heap.

And as bad as moms fighting moms is, this is broader than that, too. We’re so caught up in all the decisions of motherhood that we (usually unintentionally, but still) exclude and wound those without children. I know that happens because I’ve experienced it. And I’ve watched it happen. Friends, please know that as happy as I am to be in the Mother Club, I still remember the pain of being outside that group. I will never intentionally draw that exclusionary line or inflict pain.

I am so grateful for the friends who, when they took that step to motherhood ahead of me, were sensitive to my growing pain and talked about more than their children. Please know that I still have interests (even passions) outside of my offspring. As much a part of my daily life as my son is, he’s not the only thing. We can find other things to talk about. 🙂

Let’s be open and honest with each other — keeping some topics taboo certainly doesn’t help the situation — and try to be mindful that as many differences as we may seem to have, we’re all human and have more in common than we have differences. Let’s encourage one another and come alongside as we can. Let’s lift up our sisters rather than tearing them down. We’re in this together, and I think we can make our collective loads lighter with even something as simple as a kind word.

Have you experienced this pain and/or the balm of encouragement? What stepping stones do you see in the path to unity?

1 Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. Sarah Bessey. Several of the Ravelry forums I frequent. Rachel Held Evans. Lisa-Jo Baker.

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16 responses to “Women United

  1. I think this gets better as you age. I had some definite opinions in my younger years but have come to realize that, most of the time, there is no one right way to do things. I agree that most people are doing the best they can and most children will turn out just fine. Your child will not be scarred because of some minor decision you made and, believe me, most of the decisions are minor.

  2. Oh Hannah. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t always know how we get there–how we can break down those barriers, but I do think that recognition and talking are the right place to start. And the mother-guilt. Yes–I know just what you mean. Motherhood is tough enough without all of the external worries and woes. I so appreciate you putting this into words.

  3. I never felt the judgement more acutely than when I became a mother. Even more so than when I was seriously considering having no child at all. I appreciate the different views and how passionately women, including me, feel over certain issues or choices we make, but it doesn’t mean anyone else’s choice is wrong or less than our own, just as you said. It upsets me when women are not more supportive and respectful of each other.

    I imagine many hurtful words are spoken without the intention to wound. And that is something we need to be more cognizant about. I know I would never mean to oastracize anyone and if I have, I hope the person I have offended would feel comfortable enough to tell me so.

    Thanks for this post. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. People are so quick to judge, not taking into account how unique each of our circumstances and experiences can be.

    I do think we need to talk and share our experiences with one another. We can benefit from other perspectives and take away from them what we need or want. I WANT to have those kinds of conversations. I just wish we could leave the judgement behind.

    I

    • “I imagine many hurtful words are spoken without the intention to wound. And that is something we need to be more cognizant about.” YES. This was something I was thinking, but didn’t get included, somehow.

      The conversations are so important, aren’t they? I always intended to share my birth story, but so far it’s been too rough for me to revisit to that extent.

  4. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    I don’t know why this happens but sometimes I guess people just feel the need to affirm that the choices they made were right while putting everyone else down. And sometimes I know it comes from just like..the joy and love of life (having children) that it’s hard to fathom someone might not want all the things you have.

    but I agree it is always better to love. Great post!

  5. When both of my boys were born, I went back to work. When my daughter was born, I stayed home. All three times, I perceived that there were those who felt they were better than me because they had made other choices. I nursed my daughter for a year, I didn’t nurse one of my sons at all (he wouldn’t have anything to do with it) and I used both a bottle and breastfed my oldest. And somehow, every time I got the impression that there were people who thought I was wrong.
    I do wonder if some of what drives us apart is as much what other people actually say as it is what we hear them saying. Women tend to hear things negatively, I think. When someone said to me, as I nursed my daughter, “isn’t it weird that you have plenty of milk this time?” what I heard was “I’ll bet you could have nursed both of your boys if you would have wanted to.” In retrospect, I doubt very much that is what she meant; it was my own insecurities at play.

    Thanks for bringing this up – it’s always good to be reminded to think carefully about what we say and how we say it.

    • I’m sorry you experienced that.

      At least for me, I think you’re right. I know I’m prone to hearing a much more negative version of what people say, at least sometimes sometimes so much more negative that it’s really not at all the same thing! The filter I hear through can get pretty skewed, unfortunately.

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m loving the conversation.

  6. Pingback: NaBloPoMo | Iris on Books

  7. This is a fantastic post. You said it far more eloquently that I could have. Mommy guilt is something that I am all too familiar with. I am really working on being less judgmental. I would love to live in a world where we are free to talk about things currently considered taboo and to seek support from others, free from ridicule.

  8. What a beautiful post with a valid worthwhile message. Hugs to all.

  9. Wonderful post! And I agree with Kathy that this is something that sometimes gets better with age, as people become more aware of all the shades of grey surrounding their opinions. 🙂

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