I have a confession: Lately, I've been bitter about motherhood. You may have just chuckled to yourself and nodded in agreement or you might have been shocked to read that. Who would complain about receiving unconditional love from little people you created? Who doesn't enjoy wiping tiny noses and celebrating newly completed milestones?
I mean, every mom shares the same reality, right? Aren't we all in this together?
The truth is, it's not actual motherhood that has been placing a burden on me, it's just my version of it. The unforgiving version. The marginalized version.
I follow all the major mom sites and am part of several social media parenting groups. I appreciate the attempt to unify all mothers, to eliminate judgment and to create a safe space for mothers to get real about the nitty-gritty of it all.
But I can't help but feel like an outside observer to this mysterious world of acceptance and receptiveness to truth. And it leaves me feeling more alone, unseen and unsupported as a mom.
When I scroll on social media, I come across trending hashtags for being a "bad mom." Recently, a mom in my picky eaters Facebook group jokingly asked if anyone else's toddler is living off air lately and over 200 people commented or reacted to the post. There is even a meme circulating about moms texting one another saying, "I'm done. I'm selling my kid on eBay. Don't be silly, you made him. Sell him on Etsy!"
It seems to me like when other mothers vent, complain, make jokes or admit any type of fault or imperfection it is recognized as "normal" and "expected." Yet that same criteria have been used against me to try to label me as unfit.
Here's where I share another confession so you understand where I'm coming from: This time last year, I was under investigation by child protective services for possible neglect due to my autistic son's extreme sensory picky eating and struggle to put on weight. My son is a former 28-week preemie, and his weight gain had been an ongoing concern that was under continuous medical supervision and care.
From people who know me, or know of me and my family, I am constantly receiving praise as a mother. I was just told a few days ago that my children are seriously the best-behaved kids our sitter has ever watched. People comment on my social media photos and videos that my children are so smart and I was the perfect choice to be their mother.
Most of my friends, outside of a few really close ones, have absolutely no idea my parenting abilities have been in question and would be shocked. Yet, there I was, with a hospital social worker barging in and asking intrusive questions about where my children's father was, where my family was, and then concluding that she was deeply concerned about my lack of support system. As if someone would choose to be without a village. Isn't that what all moms need? Why would this be held against me?
The worst part is, a year after the original ordeal ended with unsubstantiated findings, child protective services have come back into our lives again with the intention of proving me to be something I am not. And I can't help but sit here and wonder where their justification comes from.
Would they look at me the same if I was married and my husband had been at the hospital with our special needs son?
Would the social worker give me such an attitude if I was a middle-class white woman living in a house with a big backyard and not a low-income single mother of color in public housing? What difference does that make for my parenting?
Why should I face judgment because I don't own a dishwasher to close away the dishes I haven't gotten to wash that day yet, or enough square footage in my housing unit to have a separate room to use for a playroom so I can close the door on my children's mess of toys?
I know I'm not the mom with a perfect blowout and full face of makeup waiting at the school bus stop at 7 am. I'm not the mom who has it all together 24/7 with a perfect Miss America smile plastered across her face. I'm not the mom whose laundry is always folded and neatly put away with an interior design that looks straight out of a Better Homes & Garden magazine.
But I love my children more than anything. I am a fierce mama bear and a strong advocate for my son's complex medical needs. I pack lunches, tie shoes, kiss boo-boos, and read bedtime stories. I research the ingredients in sunscreen and limit screen time per the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations.
I want to know why the script is different when approaching mothers like me. Why is it that if you're Mrs. So and So who serves on the PTA and lives in a nice subdivision, the language is "You're not failing," but when you're a Ms. you're automatically assumed at risk?
So to the mama who feels so alone and left out of the world, I see you. I've been there. I am there. I want a better world for our children and I believe we have to be the change we wish to see. I don't want my children left out simply because of their skin color or income level. I'm speaking up for all of you who feel like you have to fight to get the same respect other moms get no questions asked.