Finding Solidarity in Motherhood
For the last few months I have spent hours and hours in the car either driving across the country, between states, or in new cities. From the green rolling hills of Kentucky, to the wild forests of North Carolina, or the sandy beaches of Hawaii I have watched the landscapes and houses pass my window. It is funny the things your mind decides to hold on to. There is one scene I haven't stopped thinking about. One small, simple field I keep remembering with a smile.
It was hot outside. The type of hot that makes you daydream about a bathtub full of ice. Every time we stopped for gas my boys would get out of the car and almost collapse from the weight of it. "Mom, I can't walk. It's too hot." Toddlers are interesting that way. Their thoughts seem to really take a hold over their bodies. It was after one of those stops when my boys were still panting in their carseats and begging for more AC that I saw it. A small open field off the side of the highway. A fence went down the middle of the field to break it into two sections. There, in the middle of the right section, was a beautiful mare. She stood tall in the heat, like she was built for it. Laying down in her shadow were two small foals. They looked so pathetic sprawled there in the dirt next to her strong legs. I could almost hear them from my car window, "Mom. It is too hot. I can't even stand." I know I was far away, but I swear I saw her do one of those long slow inhales with an intentional blink to hide her eye roll. "Solidarity, Mama. I'm right there with ya." Before I could even focus on the fact that I had been driving all day and was actually starting to talk to animals, I noticed what was on the other side of the fence.
Another Mama and two more babies stood in the left field. This time they were cows and the calfs had only managed to bare the sunlight because of their hungry tummies. The mother cow waited patiently in the heat as her babies both stood pushed up to her with their little heads pointed up and nursing on her. This time I became an animal mind reader and heard her thinking, "If they start complaining after they finish I swear..." And again, I had to say. "Solidarity, Mama."
All of this animal talking and mind reading took place in a few seconds, but my thoughts remained on them for the rest of my drive. Both mothers stood alone, but they were together in purpose. They were out in the blistering sun taking care of those babies. Did they know that in the heat of the day they could find an ally right over the fence? Did they send each other salutes from across the field at bed time?
Finding Solidarity in Womanhood
After I got married we moved to a new neighborhood and switched church buildings. During one of the classes on Sundays only the women met. I did not know anybody and would often sit by myself, with one or two chairs separating me from the next woman like a little fence to separate her and I. I always felt lonely and uncomfortable. It seemed like everybody knew each other, and I felt intimidated to insert myself into their friendships. One Sunday a teacher had us all write down something we were struggling with on a notecard and give it to her. The next week she came back and had us sit in a circle. She then told us that almost every notecard said something like, "I feel lonely."
I looked at all these women I had sat by with only an empty chair as a fence between us. They had seemed so effortlessly friendly with each other. How is it that they were feeling the same thing I was? I had imagined me as "the other" but really we were all the same.
You know what one of the hardest parts of motherhood is? Feeling like you never really know how you are doing or what you are doing. Feeling alone in your failures and stupid that you can't seem to do it with a little more grace, a little less tears, a little less crazy. Looking at all the other women and wondering how they do it so well, feeling like the other.
You know one of the best parts of motherhood? Opening up to one that seemed to be doing it right and realizing they fail in all the same ways and feel just as stupid and lonely and crazy as you do. It is like a little club. A club of really unsure women all trying really hard. I like that.
I listened to a pastor, Rob Bell*, who said that after all the years of people telling him all the pain and heartache and trials and sins that they go through he realized that often people were searching for something a lot more meaningful than just a solution. They were searching for solidarity.
Solidarity for Motherhood, not a Solution
Solidarity. That is a word I can get behind. Wise, brave, mature...these words seem to be hard to reach for in the lonely moments. On those lonely, long, bad days all I want is to go sit on a fellow mom's dirty floor and say, "Wow. I might not make it to bed time tonight." And hear her say, "Ya, me neither. Let's just keep throwing goldfish at them instead."
So, if any mom is feeling a little lonely and less than today...let me give you some solidarity:
To all the moms that pretended to be sleeping this morning when your toddler came in asking for cereal for the second time, solidarity.
To all the moms that may have accidentally gotten some toddler poop in some public location where it should not have been and then sworn themselves to secrecy, solidarity.
To all the moms who just could NOT brush their kids' teeth last night because for the love, solidarity.
To all the moms who go to Chik-fil-A and wonder if they could somehow manage to just move in there, solidarity.
To all the moms that are reading this as they hide in the bathroom pretending they are actually using the room for its' intended purpose but really just need some alone time, solidarity.
To all the moms who threaten their kids with things they will never be able to actually pull off or buy an eighty pound bag of dum dums just so they can make sure they have enough bribing material for the one hour errand they plan on making, solidarity.
To all the moms who have accidentally peed their pants since having kids, solidarity.
To all the moms who have yelled "EVERYBODY STOP YELLING!!!!", solidarity.
To all the moms who have pretended they don't understand the words, "Mommy, mom, mama, mom, mom, MAMA, Mommmmmmm, MOM!!!", solidarity.
To all the moms who have hidden treats in various places (ie beds, closets, forgotten drawers) so they don't have to share, solidarity.
To all the moms who have made up some version of the police man coming to get their kids in trouble if they don't stop whatever absurd thing they are doing, solidarity.
To all the moms who have taught their kid not to lie and then shaved off a couple years of that same child's life when trying to get them in to something for free, solidarity.
To all the moms who look like some scary identical twin to Cruella De Vil at bedtime, before church, at the dinner table, or getting ready to leave on any outing longer than fifteen minutes, solidarity.
Solidarity in the Heat of Motherhood
I am not exactly the same type of mom as my next door neighbor across the fence, but that doesn't mean we are not the same. On those hot days she might be found filling water balloons and bellies and I might be found dragging my kids to the car because their legs no longer function. We are not the same, but we are of the same purpose. Solidarity. We do it right, we do it wrong, we don't know what we are doing. What I do know is that I need her. I need her especially when she isn't doing it perfectly. I need her to chant with me from across the fence, "It is hot today. Do you want to be a little crazy together?" I need solidarity.