Life often traps us in middle school. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World, explains that the social struggles that plague girls today linger long after high school is over.
Like maybe even, years later, when they follow us to the park with a newborn.
Fear of acceptance or rejection.
The need to appear indifferent and resilient.
The desire to sit at the best lunch table with the trendy kids. Turns out motherhood can dish up the same drama. Sure, we are older and supposedly wiser, but have you ever found yourself nervous about approaching another mom for conversation? Ever hesitated to host a playdate in your disorganized house or to drive the carpool in your messy van where chicken nuggets have established small villages under the seats?
As women, our culture has us locked into eternal competition at very young ages. From America's Next Top Model to Martha Stewart, underlying mantras of perfection garnish our days. And can we all agree that June Cleaver threw us under the bus?
Motherhood, rather than calming our fears, launches us into an entirely new arena of competition. One of the mentor moms at my MOPS group (in her 50s) once said to me, "I feel sorry for you girls these days—not only do you have all the old baggage of keeping up that we once did, you have to still look hot too."
How do I measure up?
Even though I am a mom, do I look too mom-ish? Is my child keeping up?
Have we met all the designated milestones? Are we in the right preschool or programs?
Have we been doing gymnastics since the womb in order to make the US Olympic team?
Let's pile on a few hoops, shall we?
A good friend, while nursing her newborn, once asked me, "Do I look like I know what I am doing? Like I deserve to be a mom?" We want to look like we can manage. We are wired for relationship and connection and yet are pitted against one another. Our educational systems rank us, our socioeconomic status can cripple us. Our labels precede us.
Labels like "single mom," "working mom," "at-home mom," and "military mom" identify our realities but can also leave us unfairly isolated. Children with special needs or unique situations bring life-changing questions to the table that are often misunderstood or flat-out ignored. Terms like "older mom," "teen mother," "blended family," or "adoptive mom" fly around our social circles, often landing with a sting.
Most of us know the heartache that comes from careless assumptions, judged for what appears as truth rather than the honest reality of our very hearts and souls. And yet we still crave connection. That is good news! The very design of our lives is to be together in life-giving relational circles. To find a daily rhythm that makes space for others is one consistent cry of a mother's heart.