The moment you reveal you’re pregnant, you’re inundated with people telling you it takes a village, find your tribe, join mom groups, find play groups. Basically, surrounded yourself with moms.
I did none of this, and I couldn’t have been happier.
They say to connect with other moms because only they can understand. Only moms can give advice you can trust. Only moms can commiserate.
When I got pregnant with my first, I was in grad school (for clinical psychology with an emphasis on children, so I don’t have a “guide,” but a really, really good idea of what to do). My group consisted of the oldest person in our cohort, three moms, and me (the only married and childless person in the cohort). They supported me throughout my pregnancy and offered advice. But most of our time was focused to helping each other survive grad school and find balance between our personal and professional lives.
Until I started blogging last year, that was my last contact with a group of moms.
Oh, I had my mom, aunts, cousins, and my sisters-in-law. But my only frequent contact with a mom was my mom, who sees motherhood has an individual journey where every mom wears her own shoes. Basically, everyone parents differently and it’s none of her business.
For the first 3.5 years, I was a stay-at-home mom, though I did spend a chunk of time working with children with autism. We enrolled our son in classes that put us in contact with other moms and kids. We went to playgrounds and libraries and my son ran away from the other kids. But as an introvert who is slow to warm up to everyone, I never belonged to a mom group, never made mom friends.
I’m sure there are some moms who might be horrified at the thought. After all, only another mom can understand you, validate you, and offer “real” advice. Seriously, as a childless grad student, it was occasionally my job to provide parenting advice and strategies to parents (that worked! And we did have some grateful parents).
I have two best friends that I’ve grown up with. They know me. They understand me. They validate me. They sometimes ask questions that get me thinking. I have my mom who will always give advice when I ask, along with telling me everything everyone said would work that didn’t work on me. Sorry, Mom.
But, you know what? I’m glad I isolated myself from other moms for 3.5 years, and I’m reminded every day of this every time I read a mom blog.
The comparison. The mom shaming. The judgment.
For 3.5 years, all of that was absent from my life. I got to focus on my kids, getting to know them and their particular needs without someone else hovering over my shoulder. Pure bliss!
When my son turned 3 and was nowhere near potty trained I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, didn’t feel like he and I weren’t measuring up to thousands of other kids. When my daughter was 6 months and waking every hour, I didn’t feel pressured to sleep train. When my kids throw their rare public tantrums, I don’t give a flying fig about what someone else is thinking.
I spent 3.5 years not comparing myself or my kids to anyone else. I spent that time getting to know my kids and their particular needs. I became confident in my ability to parent. I combed through hundreds of pages of links, compiling information and dozens of ways to reach the same goal to shape something that would actually work with my kids.
I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to be so hard that we’re supposed to reach for wine bottles…by the case? I don’t know; I don’t drink! I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to leave me feeling guilty and in tears and questioning every little thing I did. I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to have me begging for me time, a day at the spa, or just one opportunity to go to the bathroom alone. I didn’t even know there was a divide between working and stay at home moms. I didn’t know motherhood was supposed to be simultaneously filled with overwhelming love and joy at these small humans and near-crippling fears of am I good enough?
I knew motherhood was supposed to be exhausting because I watched my mom raise 3 of us, and my brother and I were 2 under 2. But she raised 3 to my 2 and was later diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, so I always think I have it easier.
Yes, I am tired. But, to me, motherhood is easy. When my kids get rowdy and earsplittingly loud, I smile, remember they’re just kids with lots of energy I’m envious of, and grab a piece of chocolate for that sugar boost. Getting to know who they are as people has been an honor and privilege. Finding the source of their tears and tantrums is my job, as sometimes a meltdown is the only way they can communicate their frustration, anger, and sadness when they lack the vocabulary. Finding fun ways to get them to do what I want them to turns into silly games, and teaches me a lot about them. I had no idea my son was so competitive!
If I had followed the same advice and guidelines that inundate moms every day through the Internet and, hopefully, well-meaning people, I would be bald. If I had compared myself to other moms, I would probably be in a padded cell. If I had subjected myself to judgment and shaming, I would be swimming in my tears.
I don’t believe motherhood is hard. I think being a mom wading in a sea of other moms is hard.
By isolating myself from other moms, I became confident in my mothering abilities, got to know my kids and their particular needs, and am able to tailor what I do to what they need. Overconfident? Heck, yes! I spent the majority of those 3.5 years without real mom contact working hard to be the mother my kids need. I know them better than anyone else. So, yes, I am 100% confident in myself as a mom and you’d better believe I’m a perfect mom. My kids tell me so with their hugs, kisses, laughter, and love. And clinginess.
By surrounding myself with other moms, trying to fit in with them, trying every technique they did, I wouldn’t be all of the above. I wouldn’t be the mom my kids need. I would have been putting everything other people deemed best on them.
Isolating myself from other moms for the first 3.5 years of my motherhood journey was the best thing I ever did. I felt zero pressure to do anything a certain way and at a certain time. My kids are sweet, silly, creative, polite, and rather well-behaved in public at almost 2 and 5. They reach milestones on their own terms, when they are ready, and they know I will always challenge and support them.