So, here’s a funny tale about the time I wrote a piece on being a mom and a ”Fiscal quarter drinker,” and how I end up being either hated or adored, and maybe a mix of both. While it’s surely not a sweet little bedtime story, it does have a valuable life lesson: to forgive others, but mostly, to forgive yourself.
I’m a writer and a mother, but above all, I am just a woman. I always believed in two things: speaking the truth and laughing while doing so. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece regarding my experience as a mother who imbibes once in a blue moon and pitched it around to editors. The piece happened to include a picture of me falling into a playpen. I’m not that new to the game; I know what sells and catches attention, and it did just that.
The ”Playpen-Gate” moment occurred due to the following: I was wearing ridiculous footwear, subsequently lost my footing, and honestly I had a few too many at an adult dinner party. It was a single snapshot that was taken at an isolated moment. To me, it’s a funny and forgivable photo, one that I will easily share with my kids when they’re grown, and will be used as a teachable moment. I also thought it would make a great accompaniment to an article on how mothers shouldn’t be ashamed of moments such as these. That these moments can be forgiven, laughed at, and can maybe even carry a sense of unabashed pride. After all, if you’re a damn good mother all year long, what’s the shame in letting your hair down and embracing a moment such as this?
I wanted to break the archaic notion that women, once mothers, must lead lives of nothing short than perfection, and never having a moment of what I would refer to as one of society’s ”Mommy Sins.”
In response to my piece, one woman wrote me and said that I should have written on how I drink no more than two glasses of wine on the weekend with my girlfriends, and how I go home and turn into a mother again, before my carriage turns into a pumpkin. Nice idea, but let’s face it: that would make for a very boring article and I don’t even have time to drink on the weekends. I’m also not Cinderella. I wanted to use my experience to break the taboo, not deem it shameful and send it to some unbreakable box of secrecy. I’d rather admit and own up to a real moment and have mothers relate, even if I’m the only one admitting my errors. That doesn’t make me the best mom or the worst mom; it makes me a human being.
Quite frankly, I’m tired of reading articles on how to bake the best darn cupcakes and how to look like the most put-together mother in America. It’s not reality, and it’s certainly not my reality. As a reader, I want articles that I can find relatable; ones that make me laugh and challenge my ideals. As a writer, I’m not one to shy from controversy; in fact, I invite it. Controversy is like a dinner party of minds, where everyone leaves challenged, unsure of their stances and where people are so shaken that they forgot where they put their car keys. Controversy has the magical ability to get people talking, debating, and above all””thinking. I can’t say the same for cupcake decorating articles, can you?
All in all, I’m a mom who best relates to Wendi McLendon-Covey’s character from Bridesmaids. Remember Rita? She was the hilarious mother of three boys, who desperately tried to cling to whatever sense of self she had prior to crowning on the delivery table. She couldn’t wait to head to Vegas for the bachelorette party, to get away for a bit, to wear her new tube top. Now that that’s relatable.
Anyway, XOJane picked my story to be published. I anticipated some flack, but surely an open-minded audience such as XOJane’s readers would find it cheeky and maybe some readers could relate. Or, you know, maybe they’d declare CPS should be called, which some did. Luckily, many readers understood the article and enjoyed it for what it was.
I’ve always admired the fearless publications that invite the sometimes ugly and offbeat dimensions of life, instead of telling you that you need to do XYZ to be accepted and loved. I enjoy editors who give countless women voices that need to be heard, even if what they’re saying is the ugly, unapologetically honest truth.
But here’s the really sad truth: we encourage women to be confessional and revealing, telling them to speak their minds and share — and to do it proudly. We encourage them to speak in an effort to open the gates of silence that so many other women keep closed. And sadly, once they speak, we shame them. We declare them unfit, unstable, and we call them a poor excuse for a woman and/or a mother.
It’s ironic, because we are taught to raise children who do not bully, yet we turn and bully other parents who fail to meet some mysterious and unreachable standard of what a parent “should be.”
I am not alone, as Buzz Bishop, Canadian radio show host, received a hateful response when he admitted that he favors his oldest son. While many parents do indeed have a favorite, Bishop was all but stoned, simply for confessing a truth as a parent, a confession that he shared as his own personal experience. I immediately contacted Bishop and picked his brain. He, too, noted that the parenting community was particularly hard, saying that they ”came out railing against my beliefs like I had declared a jihad against their family.” There’s no doubt that Bishop isn’t a great father, but even his own confession received much flack. Meanwhile, in reality, most parents could relate they just didn’t openly state the same sentiments.
Lastly, I’m not a victim. I appreciate dark humor and have no qualms about joking that kids make for great tax write-offs. If anything, this experience has only fueled my desire to keep the conversations (no, not the drinks) flowing, and to continue being honest and making cracks at the seriousness of parenting. I’ve quickly realized that when it comes to parenthood, high horses are just as common as Maclaren strollers. I’d rather be grounded in reality, in the trenches, fighting for parents – and mostly women – to not be shamed to silence. Truth and lessons are a beautiful thing and while being on a high horse may feel like a vantage point, let’s not forget that the higher the climb, the harder the fall.