If you've glanced at this blog from time to time, you have probably gathered that I was not the most...socially graceful...child as I plugged through my formative years (some of which can be evidenced in this post). I blame my parents, mostly. Between the awful haircut I wore for the better part of my childhood (wherein I was mistaken for a boy 80% of the time - thanks Mom and Dad), being dressed in fashions that NO ONE was following (once again - thanks), and not having any inclination towards sports-related activities, I was a glutton for punishment.
And an easy target for Mean Girls.
Ah, yes. Mean Girls. You know who I am talking about. We've all encountered them: The all-too-popular girls that ruled the school and the playground, with their perfectly sculpted hair (an absolute truism in the 80's and 90's, what with the amount of hairspray we went through) and chic clothes bought from the coolest stores at the local mall. Their mere presence intimidated even the most confident of classmates. Mean Girls traveled in packs, a practice which only served to intensify their power. They fed on whatever you gave them, hungering for others' lack of self-esteem. Every ounce of self-worth you surrendered nourished them tenfold, until they were a force not to be reckoned with.
Mean Girls had an arsenal of weapons with which to harass their prey. They whispered. They stared. They giggled. They started rumors. They called names. They spoke condescendingly about the way you styled your hair or the clothes you wore. They pointed and laughed when you tripped while playing at recess. They poked fun at your lack of athleticism in gym class.
And they rallied the entire population to chant " HEY, Step-on-me!" when you got on the bus in the morning.
I've had my fair share of Mean Girls to deal with. As I became older and more confident, they became easier to deal with. I recognized that, deep down, it was actually the Mean Girls who were sadly insecure, even more so than myself. It was the insecurity and need for affirmation that drove them. They worried more than anything about how people viewed them. They feared public rejection as much as anyone. In reality, even though they would never admit it, the only thing separating Them from Us was a pair of jeans with a designer label.
Having a better understanding of what made Mean Girls tick did not make them any more pleasant to deal with. Elementary school, middle school, high school. Mean Girls were still mean. It was my hope that once high school, in all of its immature glory, was behind us, The Mean Girl Dynasty would fall. Graduation came and went. I moved on to college, followed by the working world, and then Motherhood.
Wouldn't you know it? Mean Girls still exist.
And somehow, they are even worse in the Mom Community.
Initially, we find camaraderie with other Moms. We meet them through playgroups, storytime, preschool or swim classes. We all chat, laugh, and grab lunch together. But it is only a matter of time until our true colors begin to show. It starts with a sideways glance when someone mentions that they formula feed their child. Then it's a horrified face when another mom shares her experience with bed-sharing. Soon, not unlike their 8-year old selves, Mean Girl Moms gain strength from their own superiority. Their ideas and beliefs rule at the exclusion of what other people are doing in their own lives.
Mean Girl Moms: it's their way, or you are a Mom Fail.
It saddens me that, despite our growth, we are not much different than our elementary-school selves. Mean Girls still bite, and less-than popular girls are still bitten. Sure, if you were secure enough in yourself, then it wouldn't matter what other people said or thought. My mom preached this over and over. But it does not make the sting of rejection or being put-down hurt any less. And as self-reflective Moms, we are already second-guessing the choices we make. We don't need a third party chiming in.
No area is safe from scrutiny as a Mom: Breast feeding. Formula feeding. Working mom. Stay-at-Home mom. Attachment parenting. Child-led parenting. Parent-led parenting. TV. No TV. Cloth diapers. Disposable diapers. Public school. Home school. Bed-sharing. Crying It Out. Baby Wearing. Discipline.
The list goes on and on.
I'm going to say something, and I hope it is not controversial:
I do not believe there is a right or wrong way to be a mother.
Gasp. Shock. Awe.
I feel very strongly about this. One of the things that bothers me the most about becoming a mother is the piranha-like attitude that swarms the Mom Community. The judgement. The passive-aggressive comments. The general (yet publicly polite) cat-clawing that arises when we share our thoughts on feeding, sleeping and caring for our children. We can research and implement and read books and garner advice. But in the end, we are all just trying to get along and survive (and possibly enjoy being parents in the process). People need to do what works for them.
I have friends who intended to breast feed their children, but due to certain circumstances, were kept from doing so. I also have friends who never intended to breast feed, and went straight to formula feeding. They were more comfortable with this decision, feeling that not having the stress of trying to breast feed made them able to be better Moms. I have friends who use Time Out, and friends who spank. Some friends feel that letting their baby cry to sleep teaches the baby that they cannot trust their parents. Other friends have found that allowing their baby to cry it out was the best solution to their sleep problems. Some Moms work out of necessity, and spend all day wishing they could be home with their kids. Other Moms stay at home with their kids and yearn to have a career.
Yet, the moment we begin to judge each other for the choices we have made to meet the specific needs of our families, our Community fails. It is no longer a safe place. When we are ridiculed for sharing our experiences or asking questions, we learn not to speak up at all. And that is a lonely, isolated, place to be. How can we be in Community if we refuse to accept one another?
As I asserted in an earlier post, community is an essential part of Parenthood. We need each other, despite how "independent" we claim to be. Mean Girl Moms, at their core, are just as insecure as the rest of us, and in need of affirmation. Perhaps, if we are honest with ourselves, we've all been Mean Girl Moms at one time or another: when we've judged another Mom for her beliefs, spoken badly about another Mom behind her back, or left another Mom out because we didn't see eye to eye.
We are all struggling through this adventure called "Motherhood." So, let's work toward banding together instead of ripping each other apart.
How can we work toward making a better
Community for ourselves and others?
Leave a comment and share your thoughts!