My oldest daughter is six, and officially in “real” school. That means there are girl scout meetings and gymnastics classes. There are birthday parties and playdates. When I first started to emerge from the cocoon that was my house, burp rags, bottles and limited interaction with other moms outside of work, I’ll admit I was a little scared.
I have read those articles about moms who need to learn to build each other up instead of break each other down. And ones about the…DUN DUN DUN…mom shamers who judge you for feeding your kid the fish-shaped cheese crackers instead of the bunny-shaped ones (and vice versa). And the ones about little old ladies who stare you down and shake their heads when your child is throwing a tantrum.
I was actually more than a little scared. I was terrified.
And terrified me started going to gymnastics on Tuesdays with an infant and a notoriously challenging three-year-old in tow. I sat in the back row of seats. I shamefully let the three year old get a snack from the vending machine…every week. I turned bright red as she ran straight out the door into the parking lot and I ditched the baby inside with a bunch of strangers to save her from certain death. I cringed as she prodded through crowds of onlookers to get to the water fountain.
And I waited. I waited for someone to ask me to leave. Or to tell me to get my children under control. Or to ask me why I was feeding the baby formula. Or to reinforce that I am doing this absolutely, terribly wrong. But guess what? I’m still waiting.
Instead, I have been greeted with empathetic smiles. Other moms have offered to to hold the baby, and take the three year old on a walk on the sidewalk. One mom even said, “You’re doing a great job.”
Terrified me is now a lot more relaxed. No one even flinched at the girl scout meeting last week when I showed up with store-bought cookies and Capri-suns. A little old lady at McDonald’s told me the other day that my girls reminded her of hers when they were young. (They were acting like monkeys in a zoo, by the way.) And my nine-month-old reaches for Jessica, the nice baby-holding mom, automatically on Tuesdays.
I am just dipping my toe into the world of “other moms”. And I think it’s not that bad. There is far more support than there is judgement, or shaming, or head-shaking. I want you to be confident, mama. The world is still good out here. When you emerge from those piles of diapers and burp cloths, there are mamas who will help you out, and lift you up. And there are far more of them than there are those who will try to tear you down.