In all honesty, the main reason I started this site in the first place is because of one question that seems to plague most of the moms I’ve ever met:
“Does my life look like yours?”
This is the underlying question within the anxiety, stress, comparisons, and complaints that my friends and I hear and express on a regular basis. I mean, we may be telling a funny story about that time we peed our pants a little jumping on a trampoline (jumping used to be so easy before childbirth – who knew?) or the time we caught our newborn’s poop in our bare hands (I didn’t even blink). But really, what we’re really saying is “Right? You’ve done that, right? You know what I’m talking about, right?”
Here’s a personal example:
When we first started potty-training our oldest, I asked my sister, friends, and the director at our daycare how the hell to do it. Then I bought a book about it that friends and strangers swore by. We locked ourselves in our 2-bedroom apartment over Labor Day weekend, laid towels on our couch, and watched 197 hours of “Little Einsteins” while staring at our pants-less 2-year-old to see if she looked like she was about to pee or poop on our stuff. We’d grab her and run if she uttered the word “poop” and found ourselves picking human feces off our kitchen floor more than once in a three-day period.
Why? Because we’re dumb-dumbs who don’t know what the hell we’re doing. And also, because so many people (online and in person) told me that this totally worked for them, and as long as we were diligent, it’d for sure work and she’d not have an accident within two weeks of starting, if not three days. Also, I felt majorly scolded by the lady who wrote one of the famous books on this technique (via simply reading her words) and felt like she could see into our living room every time I was like “Maybe she’s too young, wanna’ just call it a day and go outdoors?”
Cut to: 9 short months later, she was potty-trained! Why? Because her peers at daycare were potty-trained and she wanted to keep up, yo – she didn’t want her life to look different from theirs! Also, because her teachers at daycare know more than we do and did most of the heavy lifting. We basically just had to not get in the way at home and un-do their good work.
Meanwhile, a week into this failed experiment at discipline and never seeing the sunshine, I confided in a friend who’d sworn by this process with her son a year prior. I embarrassingly told her how we tried really hard for close to 48 hours, but kind of cheated here and there, which is likely why it wasn’t working, and also, I had to go back to work and couldn’t stare at my daughter to predict her toilet behavior at every moment after that. Then she told me – which was conveniently left out of her testimonial a month ago – that she totally did the same thing and, when she said that her son was 100% potty-trained after that first weekend, what she really meant was that sometimes he was and sometimes he wasn’t and it took another several months before it seemed to click for good.
Um, that would’ve been useful information BEFORE my husband and I invested all our extra money into Bounty products to supplement our new - nearly daily - poop-cleaning ritual. But ok.
And while I was moderately annoyed by this late confession, I was so relieved. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only one. Thank goodness I didn’t do it so wrong when my friends and strangers around me were doing it so right. Thank goodness, thank goodness, thank goodness.
Because what I was essentially confessing to her was that I was scared that my life didn’t look like hers, that I’d failed at this part of it, and that I was afraid I was alone in this seeming failure. What she was afraid to do when omitting certain (important) details of her own potty-training attempts, was to tell me that she didn’t quite know, either.
And I’ve been her more than once, please don’t get me wrong. Without ever meaning to, I’ve had conversations with other moms over the years and realized that I’m the asshole who was afraid of being too vulnerable with what I didn’t know or with what I was afraid might be viewed as wrong. And, quite frankly, sometimes I simply didn’t even realize that I was lying to myself and to her about it. Fear of vulnerability or not fitting in is strong, but the more powerful – and honest – thing to do is just tell each other the truth. Because we’re all just sleepy grownups who are walking around peeing our pants on trampolines and picking up poop that belongs to our kids. Help a sister out.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you’ve legitimately figured it out and have a #momhack to share? By all means, you better share or I’ll unfriend you. Your tips and tricks might help me, mine might help you, and our missteps along the way will help with the running list of self-doubt we fall asleep with each night.
And since I’m hoping you’ll share with me, here is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this journey thus far. It’s one that takes some practice, but it’s well worth it.
Share your uncertainties and vulnerabilities with other trusted moms. Emphasis on trusted moms. Don’t invest your time or vulnerability with the mom at the park who has nothing but judgment for you that you didn’t breastfeed your kids, or didn’t do it long enough, or didn’t know how to tie one of those f*cking Mei Tai baby carriers the proper way. She sucks and isn’t interested in helping you through your vulnerable moment because she’s too caught up in her own insecurities about stuff that she’s afraid she’s doing wrong. But because of that, she feels the need to lord it over you that she’s part of a mommy group called Mei Tai Mommies, who never feed their kids anything but clean, organic kale seeds or something. I don’t know, I stopped listening to her halfway through the conversation because my kid was peeing on a turtle potty in a public park and I was trying to find the wipes and our collective dignity.
But like I said, this one takes some time to figure out, because I’ve found myself sucked into thinking that this is one of the moms I should be listening to, and it’s a tricky high-wire act to navigate. Because this mom might have some useful tips to share if she’d stop giving you the judge-y eyes. But ultimately, we only have so much time and energy to give on any particular day, and so I’ve gotta move on. Not every mama is going to be my kind of mama, and that’s just fine with me.
But there are mamas just like you out there, and you should put the effort into testing a few out. It’s like dating – you may have to go through a bunch of judge-y eyes before you land on the one who looks back with the same desperation and is like “oh my god, YES.” But all it takes is one or two moms who get it and life as you know it becomes just a little bit easier, because you’re not in it alone.
Plus, then you can finally let your guard down and say out loud:
“Does my life look like yours?”
And she’ll be like, “Oh my God, totally. I peed my pants a little yesterday, too!”