Motherhood is sublime chaos.
At 30 years old, my daughter hit me like a brick wall.
I was just starting to find my footing in my career when this handsome, intelligent, and (sometimes) difficult man — who is soon to be my husband — landed in my life. And shortly thereafter, so did our daughter.
I couldn’t have imagined, or custom built, a better four-year-old if I tried. She’s creative, articulate, and compassionate. She’s also shy, calculated, and insistent. She rides horses and loves ballet, but also can’t pass up a mud puddle, a four wheeler ride, or a sloppy kiss from every dog we meet on a walk.
She’s my best friend and, in my mind, a small piece of perfection in this crazy, crazy world.
I’ll say though, just because I’m grateful for every moment spent with her doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.
It’s about tantrums, sick days, and coordinating schedules and always coming up short of hours. It’s about balancing her palate with the food guide pyramid and hoping we strike a deal. It’s about bedtimes that are negotiated later and later every night.
But it’s also about smiles and snuggles and laughs — the deep belly kind that you only share with people who really get you.
They say motherhood is all about balance. But if you’re a mom — no matter what kind of mom — you know that balance doesn’t truly exist.
When you’re focused on you, the laundry is piling up and the kid(s) is (are) having a fit because their schedule has been disrupted and their anchor isn’t there.
When you’re focused on them, emails and phone calls and bills and dishes are ever growing.
As a society, we shame mothers for every little thing — like they don’t already shame themselves.
We judge them for going out for a meal with friends to breathe after a new baby comes, for breast or bottle feeding, for sharing too many photos or not enough, for giving too much screen time, for letting them play too far from our reach or not far enough, and for an endless amount of other factors that are, truthfully, none of our business.
We should be kinder to mothers — new ones and our own.
For stay-at-home moms, we talk about their “not enoughness,” all while they’re isolated and at times slowly going insane working a 24-hour shift to do the best and be the best for everyone.
While on the other hand, we equally and harshly shame working moms for not being there — while also paying them 80 cents to a man’s dollar.
And for either mother, we apply an insane and unfair amount of pressure to go back to “business as usual” after they either get sliced open to bring a new life into the world or go through an equally traumatic “regular” birth.
In the best case scenario, we allow a working mom about two months to bond with her new alien being, before shoving her back to her desk and we give dads a few days of paternity leave before stay-at-home moms are left alone to fend for themselves. In these scenarios, we do a huge disservice to women by acting like a serious and deep emotional and physical change hasn’t occurred.
What we should be doing is lifting mothers up because they are the foundation of society.
We should be patient, kind and accepting of those who are going through it, and understanding, gentle and appreciative of those who have gone before us.
Because there are our moms to consider too.
I was at a Women’s March in Pittsburgh last year when I saw a young woman holding a sign that said, “Still marching for the same sh*t as my mom did.” And she’s right.
Our moms raised us in an equally hostile and confusing environment. They did it well because we came out the other side thinking it wasn’t hard or appreciating just how hard it was.
I’m grateful for my mom because she taught me how to be strong and hold my ground, but also that there is merit in being an empath and feeling things.
My mom was a big believer in family dinners, was there to wipe the tears shed after school because of the mean middle school girls, and gave me the freedom to express myself in high school, even though it meant I was wearing baggy pants with reflectors on them and listening to punk rock music. She has evolved into an even more amazing grandmother, who is fun, loving and generous.
My mom went through the back-and-forth of having a job she loved and feeling like she had to be there for me, so I wasn’t a latchkey kid. Now that I’m a mother, I’ll never take for granted the fact that she chose me over her dreams.
But should it ever have to be a choice?
I implore you to honor the dreams, resolve and decisions of mothers.
Stop asking them if they’re going to have more kids.
Stop telling them how to raise their babies while you’re in line at the grocery store.
Stop commenting on moms’ social media posts if you don’t have anything nice to say.
The next time a judgement wells up, I invite you to shift the narrative and say something positive or just smile at a mom.
What every mom really needs is a cheer squad. A society that says “you’ve got this” and “we have your back.”
I’ll start by saying — Happy Mother’s Day, sweet mamas, you’re everything.
Katie Weidenboerner is assistant editor of the Courier Express.