Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dear Mother

Dear mother out in public with her children,

I've seen you glance in my direction. I'm the one down the aisle from you, walking unfettered through the store by myself. I'm not bogged down by children asking questions, begging me to buy something for them, while hanging from my arms or pulling at my spit-up stained shirt. And I've never had to mitigate a tantrum on the floor of a public space.

I'm not a mom.

I'm the one with the flat stomach and perky boobs--a body entirely untouched by pregnancy. The one with the hair I spent 20 minutes quietly curling in my bathroom and the outfit I chose just for this trip. It was the fifth one I tried on, that's how much time I had to get ready this morning.

You might have seen me offer you a sympathetic gaze when your child starts to scream. A smile meant to somehow communicate my admiration for what you're doing. It probably wasn't easy to coordinate the departure of several small humans, just to go to the store. Leaving the house was probably a wonderful break and a nightmarish experience, all rolled into one.

But, I'm not a mom. And I don't know what that's like.

I see the dark bags under your eyes, your body frazzled and stressed. You're tired. Worried. You are probably overwhelmed. Exhausted. You have a lot of things to be worried about. You have a lot of responsibility. And I'm sure that's frightening and beautiful and overwhelming all at once.

But I don't understand. And I promise I'll never insult you by pretending to know what it's like to be you.

I'm not a mom.

Oddly, our stories have the same beginning. You and I were both little girls, feeding our dolls with a bottle. Babysitting children for extra cash in high school. We dated men, studying them for indications they would make good fathers.

We met the one. Married him and dreamed of a life together. Perhaps we had the same talk: I think we're ready to start trying. Or, perhaps life took you by surprise and you never had a chance for that discussion--it just happened.

But I'm not a mom.

You wouldn't know this by looking at me, dear mother, but this is where our paths diverge. Your stick said PREGNANT and mine always included the word NOT. We probably both cried, and the doctor's visits that followed couldn't have varied more.

I searched for the answer to "Why isn't this working?" and never found an answer--while you searched for baby names. Good news came, bad news came. There was a lot of time spent in waiting rooms. We were filled with hope time and time again. Except you had a baby and I didn't. And I admire the hell out of you for going through childbirth.

We might even have the same scar across our bellies, reminders of what we've done and where we've been. Except yours brought a new life into this world and mine tried to breathe new life into a body that will never produce a child.

I'm not a mom. And for me, that's OK.

I wanted what you wanted, back then. To teach my children to say please and thank you, like my parents taught me. To see the sparkle of my husband's eyes on a tiny face that has my nose. To argue over names and change diapers and lose sleep rocking a tiny human to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

I let that dream fade a few years ago. I chose a different path that sometimes makes me feel like I'll never be part of your club. But we both made our choices and it was the right one for me.

I'm not a mom. But what you need to know is this:

I admire you. What you're doing isn't easy, but it's important. You have a tremendous amount of responsibility. And whether you work outside the home or not, you have a tough job that must be riddled with guilt while also filled with selflessness. My glance in your direction, as your child is throwing a tantrum in the aisles of Target, is never one of judgement.

It's of admiration. And love. The world is a tough place for us---all of us. And I'll always believe there's no room for bitterness in the equation. So no, your children are not bothering me. I see your struggle. And I know you're doing the best you can with the minute amount of sanity you have left.

As for the women who do judge you for what you do (or don't do) as a mother, just remember that's their issue, not yours. Trust me on this one.

Yours truly,

The childless woman down the aisle

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