Welcome to the club. The motherhood club. We come into it from all different places, walks of life, at different ages, with varying expectations. Full of hope, perhaps anxiety, some excitement for what is to come. And many of us eagerly look forward to becoming part of a community of mothers, who are all going along on the same journey. And being part of the club can feel amazing.
Open. Warm. Welcoming. Supportive.
Sometimes it feels like that. But the motherhood club can also feel remarkably different. And it can bring forward shadows and projections that are the very worst of us and society.
Unbelonging. Imperfection. Inspection. Guilt. Judgment.
I remember all too well from when my son was young. I hear it from my clients who are mothers in many of our sessions, and from women who sit together in circle at events. Exclusion. Cliques. Did I mention judgment? And the comments.
“Oh are you still feeding your baby that processed baby food?” from a woman in my mothers group as I struggled to juggle a failing marriage, my job, study and a fussy baby.
Said with a laugh, what she was really saying was, “You’re such a bad mother, why can’t you cook and blend organic pumpkin and peas like the rest of us? ”
In primary school, it was the side glances from the stay-at-home mums to the working mums, full of judgment for not being there for school pick up and play dates. The result was not just exclusion of the mother from the cliques, but of the children as well. Little did they know that the work for many of these women was not a nicety, but a necessity, to pay the rent or the mortgage, and their judgments just made it that much harder.
And on it goes.
Often of course, the responses are just an outward projection of the inward battle that many mothers face looking at their own inadequacies. We are an outward reflection of their own inner war. Of course. But we can know that and still not have it be any easier.
We make it so very hard for ourselves. And for others. The ‘club’ used to be so different. Thousands of years ago, even hundreds of years ago, women would share the caring for the children, raising them together. It really did take a village and the village was there.
Today, it still takes a village, but the doors are all closed and the village is empty. We struggle alone, getting through it instead of supporting each other through it.
We can do so much better. We can be a little kinder. We can ask, “How is the baby?” and really listen for the response. We can offer help. Be more inclusive. Offer support. Welcome new people in. Welcome in the fathers and all genders. We can open up the club to everyone. And let everyone belong there.