Fellow mamas, I come to you with a proposition... no, a plea. That's the correct verbiage, here. I am pleading with each of you as I sit here in my sweatpants staring down an insanely large pile of laundry...
Stop. Shaming. Millennial. Moms.
Stop doing it publicly.
Stop doing it privately.
Stop doing it in an attempt to show us how ridiculous you think we are with our cell phones and our Starbucks and our yoga pants. Trust me. We are painfully aware of our own stereotype, but it comes with coffee and cute photos of our kids, so let us mother in peace.
Stop doing it in an attempt to display how the woes of motherhood we face today are feeble in comparison to having to boil glass bottles and use cloth diapers. Your struggles were valid then, just as ours are, now. Plus, all the really awesome super moms are back to cloth. At least the ones who care about the environment.
Stop shaming millennial moms...
...because trust me, we shame ourselves enough all on our own.
Allow me to dig in. Pardon the spilling of the guts and potentially offensive tone here, but these are words I feel need to said into some open space.
I have been wading knee-deep through messages of shame in my own motherhood journey since the day I peed on the stick. In studies about womanhood and ties to shame, the vast majority of shame-filled experiences recorded by adult women surrounded...you guessed it, motherhood.
Today I am voicing these flawed and false messages aloud, as the only way shame wins is if it remains unspoken.
Let's decide here and now that shame, that we heap on ourselves or onto other women as projections of our fears, doesn't get to write our motherhood narrative. Not anymore.
For those of you unaware, the rules and appropriate behaviors permitted for mothers today begins in pregnancy. These expectations are often referenced in conversations when shame-as-motherhood experiences are discussed.
From how much coffee you have to what kind of meat you can eat, and don't even get me started on the cookie dough and wine withdrawals. Sleeping on your left side, kick counts at 30 weeks, and you of course need extensive monitoring every month by your OB. Remember, two liters of water a day, moderate exercise, and keep your weight gain in the target range for your BMI. Then you'll need to plan for an induction if you hit 41/42 weeks, and embrace the reality that 1/3 babies are delivered by c-section. Did I mention you only need an extra 300 calories per day? Hold off on those brownies, mama.
Don't even get me started on the epidural debate.
I mean, do you even love your baby if you get a spinal block? Just slap some of those new-fangled essential oils on your contracting uterus and give birth in a field like the olden days. Women have been doing this for thousands of years, in case you forgot.
And once you have your sweet little newborn, give 'em a blanket and let them cry themselves to sleep. No one needs those pesky video monitors, breastfeeding aids, or multiple trips to the lactation consultant. You just nurse your baby like a normal mom unless you drop the F bomb. Formula, that is.*
And what's with all the sharing on the Facebook? And the Instagram? I mean really. No one wants to hear all of your questions and complaints about being a mom. Every other generation suffered silently until the kids when to college.
These are the messages I have received. Loud and clear from society at large and actual women in my vicinity. These are the inner workings of the outer voices at play for young moms.
Hear me out, on behalf of millennial mamas who are new to this.
Your experience as a mother is fully valid and fully worth sharing. But it is not and will not be the same as my own. If I am asking for advice I am doing so out of respect for the wisdom you carry in hands that have rocked babes for far longer than I. I also do so often out of desperation because this mom stuff is hard and I have permission to say that it is hard.
I believe we need to recognize, as we crazy millennials are procreating, that the pressures facing new moms are both staggeringly unique and also damningly heavy. We've gotta talk about this, and cut each other some major slack.
The societal platform mothers stand on today is a scary one. Often times it feels more like a stage to be judged on that a season to be well lived in.
Armed with information at the touch of a finger, we are expected to know things previous generations of mothers did not. Scratch that--we are expected to know everything. And do everything. And look good doing it. And have a blog. And great hair.
We have been set up as mamas to have the rug pulled out from under our shaky feet. Taught to have all and do all, as feminism has afforded us the right to; society somehow devalues our work as mothers and also expects us to fulfill the role without complaint.
The work of a mother is not valued.
The struggles that mothers are facing, and boldly sharing, are mocked.
We are told, either verbally or otherwise, to keep our mouths shut and be thankful for our kids.
"Good moms don't complain" is a message frequently played on my own shame tape, for your reference.
Having experienced the growth and general dominance of internet based knowledge, mothers feel there is no good excuse to not know somet--everything.
We are confronted with stories and posts and viral messages about mothers whose children passed while they were sleeping, because someone forgot the monitor or left the cord too close to the crib. We are warned not to take baths that are too warm when we're pregnant because it could lead to neural tube defects. We ask a million questions and are sold a million baby products to answer them.
