Posts Tagged ‘dignity’

When They Take All That’s Left, Go to Your Village

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

When They Take All That's Left

We were having a drink with friends from out of town, a place in Utica with a patio and very few patrons at 5 p.m. on a Saturday night. The kids had been in the car all day between hiking, lunch, and some sightseeing in Upstate New York.

Yep. If you’re a mom, you know what’s coming.

My 18-month-old took off around the corner of the patio, my older child chasing her and grabbing her around the waist to cart her back to our picnic-style table, giggling all the way. I was standing with my three-year-old when the older man looked up and broke through their laughter with “It’s NOT a freaking zoo.”

A flash of—something—washed through my body. My throat went dry. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone. I grabbed my toddler, my purse and the three year old and left my husband and our friends to settle the bill.  I know this kind of person—I see them everywhere we go. This person complains if your children are laughing, crying, or nursing. They roll their eyes and shake their heads if your kids are quiet because they are on a device or watching a show. They can’t be appeased. I know that.

But it still hurts.

I was checking out at the grocery store one day and I heard the mother of a teenage/college age girl hiss to her, “That’s going to be you someday—behind you.” The girl stole a glance behind her as I was unloading my cart and looked up to catch the end of the exchange: “Oh, God, no.”

I stopped, catching my reflection in the soda case—three kids, no shower, no make up, messy hair. Previously undeterred by my appearance because I had things to do, I had a The Emperor has No Clothes moment. My sense of pride at having checked off a few to-dos was gone. I felt naked and pitiful.

These indignities pile up on moms in a way that they don’t pile up on other people. These little beings are taking up your time, your money, your body, your personal space, and now your pride. Mom gets the wrath, the scowls, the dirty looks, the snide comments. No matter how many nice things people say, it’s these exchanges that stick. Because, some days, all that’s left is your pride. And when someone takes that, you feel like there’s nothing left.

I can’t help but feel like policymaking in the U.S. has something to do with this attitude. When you tell people they can’t control their own family planning, then refuse to support the family unit with things like health care, paid maternity leave, or safe, reasonably priced childcare, isn’t that supporting this view? It’s like people in America love the idea of family values but just really don’t like families very much: Please have children! Lots of them! Then don’t ever eat out, nurse where I can see you, fly anywhere or take your children out in public.

It won’t always be this hard; I know that. But right now it’s shitty. People are shitty. I am struggling to hold together my identity, my household, my health and my sanity on a good day. On days like these, I just want to hide from everyone. And as any mom can tell you, even that’s impossible.

But you can go out with a girlfriend. Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Hang out with your moms group. Go to a play date. Those things help. Other moms help. They’ll lift you back up. They’ll tell you it’s OK. Because they know. They’ve been there, too.

While people really are good at tearing each other down, they’re also great for building each other back up. Your village is there for you. Your village will back you up and give ‘em hell. So go to your village on days like this, and come back ready to do it all again next week.

Because this is motherhood, and you’ve got this.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.