Earlier in the week I caught a presentation given by the always gracious, totally authentic, Jennifer Campbell of Mama Lion Strong. Jennifer served up her experiences on a big, beautiful platter of vulnerability, which is harder to do than scheduling that long overdue Pap test. Jennifer talked about graciousness, postpartum depression, and support of new families.
And it got me thinking.
We’re assholes. Like, all of us. We just can’t help it. It’s human nature plus, as mamas, we’re all just so.damn.exhausted with the expectations of others and ourselves to craft the perfect Pinterest party, erase all physical evidence we birthed a person and trying to have it all (but not too much.)
Hell, even people without kids are exhausted. It’s no wonder we’re a collective bunch of festering jerks and struggle with finding genuine compassion for others. You know, the kind of compassion that shows up on your doorstep at 3am with ice cream and a hug because you’re losing it. The kind that doesn’t dogpile on a post about a kid who fell in a gorilla enclosure and his super shitty mother (spoiler: she isn’t shitty.) And don’t kid yourself, I don’t consider myself special. I’m right there too, shoulder-to-shoulder with all the rest of the crotchety grumpalumps.
I was thinking how can we – this chorus of emotional grinches – make things better. And, I think, the answer is “we” can’t. Not together as a group, anyway. Each of us in our own lives need to commit to being better. “Better” means not withdrawing your love and support until someone else sees your point of view. “Better” means meeting people where they’re at with a listening ear, not a “tsk-tsk you’re a fucking moron.” “Better” means not throwing your judgemental two cents on an Internet dog pile and giving people the benefit of the doubt for fucking up. Because where does it end? It ends with families in crisis because of lousy maternity leaves, the perception that maternity leave is a vacation, sleep deprivation, trying to do it all with no support from anybody, and the terror that you’re irreparably fucking up your kids through something you haven’t bought or aren’t exposing them to like overpriced tickets to a live Paw Patrol stage show.
Awful begets more awful, both online and off. It bleeds into every facet of our lives and damages our relationships. New families in crisis are the canaries in this emotional coal mine because when we refuse to extend graciousness to others it leads to chronic disease, ennui, poor mental health, and isolation. We’re just a bunch of glorious fuck ups trying to make meaning and live the best lives we can.
So, what I’m going to do to commit to being better is to drop off a casserole and brownies the next time someone has a baby, experiences a death, or goes in for surgery. I won’t stay and visit unless I’m invited. I’ll hold my tongue when I feel it starting to say “have you tried. . .” because they probably have. I’m not going to wait for others to be the change I wish to see in the world. I will be the first to change.