We are conditioned to question everything we do because our lives are constantly being broadcasted and ignorance is no longer a valid excuse.
We're all just one screw up away from being THAT mom on a viral video at McDonalds.
We are afraid of using the cheap baby food because there could be lead in that convenient pouch, and maybe that organic purée isn't actually organic. Better make it yourself.
The sunscreen we use better cost half a car payment, lest we give our toddlers skin cancer and all the toxins known to man.
Those sippy cups with the spout are no longer optimal for oral development, in case you didn't read that article. And which nipple did you get for those bottles? There are 20, but there's just the one that's both closest to real breastfeeding and also is best for strengthening the oral muscles.
Don't forget about baby led weaning, teaching sign language at 4-6 months, and the rigorous sleep training at 15 pounds. There are several methods and books on that topic alone, if you don't hire a sleep consultant.
And those developmental milestones that pop up on our cell phone app every few weeks to remind us how our kid doesn't measure up? They send us to Dr. Google wondering, fearing, that something is deeply wrong.
These are worries we carry. Please don't judge us if we lose our balance as we walk with them on our shoulders.
To put it in perspective, these are the roads my own shame tapes have lead me down in the previous 23 months since peeing on the stick:
"I took a really hot bath last week, the internet said that could cause long term neurological problems. Did I just mess up my unborn babe?"
"I'm throwing up 20 times a day. My doctor says it's just morning sickness. All of the other moms said it's normal and I should stop complaining. I guess it must be ok."
"Ben's poop has been green for 4 days, should I call the doctor? Ask another mom? Google?"
"Breastfeeding hurts and I'm cracked and bleeding. Ben isn't gaining enough weight and the doctor says he needs to show improvement by tomorrow. I am a terrible mother."
"I'm tired all the time and can't think straight. If I was better at this mom thing I wouldn't mind it so much. I'd be able to power through it."
"My friend looked so much thinner four weeks after she had her first. I'll never get back into my old clothes."
"My friends kid communicated by signs at 6 months. Ben can't even get a cheerio to his mouth. Is he showing early signs of physical delays?"
"I just quit my job to stay home with my kid. What a waste of an education."
"I just accepted a new job, what kind of mother doesn't stay home with her kid full time?"
Trust me, this list goes longer and deeper than I care to admit.
On behalf of weary millennial moms, I say the following:
Yes I use a video and audio monitor. I like to see my kid sleep and know that he's safe.
Yes I take approximately 1 million trips to Target a week. Other moms are always there and I enjoy the momraderie I encounter.
Yes I share the mess out of photos of my kid. He's cute and it really hurt to shove him out of my body so I want something tangible to show for it and remind myself it was definitely worth it on the hard days.
Yes my 15 month old knows the proper way to hold an iPhone. If it comes down to choosing poop smeared on the walls or a content babe during a diaper change, I'm handing him the phone no questions asked.
Yes my kid watches Netflix. And?
Yes I google literally everything. I'm a first time mom and this is 2017.
Yes postpartum depression is real and no it is not the baby blues.
Yes I am deeply satisfied in my role as a mother. I am also deeply satisfied in my field of work. My relationships. My creative pursuits. My days off when the kid goes to daycare and I regain my sense of personal wellness.
Yes I am endlessly proud of being a mama. I am also inundated with images, blogs, and Instagram posts on a daily basis of women who look like they are better at being moms and even have a better time doing it. Their houses are cleaner and far more aesthetically pleasing. Their food looks tastier and is probably from an organic farmers market. Their hair is done and they wear makeup on a daily basis. They're flat out rockstars at this motherhood gig from where I'm standing.
I embrace and acknowledge that those messages we see are often far from reality, but they are still present in our immediate space with great frequency, skewing our expectations and adding to the snowball of shame.
To you brave, fellow mamas,
I'm already combatting the voice of shame enough as it is from my culture and my own head. I can only imagine that you are, too.
Let's not add any more collective volume to those tapes. Let's replace them with open conversation. Encouragement. Life giving words that breathe hope into the early days and dark days and poop covered days.
We can drown out the voice of shame by making it known and by calling it as the falsehood that it is. I'll call yours out if you call mine.
That's the kind of motherhood narrative I want to see.
And to the fellow mamas who have been here, done this?
Hear me out. We want your wisdom. We want your advice. What we don't want is the judgement or condescending tone or eye rolls that so often accompany our concerns that feel legitimate to us. Let us be new to this. Let us be panicky. Let us Google. Let us gram. Let us blog even if no one reads it.
And to all the mamas rightfully entrenched in their own views of what's best for their littles? You do you. I'll do me. And we'll support each other with kindness, respect, and compassion in the process.
Are you with me?