“More often than not, the things we detest and judge in others are a reflection of the things that we cannot accept about ourselves.” ~ I. Vanzant
I see your quiet disdain and the clucking of your tongue as I run around the playground after my messy haired daughter in my black, shiny heels—yet even though you see me, that doesn’t mean you really know me.
It’s easy to look at me and my children and make presumptuous judgements based on how we look to you, but the thing is, what you see in us that may bother you is only a reflection of how you see things about your own life.
I don’t blame you for looking at me lying on the hood of my car, in the brilliant sun with my music playing, instead of walking to the door of the school like all the other mothers—but maybe it’s just that I spent so much time in the darkness underground that I appreciate the light in a different way.
I was like you at one point, I measured my self-worth by the labels on my children’s clothing and how neatly they had their hair done as I sent them to school each morning. I planned my meals a week ahead and bought my comfortable shoes at Lands End—the kind that were made for suburban mothers like you and I.
But then my world fell apart, and I had to start reevaluating why I did all of the things I had been doing. I looked to see what my reasons were for trying to look like the perfect mother and what values I really wanted to instill in my breathtakingly wild daughters.
I was married—granted it was an unhealthy relationship and one that lacked the kind of love many of us aspire to. It was unequal and unbalanced, but still I know that even in that relationship there were luxuries found in sharing a home and life with another adult.
Feeling like you are doing it all, and actually doing it all on your own are two different things.
I hope you never know what it’s like to have to make the choice to start over, because it’s the best option for yourself and your children. I hope you never have to wonder if you’re making the right decision—and most of all, I hope you never spend countless nights crying yourself to sleep, wondering if you will be raising your children’ alone forever and praying you’re not messing them up in this process.
Because I have—I have been there, and so many other dark caverns of my soul, that for a very long time I didn’t even know what it meant to appreciate what was right in front of me.
I didn’t truly see the wonderment of my daughters and the simple privilege it is to raise them every single day.
But that was then, and this is now—I understand that everything in my life had to break apart so that this new life could grow and flourish.
Yet, you don’t know any of that—not that I blame you for your judgement about me and my girls, but that doesn’t mean that you are right either.
I see you look at my youngest with her crazy blonde hair, her mismatched striped leggings and her red shirt with hearts all over it that is her current favorite so it gets washed multiple times a week—and I see how you give a sideways glance at her red strappy shoes with sparkly hearts on them.
But the thing is, she takes pride in dressing herself, and I see her excitement as she puts together her outfits and comes in showing herself off to me in the mirror.
I’ve learned that this spirit of individualism is something that many of us lose as we get older, and so I never want to clip her wings and dress her, just so I’m more comfortable with her appearance—she is not a doll to tidy up, but rather a child to rear.
You nod your head when you see my oldest come out in graffiti printed leggings and a t-shirt, with her long hair tangled from outrunning the boys at recess, as if now it all makes sense to you.
Yet when I see these two little girls come running my way, I see girls who I’m teaching that it’s not their job to be pretty—it’s their job to be comfortable and to learn in school, and whatever they want to wear on their bodies while they do that, I am okay with.
Because I believe that if I can instill these values in elementary school, then this confidence and self-knowledge will follow them all the way through to college, when I won’t be there to hug and kiss them at the end of every day.
I know that I’ve traded in my mommy pants for skinny jeans and heels, but when you’re told how you should dress for so long, it’s liberating to realize that you don’t have to fit into anyone’s mold of what a mother should look like.
Because whether I have my glasses on, with messy hair atop my head—or if I have on three inch heels and my hair extensions in—I am still exactly the kind of mother that my daughters need me to be.
I see you whisper to the other group of mothers when I let my oldest ride her bike around without me and walk by herself up the street—I believe in teaching her independence step by step, instead of dropping her into it one day, only to find herself lost at the amount of freedom she has.
The thing is—you and I are not all that different.
We are sisters in motherhood, and what I wish more than anything is that we could recognize that in one another, instead of you trying to put me down because you don’t understand my life and what a success story my children and I now are.
I’m glad that your marriage has worked out—but mine didn’t.
That doesn’t make me a pariah or a threat to your marriage. Nor does it mean there is something wrong with me, or that I gallivant until all hours with exotic men, because more often than not I fall asleep on the couch with my children nestled in my arms, ice cream still hanging in the corners of their mouth and smiles upon their soft faces.
Because just like you, at the end of the day—I am a mother.
And nothing else should matter.
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina