Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Mommy Wars: Just let it go

I'm going to break away from the twinsanity for a minute on this post, and it probably won't be very popular, mostly because I may be alone in feeling this way. But I wanted to chime in on something that's getting a lot of attention lately: The Mommy Wars.

What I have to say is probably not what you've heard before. At least, I've never heard it before, and that's why I wanted to speak up. What I want to say is, I don't get it.

I just don't get what the fighting is about. I mean, I get it — moms are judging other moms, and some leave feeling superior while others leave feeling insecure and beat down — but what I don't get is, why are you mommies letting it get to you?

Hear me out: I know that "just letting it go" is so much easier said than done. I know that although we may have heard and said a million times, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," we have all been deeply wounded by words, by glances, whispers, and opinions. Words, whether spoken or not, do hurt, and can scar. But what I'm about to say next is very important:

Non-physical pain can only hurt us if we let it. 

This is not an empty phrase, some mantra I cut and pasted from a self-help book. This is a truth that took me years to believe. And I do believe it, with all my heart. I absolutely know that it's true, because I've spent just as many years learning to heal non-physical pain without anyone's help but my own, in spite of the people and circumstances around me and despite brain chemistry that tells me I am incapable of peace and happiness.

So I'm going to say it again:

Non-physical pain can only hurt us if we let it.

Yes, it is easier said than done to "just let it go," but believe me when I say that learning how to let things go will change your life. I don't mean in a vague, "This is a nice way to live" kind of way, although that's true, too. I mean it will literally change everything about yourself, because it will change your outlook on life, the people around you, and how you feel about the person you are becoming.

I promise you this: If you focus your energy on letting things go instead of on the hurt, you will be a different person, one who feels love and patience for others, no matter how frustrating their actions may seem. You will feel confident in your own actions and be able to cut yourself some slack when you're not at your best. You will be ready to try again tomorrow, because you will not hold onto the mistakes of yesterday except to learn from them before leaving them behind. You will not be blinded by the faults of others but instead be eager to see all that is good in them, and you will be much more capable of helping to bring out those shining qualities. And because of this, the people around you will seem to change before your very eyes.

How exactly to "just let it go" is for another post, because it could probably fill an entire book. And I am no expert, I have just walked the path and learned how to do it for myself. I will share my experience another day, but for now I'm going to get back to the Mommy Wars.

Here's where my opinion is not going to be very popular.

The fact is, some mothers are better than others. It's a plain truth that's easy to see when you read of a drug-addicted mom who leaves as many dirty needles as dirty diapers lying around the house. Even outside of extreme examples, this is still invariably true. But from my perspective, rather than engage in the wars and the pity parties and the backbiting, I believe my time is better served learning from the mothers who are better than I instead of tearing them down or being jealous of their accomplishments. So much of what I know about parenting (which, as a relatively new mom, is admittedly not a lot) I've learned from other mothers, and I am so grateful for their ideas, experiences, and wisdom. Without it, I'd still be in that newborn-phase fog, unshowered and wandering around in my pajamas wondering how to survive from day to day.

On the other side of the coin, just because I can learn a lot from other mothers doesn't mean I have to be exactly like them. Diversity in motherhood is a beautiful thing. I can get 10 good ideas from 10 different mothers — and even 10 ideas of what not to do from moms who aren't at their best — and use them to enrich my situation tenfold. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet of life lessons, free for the taking ... but there's a catch.

When we take the good, we have to let go of the bad. This means that when I learn something great from another mom, I can't beat myself up over the fact that I have been doing it wrong. It is not a judgment on my character or my abilities as a parent that someone else figured it out before I did; and even if another mother tried to make me feel that way, it doesn't mean I have to believe it.

The best part is, I know that I don't have to be everything to everyone. I don't have to be crafty and stylish and an amazing chef and homeschool my kids and teach them to read by the time they're 3 and have clever, exciting dates with my husband every week. I can work on the talents I have and maybe try some new ones, but if I'm not great at making tissue paper pompoms or refinishing furniture then so what? I am who I am, I like what I like, there's room for improvement when I'm up for it, and that's the end of it.

As long as I am truly doing the best that I can, that is all that matters. And truth be told, I'm not doing the best I can every minute of every day, because I'm human and have some really rough times, too. (Full disclosure: While writing this article I stopped and yelled at my son for banging on the bedroom door when he should have been taking a nap. This is real life, folks.) But I know that I can always try again, and life will get better and I will be better and my son will be happier and better off.

In the end, no one else can make me feel bad about myself without my permission. That's another cut-and-paste mantra I believe, because it is also very, very true. Once the words leave someone else's mouth, it's up to me to decide if I'm going to let them go or hold onto them indefinitely.

So are you going to learn from other mothers, condemn them, or condemn yourself?

It's entirely up to you to decide if you're going to get caught in the war.

Now that I've gotten to the end of my message, I realize it's been said before by someone so much more capable than I, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I'm going to leave that with you, and a beautiful visual reminder from My Sister's Suitcase:

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