Yesterday, in the grocery store, I saw a mom with a new baby. A new-new baby. A baby so new the mama wasn’t even walking right yet, if you know what I mean. This mama looked different from me. You know, camo to my patchouli sort of thing. She sounded different from me, slang to my grammar sort of thing. I saw her walking in and know that she rides different from me, rust and country bumper stickers to my leather and tint. Not too long ago I would have glanced over at this woman and raised a brow. I would have looked at her clothing, her choice in accessories, her interactions with people around her and my thoughts, dumbed down for the simplicity of this writing, would have basically been “not like me, must be bad”. That’s what society tells us. Different equals wrong.
But there was an old me and there is the new me. The me of yesterday looked at this mama, walking funny still, out buying groceries with her new daughter, and I wanted to just give her a hug. I imagined her partner at home with other kids and this new mama saying, “No really, it’ll be more restful for me if I can just get out of the house for a little bit.” I imagined her joy as she paused to coo over her tiny newborn in the cereal aisle. I overheard as she ran into a friend and the friend exclaimed, “Oh! Is this your newest! Another girl. So sweet. Is she a good sleeper?” And though I didn’t hear the new mama’s response I rolled my eyes on her behalf. I wanted to say to this friend, “This woman isn’t even walking right yet. How about you lay off the sleep questions and cook her a damn casserole, hm?!” I looked at this mama and saw her exhaustion. Palpable. Tangible. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to whisper, “I will sit with this new one for you while you sleep in the car. She will be safe. Get some rest new mama…”
What is the difference between old me and new me? Well, a child of course. But the birth of a child didn’t change a lifetime of woman to woman judgment I’m afraid. There is something else.
There is all of you. You women of the Gentle Parenting Community. You are not like me. I bet some of you are wearing camo or talk in slang. I bet some of you prefer country music over anything else, or like hunting, or slasher movies. I bet some of you collect shoes I couldn’t dream of affording and work jobs that I could only imagine the basic concepts of. I bet some of you wear diamonds and make up every day. I bet some of you, many of you, women are not like me.
But I can’t see through this screen and so I don’t know what you’re wearing or what you sound like when you talk. I don’t know if your house is clean or dirty, if you have a nanny or a maid. I don’t know how much you work or how much you spend or what you drive and where you go.
I don’t know those things about you, but I do know you.
I know that, like me, you love your children with a passion that sets the Internet aflame. I know that, like me, you sometimes feel lost and confused when it comes to the role of parent. I know that, like me, you are often exhausted beyond comprehension and struggling to make it through the day without harming anyone you love. I know that, like me, you do your best for your child and your world in the way that you know how. I know the spirit of you, if not the reality of you, and you are beautiful.
Perhaps you don’t use motrin for teething. Perhaps you think herbal remedies are outdated and unsafe. Maybe you are offended easily by pictures of wounded children, real or imaginary, on the web. Maybe you are easily offended by the yelling mother in the grocery store who’s story you don’t fully know. Maybe you think a couple tears are okay, or have decided bed sharing as long as it takes is fine for you. You’re nursing or using formula. You buy your children the best of everything or believe in the principles of second hand. You have one child or ten. Details, details, my friends. These things are not who we are. These are the things that we learn, that we try, that we compromise, that we reconcile with who we are.
We are parents who live, breathe, and love for our children. It looks different from person to person, yes, but, at it’s very foundation, it is the same. At our core we are much more alike than we are different. You women, you are like me after all, just as I am like you.
And that is why I could look kindly upon this woman in the grocery store, why I could look past all of those things that separate us to the thing that binds us together. And that is what this Gentle Parenting Community is, what has been created here. Sometimes it is harder than others to stay together despite our surface differences, but every minute that I grow and change because of each of you lending your influence, I am reminded that it is worth it.