While skimming the latest gossip off one of my town’s Facebook groups I came across a post by a woman who described her evening of attempting to photograph birds at a local, public beach. She described the stillness of her perch and how quite she needed to be so the birds wouldn’t be afraid to approach where she sat. Suddenly, she says, a family shows up and stops a little bit away from her. Not close enough to disturb the birds. She can tell they’re there for family photos. There’s a mother, a father, two kids and a light screen. The mother, this woman telling the story says, immediately loses it on the kids yelling for “Just one hour!” Completely disrupting this woman’s own photo shoot she’s worked so hard to set up with the birds.
I get it. It’s really annoying. There is absolutely no such thing as a quiet piece of space on our island in August. I complain about it all the time. I think it sucks that this woman’s work was interrupted. I started reading the comments people had added to her post. One after another they shamed the mother for yelling at her kids or for making a racket at all. How dare she disturb the peace of this beautiful place!
Well, I had my own little melt down at my house. Phone in hand. I wanted to rant and rave and defend this mother but all I could do in the moment was leave a snarky little comment about the difficulties of motherhood and not mom-shaming. In retrospect I could have been nicer and less sarcastic.
It really stuck with me though. This story. It perfectly illustrates the way I’ve felt over the last two years. It makes me ask: Where is our village? You know, that village that it supposedly takes to raise a child. Never mind two. Where is the support and understanding? The neighborly helping hand?
I’ve only been doing the mom thing for a little over two years and I’ve already had a few public meltdowns. They’re not something I’m proud of. I don’t set out for the day planning on screaming “Don’t you dare!” as my toddler launches a jar of spaghetti sauce onto the Stop & Shop floor. It’s just something that happens when you don’t have a village.
Moms need a break.
Last summer I was walking my dog down the narrow sidewalk on my street and pushing my kid in her stroller that veers left so I have to hold on extra tight so it doesn’t go off the curb into traffic. My dog was a 90lb, very energetic hound. I loved her very much. She was my first baby and I’d had her for seven years. I swore I’d never get rid of her, but we had already started searching for her new home which left me with a constant feeling of sadness and dread. My daughter had decided to get all her teeth in the span of a month so we hadn’t been sleeping very well. My husband was away for a 9-week work training thing, it was 90 degrees and I was due for a melt down.
I saw some of my neighbors walking their dog ahead on the sidewalk so we crossed over to the other side where there was no sidewalk, but it would keep our dogs from meeting. My dog did not like meeting other dogs while on a leash. The other family was walking much slower so as we overtook them, on the opposite side of the road, my dog decided to lunge out into the street just as a car came speeding down the road, almost pulling me and the stroller with my then one-year-old into the line of the car with her. I managed to whip her back towards me with her leash just in time and proceeded to absolutely lose my freaking s***. Completely. Utterly. No s*** was left. It was all lost. All over the street. In front of the other family with their dog. In front of the neighbors whoes lawn I was now standing on. In front of the passing cars. I screamed holy hell at my dog who cowered on the ground while my daughter shrieked in terror. When I was done yelling we walked home while I cried.
I was embarrassed and ashamed. I worried someone would call animal control on me or DCF. I hid in my house with my daughter and my dog and just howled. All I could see when I closed my eyes where the faces of my neighbors just looking at me. They looked at my like I was a crazy person. Like I was unstable. I felt like I had no right having a dog or a kid to take care of.
A year later I can think of how different it would have been if one of those neighbors had come up to me and asked me if I was alright. Would I like them to walk my dog back while I pushed the stroller.
How different would I have felt if after witnessing me at one of my lowest points someone had said, “It’s okay. I’ve been there.” I swear to you I would have hugged that person and cried into their shoulder before picking myself up and going on to be the best mom I could be for the rest of that night. I would have felt okay about not feeling okay. My mood would have lightened. I would still be embarrassed but I wouldn’t feel ashamed. I wouldn’t feel alone.
It is time for us to bring back the village. Moms need a break. Dads need a break. We all need to give each other a break. It’s scary inserting yourself into someone else’s business. And maybe it will backfire and just get you an ear full of “Mind your own business.” But that person will know, deep down, that she isn’t alone. Or maybe she will sob in your arms for a minute before apologizing and walking off ready to deal with the next thing life throws at her. Maybe she will feel like she is part of a community that cares about it’s people.