Unsolicited advice. Utter those words and immediately you’ll see moms everywhere rising up to agree with you. They know what you’re going to say. They’ve experienced it, too. Can’t everyone just mind their business?
Well, I don’t know. Do you always mind your own? Have you never uttered a word about another friend’s parenting techniques behind their back? Have you discussed a friend’s birth plan or child rearing that you didn’t agree with?
We all do it. So I’m proposing we get over ourselves long enough to ask why.
In my time spent mothering, I’ve also been a bit of a mother hen in my own friend circle. Most of my friends had children after I did. I’m totally “that friend.” The know-it-all. The joke’s on them though, because I wear that title with pride. Excuse me, but why wouldn’t I want to know IT ALL when it comes to my kids?
Why wouldn’t anyone want to know all they can to be the best parent possible?
Nonetheless, I’ve also been the recipient of unsolicited advice. I too had to learn to handle it with grace. And then eventually I had to unlearn that and really take a hard look at myself and ask why I was so threatened when someone made a suggestion that I wasn’t aware of.
It’s because I didn’t want to be viewed by anyone as not being everything to my child. I didn’t want to be shown up by another mom. How dare anyone imply I don’t know my child best, right? Barf! Come on girls; we’re better than this! And asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
There Will Be No First Place
No one is getting an award here. Not the moms who wait for marriage; not the women who avoid divorce “for the kids.” Not the soccer mom, nor the working mom. Not the friend who was prom queen a decade ago, and not the friend who didn’t get asked to go. What do you get from winning in this case? If you’re able to shut another woman down, silence her, and make her feel inferior to you… what is that feeding to your soul? Who will you become with your soul on that kind of diet? Will she really come out on top? Will it be worth it if she’s on top, but alone?
When you really shift your perspective to see the kind of person you’re actively turning yourself into, it’s not difficult to answer the question of why someone wouldn’t want to engage with you. It’s also not difficult to realize why we keep raising mean girls.
What do you think is really at the root of this desire to fight another mom and win? Is it that we’re just dying to hurt our fellow sister? Not usually. Quite the contrary actually. It’s that we are the injured party. Some piece of us is missing and we’re hoping no one will notice we don’t have it all together if we keep pointing out everyone else’s mistakes. Oh yes, it’s insecurity, and we’re all guilty of it at some point.
It’s time to take off that mask that we hide behind while pretending to be all yogi and zen, and really take a hard look at ourselves.
You see, we aren’t actually annoyed that a fellow friend is intelligent. We don’t even care how she parents, honestly. We aren’t sitting up at night worrying about our friends’ parenting choices. We only care when her technique or intelligence is paralleled to our own. That’s what we’ve got beef with. None of us want to be compared to another mother.
Case in point: When a friend is discussing the flippant advice from government medical organizations on when to introduce peanut products, and you chime in to offer your insight that she wasn’t aware of, she takes offense. Wait, weren’t we just discussing what was best?
No, actually. Friend A was talking out loud, presumably to you—Friend B—about her concerns. And apparently, she only wants you to nod in agreement no matter how you feel. Reality check: are we looking for friends or charlatans? I thought fake was out and real was in.
And is Friend B’s silence actually what is best for our children? If a bestie’s advice could potentially spare your child from a life-threatening allergy, do you really want to opt out of hearing her kind words just because your ego is crowding the room?
Mother knows best worked a lot better in a day and age where moms were optimally informed and not as misguided by everything around them. News flash girls: none of us are immune to it.
You trust your girlfriends to discuss things you don’t even tell your husband. You’re cool with the fact that they know your dirty little secrets. You’d do anything for them. But you won’t take time to learn from their mistakes or soak up the free crash course they can provide on parenting.
You Can’t Sit With Us
In a world where we are constantly complaining that we can’t do it all… a world where we keep insisting it really does take a village… we’ve become so wrapped up in motherhood as our identity that we won’t allow the damn village to help us. Otherwise, we’re failing if we’re not killing it 100%, right? Wrong. That’s not how this works.
We’re competing with the wrong people, ladies. I imagine it’s a systemic problem that is deeply rooted in much more than motherhood. But do you really want to be competing with your BFF? Your sister? Your mother-in-law?
Of course not. Listen, the only way to level the playing field isn’t actually to pummel the other person. It’s to let your guard down and let them in. Let love in. Let them care so much about you that they’ll share with you their own colossal mothering fails so that your child won’t pay the same price their’s did.
Motherhood is linear. We are all growing and evolving all the time. That’s what this life is about.
You can’t have that sisterhood you’re longing for if you aren’t willing to love someone and receive them, as a sister. You can’t make use of the village if you aren’t willing to give and take to build it and keep it thriving it. And you can’t rear children who benefit from that village if you don’t expose them to it. Read again: You can’t rear children who benefit from that village if you don’t expose them to it.
I challenge myself regularly to try to rise to these occasions and be better than the person I used to be, and now I’m challenging the rest of you—my sisters. Next time someone offers advice you didn’t ask for, you don’t even need to be a snarky mama bear. You can treat every person who offers such as a human being. An equal. Someone who wants to share their story with you.
Invite them in. Not just into your home that looks just like the Jones’s. Invite them into your space. Your secret minefield of mom anxieties. Welcome them with open arms even if they aren’t vulnerable. Chat them up even if you don’t know if they’ll like you. You might just make a friend, versus losing one. Because hey, this shit is going to take a village.