How many times have you compared yourself to another mom, your child to another child?
I know that I have a habit of doing this. It is mostly a quick, innocent thought, but nonetheless, it crosses my mind. If I am thinking it, I know other moms are too. None of us would ever dare say that motherhood is a competition. But we’d be lying if we said that we didn’t feel a sense of pride that our child talked before a peer, or started to question aspects of our parenting when our child fails to hit a milestone at the same time as their peers.
It’s time to make motherhood a cooperative instead of a competition.
Dictionary.com defines a cooperative as ‘working or acting together willingly for a common purpose or benefit.’ Can you imagine? Mothers, offering assistance to other mothers altruistically, with the common goal of everyone raising thriving children.
Early on, one of my strengths was producing ample amounts of breast milk. We had so many milk storage bags, they were spilling out of the freezer. When an opportunity to share my breast milk with another family presented itself, I took the chance to share my surplus. Though I didn’t expect anything in return, I felt like I was the one who gained from the experience.
On the other hand, later in my breastfeeding journey, my infant and I began to struggle. My milk supply dropped right off, and breastfeeding became a battle. One day at my wit's ends, I reached out for help. That afternoon, baby formula was dropped at my door, no questions asked.
That is the kind of support mothers need. Every. Damn. Day.
In both cases, a mother was doing what she had to do to ensure her child was adequately fed. Yet I was in awe of the strength of the first mother for asking for help and ashamed of myself for doing the exact same thing.
I felt that because I needed help I was less of a mother. But what I should have known was that asking for help made me more of a mother.
Looking back, I am dumbfounded that I let the competitive nature of motherhood shame me from asking for help sooner. Pride should come from knowing that my child is nourished, happy, and healthy, not from struggling through weeks of breastfeeding making my baby and me miserable. This struggle does not make me a better mom, it does not earn me a gold star, it does not make me the winner of the motherhood competition.
A mother who is able to exclusively breastfeed is not a better mother than me. A child who is exclusively breastfed is not better off than my child. The fact that my body alone was unable to sustain my daughter has nothing to do with the quality of mother I am.
I need to emphasize this again…
Asking for help in the best interest of my child does not mean that I failed, it means that I have succeeded as a mother.
But these feelings of inferiority and shame are real. Whether we impose them on ourselves or they are reinforced by society, we let the competition get the better of us.
So let’s ask ourselves. What purpose does that invisible pat on the back or pang of guilt really serve?
The time is long overdue for mothers to stop feeling ashamed and shaming others. There is no right way to raise a child and every child will progress at a different pace. Mothers need to come together to form an unwavering community of support. No one should have to swallow their pride in order to ask for help, as asking for help should be automatic.
Each of us with our own strengths and weaknesses. Each of us with something to offer another. Each of us with something to gain from another. Because what we all want is to raise the best humans possible, but it is exponentially harder to do that alone.
This is my dream for The Motherload publication. Mother to mother, woman to woman. Assistance, support, and advice is a commodity that will be freely exchanged. Our community will serve to praise all mothers, to offer connection and guidance, to ensure mothers know they are never alone.
The Motherload of motherhood information. The place where others help mothers carry their load. The community where strangers become allies.
The Motherload publication is a cooperative.