That awkward moment when you realize that someone is unsure if they should share their positive experience because she (is empathetic and thoughtful and) doesn’t want to make you feel bad, because… well, you’re experience was not so positive.
Or at least you didn’t make it out to be.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about motherhood, and managing two children and staying at home and how everyone has such different experiences for so many different reasons. There are so many moving parts and each of us has distinct versions of each of those moving parts, so while they may all come together to make similar-looking machines, each is actually completely unique. So really, my version of motherhood can both resemble yours and simultaneously be completely different.
There are so many different aspects to motherhood and each is shaped by the mother and child (and myriad other things). My experience of motherhood is affected by each and every one of my circumstances: my emotional disposition, my physical condition, the support my partner and family are able to provide, my child’s constitution, our financial situation, where we live, the help our families are able (or not) to provide. It’s literally impossible to list every thing that defines my experience of motherhood. So while what I experience might resemble what someone else experiences, we actually experience them in a totally different way.
I don’t know if I know how to say this, or if I even know what I’m trying to say. I’ve just been reading blog posts and looking at Facebook statuses and realizing that while we all act like we can relate–and take the time to commiserate–we really don’t know what it’s like for anyone else. Their kids are different, their circumstances are different, THEY are different. So when I wonder how someone can not only handle, but seem to enjoy, being home all day with two kids under two when I know I would really struggle to do the same, I have to remind myself that their experience with their two kids is totally different from what my experience would be with my two kids.
And as I’ve started to recognize this, I’ve found myself trying to qualify the different experiences of motherhood in certain ways. Of course you can’t qualify them. Even if you thought you could look at each mother’s circumstances and some how compare them to your own, you have to remember that each mother is different so their experience of their motherhood is different than you would experience those exact same circumstances of motherhood. So even if you could know EVERYTHING about a person’s situation (which, obviously, you couldn’t), the way you would react to that experience would be completely different to the way she might. I might handle frequent night wakings less well than another woman, while she might tolerate the pain of thrush better than I did.
I guess the whole point is that you can’t compare anything, so there is no point in trying.
It’s not that I want to compare anyone’s experience to my own really, I guess I’m just trying to understand. And mostly I’m trying to understand myself and my own experience of motherhood, because it’s not playing out in all the ways I thought it would. I’m STILL surprised that some aspects of motherhood are so challenging to me. I’m still shocked that I struggle so much with my daughter. I’m still in denial about how hard the transition to a family of four was for our daughter and our family. I’m still mourning the fact that I will most likely never nurse my last baby. I’m still not sure how to reconcile the realization that I probably wouldn’t stay at home with my children even if I had a choice (which I don’t, so why does this continue to matter?!), with the memory of the kind of mother I thought I’d be (obviously one who would absolutely choose to stay home with her kids).
I guess what I’m trying to figure out is, do I feel the way I do about certain things because of who I am? Or because of who my kids are? Or because of our circumstances? If I were in someone else’s shoes, someone whose choices or circumstances or experiences I deem admirable or enviable or positive, would I respond in the the same ways that they do?
Do I not want to be a SAHM because my daughter is so difficult? Is my daughter so difficult because of who I am, myself? Did breastfeeding not work out for us because I of something I did, or was it my son’s issues or some delicate combination of both? Was our transition to a family of four so tumultuous because we sometimes felt ambivalence about it? Is my son as easy going as he is because I couldn’t handle anything else?
Was our experience negative because we didn’t know how to make it positive?
We are taught to develop understanding by comparing and contrasting, by making connections. When we recognize our own plight in someone else’s we learn more about them and about ourselves. This is how we build the bridges needed to find common ground. But what if there is no real common ground? What if it’s all an elaborate facade? How do we understand anything then? How do we relate to others? How do we empathize with those around us, and with ourselves?
I don’t know if any of this makes any sense. Honestly, it could be the ramblings of a mad woman for all I know. Maybe it doesn’t make sense because it’s so obvious that you can’t write about it without coming across as incomprehensible. I guess I just going to hope it’s not offensive or inflammatory, and I’m going to post it early on a Sunday morning, when no one will read it and fewer will comment, hoping no one will judge me too harshly for its incoherent message.
Do you have any idea what I’m trying to say? If so, could you enlighten me?