Angry words have been thrown back and forth this week. (Clarification: most of the anger has been in the comments of said posts.) People have been clinging very hard to what they believe in, unable to see that the lines of wrong and right blur when you take the time to consider that each of us are unique and, as such, so are our families.
I have never understood the “my family’s way of life is right and yours is wrong” variant of internet bickering. Unless someone admits to blatant neglect or abuse, I don’t see why this argument even needs to take place. I feel it very keenly as many (too many) people have consistently told me that we are wrong for participating in an open adoption with my daughter and her family. They spout things about confusion (which none of the children have yet experienced) and say silly things like, “That’s not the way it used to be done!” True. It’s not. And, at one time, we didn’t possess the knowledge to save children born too early or have dual breast pumps to provide milk for various reasons or utilize things like, oh, car seats. We’ve learned things over the years. We, as a society, have made changes. In fact, those changes have gone from demanding women to work to sending them back home again to now chastising them for whichever decision they make. It’s lose-lose!
A friend pointed out to me the other day that when we were growing up, the mothers who stayed home with their children were exalted while the ones who went out to work, out of necessity or desire, were shunned. It’s true. My mom took a lot of flack for working (and working hard) during the 1980’s. She raised me with a strong work ethic and pushed me to be the best that I could be. I was nervous to tell her that I was considering staying home when BigBrother was eight months old. I was afraid she would be disappointed in me, that I had let her down in some way, broken the code of Strong Women. Instead, my mother took my hand and told me that whatever I needed to do for my family was of the utmost priority. Whether that meant working outside the home or being at home, she would support me. And she has. She’s let me cry to her on days that I have gotten nothing done because of illness or general chaos. She has applauded my promotions and rejoiced at my published works. I guess, then, I’m confused as to why more people aren’t like my mom. Maybe they should be.
We see in the adoption world all too often the general contest of who has it worse. Birth mothers from the closed generation often shun birth mothers with open adoptions, claiming we can’t truly know the pain of adoption since we have it so “easy.” Adoptive parents get a rough time from birth parents who claim that they caused all of the pain and, therefore, they shouldn’t complain when parenting gets tough. Then adoptive parents turn around and tell birth parents to hush as they chose this life the moment they opened their legs. And then, goodness, if an adoptee dares to speak up about any grief, loss or pain, they are told to hush their mouths and to be grateful because they could have had it worse. Instead of supporting each other in the muck and mire and hard stuff associated with adoption, we cut each other down. We refuse to see that we’re all in this together, that without one another, we don’t really exist. We can’t make any progress with ethical adoption reform or the process of adoptees gaining access to their Original Birth Certificates because no one will work together. It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. And it’s really pointless as we should realize that we can and should be working together.
And that’s exactly what I saw in the mommy world this week. I’m not going to argue about whether or not my working life is easier or harder. I am so happy with my own life right now that I don’t think it matters one way or the other. Instead, I challenge mothers to stop fanning the flames. (Look! A fire pun on our blog! Go figure!) There’s no need. When a mother, whether WAH, WOH or SAH, complains that she has had a hard day, don’t laugh and say, “How the heck was your day so hard? I had to deal with x, y and z! Shut up!” Instead, offer your support. Your shoulder. Tell her that she will get through this hard time. Tell her that she will make it out the other side as a stronger woman, mother and human being. And then, just maybe, she’ll be there for you on your next awful, horrible, no-good, very-bad day. Because you will have one. Just like I will have one. Just like she will have one.
We’re never going to accomplish anything as long as we point fingers, take sides and demand that we deserve a cookie, a medal, a trophy, an award. They don’t make those for The Best Mother Ever. There’s no Red Carpet awards ceremony. You don’t get to mingle with the stars simply because you put down another mother to make yourself look better. My parents always taught me, you get what you give. If you throw nastiness out into the world, nastiness will be thrown back at you. I try, nine times out of ten, to live that lesson. And that tenth time, of course, when I forget, I am reminded. Quickly. (Did I just admit that my parents were right?)
I know I’ll never see this utopia of mothers agreeing on everything. That’s not even what I’m asking for as disagreement causes us to push our understandings just that much more and learn something new about the world, about mothering, about ourselves. Instead, I just want to see mothers supporting mothers. I want to see more compassion. I want to see more help being offered. I know. I’m a Bleeding Heart. I always have been. My parents tease me mercilessly but, hey, they raised me to think for myself and, dang it, I do. I think they’re proud. Nine times out of ten.
In the end, we here in the FireFamily are working our tushes off to make decisions in the best interest of our family. Sometimes we trip up and make the wrong decision. Sometimes we get it right. Just like every other family out there. What works for us now might not in a year or two. I won’t defend our decisions and I don’t expect other mothers to defend theirs. I do, however, expect other mothers to love their children with the heat of a thousand fires and use that love to do everything in their power to make the best decisions possible at any given time.
Because if we’re not doing that, there’s no hope for our future.
[By the way, the picture of BigBrother up there is how I envisioned everyone acting. And isn’t it funny when you really think about it? No? Okay, then just laugh at his cuteness with me and how I’ll put that picture in his yearbook someday. See? There are joys to motherhood!]