Earlier this week, my friend Meg wrote a wonderful post on the labels of Mommyhood. Her post really got my mind going, because this is a subject I often struggle with.
What is with the labels?
Before I became a mom, it appeared that the biggest trigger topic out there in Mommyland was the SAHM vs Working Mom groups. I remember thinking at the time “WTF is the big deal? You’re a mom. Who cares if you stay at home, work or do a combo of both? Why is it such a polarizing ideal?”
Then I became a mom.
And I quickly (read: faster than the speed of light) succumbed to the labels of Mommyhood.
So what happened? Did I forget that internal monologue from my pre-child days?
No. Something else happened entirely.
I started realizing how much damn negativity there is about being a mom. I realized that everything, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, is a controversial subject. Everyone has an opinion. And everyone thinks YOU want to know their opinion. And no matter how hard you try, you get labeled.
I have good friends that told me I’d never make it cloth diapering. That as soon as I saw some poop I would run for the hills. I had strangers give me the side eye when I told them I planned to breastfeed. I had formula shoved on me at the pediatrician office visit, at the hospital and in my freaking mailbox (as a side note – I do realize that this is done as a mere convenience and for the most part is appreciated – but from a breastfeeding standpoint I will tell you – it is defeating.) People thought I was crazy for moving Ariadne’s crib into our bedroom. They told me “I told you so!” when I ended up having a very unwanted but very necessary epidural.
And I tried to ignore it all. Really, I did. As much as I do have a strong opinion on my blog, and when around friends. I tend to be a little more mellow in person, with people that I don’t trust enough to hold my hair when I’m puking. But at the end of the day I got tired of saying “Thanks for your advice.” or “Well, I’m going to see how it goes for us anyway” I got tired of being the one who was always receiving such massive loads of “you can’t make it, don’t even try, good luck with that (while rolling their eyes), let’s hear once you’ve actually been there.” I got tired of being the bigger person.
Being a parent is hard enough without other moms trying to bring you down before you even start.
So I ran to the support groups. I sought out groups of women who had similar plans as me. And suddenly I had a place to turn to when my baby wouldn’t latch right. When my diapers were giving my baby the worst.rash.ever and needed to be stripped, but nothing was working and everything I read said not to use bleach, I had advice. I found my safe haven. The places where I could just be the breastfeeding, cloth diapering, BLW wannabe, CIO supporting, pro-vaccinating, working mom with a SAHD, Mama.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hang with only like minded mamas. I am so lucky to have a vast array of friends, some that are very much like me, and some that are my complete opposite, both in personality, life choices and Mommylabels. But having the “label” groups to go to makes my life so much easier when the negativity gets rough. It gives me people to vent to when I can’t say “STFU.”
I live in a society where I feel that my labels are a forced necessity of the lifestyle I lead. I don’t entirely feel that I wear my Mommylabels on my forehead. Nor do I think that I segregate myself from those who don’t parent the same way I do. But I like knowing that there are moms out that there feel so passionately about something that they put it all out there. (without disrespecting others) So I’m kind of on the fence on this one.
Label segregation sucks. But what it comes down to, is that I feel like I label myself as a defense mechanism.
So I pose a question. What came first?
Did the labels create this society full of defensiveness and negativity? Or were the labels bred out of a need for like-minded safe havens for moms who didn’t want to hide their enthusiasm?
I personally don’t know the answer to that. I wish that I lived in a world where the labels didn’t exist. Because like Meg, I believe that what should bind us is our similarity as moms – not our differences as breast/formula feeding moms.
All I can say is, I’m insanely grateful that I know so many women who come from every kind of parenting realm. I’m so proud to know women like Meg, Taylor, Lisa, Mya, Jenn, (okay all my supportive mama friends!) It is refreshing to have friends that aren’t carbon copies of me and my family, that teach and shape me everyday. But it’s also nice to have groups of women that will give me the proper response when I gush “OMG I just bought a bright turquoise dipe, and it pretty much made my entire week.”
I argue that there is a place for the labels. But it’s not an all or nothing world – we all need to grab onto that ideal and run with it.
My number one label in life is Jaye. And she is an awful lot of things other than that. But my details do not define who I am or the kind of parent I am.
They merely help me explain myself.
Actually, I take that back…there is one label that defines me…and I share it with my daughter.