A Call To Experienced Moms
Lately, I’ve been noticing a divide between new(er) moms and experienced moms. It’s probably because I’m walking the line between each role. My youngest is nearing 2-years-old, so the concept of me being a “new” mom is quickly fading in the rearview mirror as we drive straight into true childhood territory. Having an almost 2-year-old means that I am still aware of the new sleep training techniques, feeding recommendations, and safety requirements for babies. I am, however, also pushing my limits on being able to remember the finer details of the real agony that newborn motherhood can sometimes be. On the other hand, I also have a 4-year-old which gives me more “street cred” in the experienced mother category, but 4 is still too young to say that I’ve walked through the fire and emerged unscathed from this period of my personal motherhood journey. As I make the transition I am starting to discern this distinct dissension between the new mom and the experienced mom groups.
Motherhood, for some, has almost become a game to play; and the experienced moms are the winners. They have made it to the finish of this very monumental chapter in life and survived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, the new moms are still navigating the tumultuous journey - pleading for a hand to reach out and take hold of them and pull them closer to that finish line. Then, I see it. These experienced moms with their superior attitudes looking on with a glimmer of evil in their eyes. I obviously exaggerate, but only slightly. These experienced moms seem to think that giving any real concrete support makes their win less impactful, less meaningful, less important. As if the success of other mothers takes away from their own personal victory.
The experienced mother is someone who has been there and done that. I’m not talking about a mother who is old but instead, a mother who has children who are older. Surviving the newborn phase, navigating the turmoils of toddlerhood, and accommodating the developments of younger children are a thing of the past for these moms. They are the mothers who have been in the trenches of parenthood, are master diaper changers, have navigated countless tantrums, and have overcome many sleepless nights. Experienced mothers have earned each and every one of their badges, scars, and stripes, and are taking on new parenting challenges that come with maturity and wisdom.
When a new(er) mom comes seeking advice from someone who has gone through this shared experience that links us all, no matter how uniquely different, experienced moms must stop and take a moment to slip those pretty little rose-coloured glasses off. To the experienced mom: give yourself a reality check prior to offering up some advice. Far too often, moms who have come out on the other side like to remind new moms that they will too. “Don’t worry, many women have survived this. You will too.” Could this possibly be any more belittling? I also cringe when I hear experienced moms compare the worries of new moms to the worries they currently have. “If you think that’s an issue, just wait until you have teenagers.” Or the exact opposite, empty words of false encouragement you often like to offer up as some sort of half-hearted promise that isn’t at all supportive. “It all gets better in time.” It shocks me when experienced moms say “enjoy every moment, they fly by” as if this is exactly what they did. Alluding to the idea that they never had moments, hours, or days of absolute unrelenting intolerance for all that motherhood was expecting of them. And these snippets are just a small snapshot of the unhelpful advice that I have heard been tossed around.
If a new mom is coming to you, chances are she needs to hear the truth and she needs to hear it compassionately. She wants to hear that it was intensely hard for you too. New moms want to be given strategies that are practical and possible. They want advice without feeling like your way is the only correct way and that any other chosen path is doomed to lead to failure. New moms want to feel less alone in their journey. Try, “I know it is difficult but” or “I remember how hard that was for me and I did this” or how about simply just agreeing that it can be a really intense time and will likely push the boundaries of your limits far too often. Your experience is invaluable and the path you have forged can help new moms to do the same. Even if your experience wasn’t identical, showing empathy and the ability to walk in another mother’s shoes will help you to see what they are needing, asking, and begging for you to provide.
Motherhood shouldn’t be an individual battle; we should be a united front. Experienced moms who aren’t willing to assist new moms, or aren’t able to put themselves back in that timeframe and see what it is that is truly needed, leaves each new mom generation to reinvent the wheel on their own. The generational mom gap hinders overall progress. Having the ability to understand that the world changes and so too does motherhood is a good place to start. Remind yourself that having a kid doesn’t make you an expert on any other persons’ child. At the very least, try to recall what it was really like - not what you have dreamed up the early years of motherhood to be but the true reality that it was.