There's a conversation going on right now in our world -- a beautiful, unprecedented tapestry of a conversation. It crosses borders, ages, races and classes. It's a conversation about motherhood, and it speaks with a breadth and richness that this world hasn't seen before, thanks to the technology that invites almost everyone to join in.
The conversation is happening in the rising wave of voices we hear from blogs, online motherhood groups, message boards and the comments sections in parenting articles. No longer confined to hushed tones at playgrounds or conversations over kitchen tables, women everywhere are speaking to each other about their struggles, triumphs and bodies with a level of public candor we've never enjoyed before.
The underlying theme of this conversation is that our similarities as mothers outweigh our differences. We all love our children and want what's best for them, even if our methods for achieving that look different. We all hurt sometimes, even if the pain presents itself in different ways. We all want to be loved and appreciated, even if we each bring different strengths to the table.
And when one of us is brave enough to tell her story, it opens the door for another woman to do the same. With every voice invited to this conversation, it gets a little more real -- more honest, more raw, more revolutionary, more alive.
With that invitation, though, comes an unspoken call for responsibility. When you insert yourself into the conversation, are you positively contributing or are you detracting from its ultimate mission?
In one swipe through an online moms' group this weekend, I saw women insisting their views were the only ones worth considering, women deleting other mothers' comments because they presented a dissenting view, even a woman getting kicked out of the group for criticizing an admin's perspective. I've seen thousands of women spewing hateful commentary at other mothers on social media for openly being in better shape or having a cleaner house or throwing a more Pinteresting birthday party. I've seen comments on my own pregnancy blog making fun of the size of my belly at nine months.
In a world where many of us are raising our children without the village, where the lines between work and home life are blurring, where raising kids is getting more expensive and more isolating -- we need, more than ever, to support each other as women and as mothers.
So please -- for the sake of all of us who have joined this conversation to improve ourselves, our understanding of each other and our love for our children -- strive to speak a language of integrity, progress and love.
If you perceive a differing opinion as a personal attack on you or your beliefs, you may be doing it wrong.
If your need to be heard is more important than the message you are conveying, you may be doing it wrong.
If you feel the urge to shame another mother because she's doing something better than you, you may be doing it wrong.
If you're willing to try to silence another woman for being critical of your opinions, you may be doing it wrong.
If you think you can be cruel because you're hiding behind a screen, you may be doing it wrong.
This conversation is happening for a reason. For the first time in history, women of all creeds and circumstances are able to speak to each other about how hard this all is, how sublime and hilarious it all is, and how unjust much of it has been, despite the beauty and grace motherhood brings to our lives. And for the first time, we're able to combine our voices in the hope of bringing about real change that will benefit us all.
That change starts within each of us. It's happening in the woman who just realized she's not the only one to suffer debilitating depression after childbirth, but finds the courage to seek help knowing she's not alone. It's happening in the woman who's always looked down at her post-baby body with tears in her eyes, but found a sense of pride in it after seeing the photos shared by another mother embracing her transformed body. It's happening in the woman whose online moms' group correctly suggested a life-altering diagnosis for her son that doctors had missed for years.
It extends beyond us in the women whose newfound voices are giving them the courage to petition for improved maternity leave policies, accessible and affordable postpartum care, and child care in the workplace.
The sooner we stop hurting and silencing each other, the sooner we will step forward together. When we hold ourselves to a commitment of mutual respect and a heartfelt obligation to pull each other up out of the trenches, the conversation gets richer and more full of promise for both us and our daughters. So let's talk.
To read more from Catherine, visit ChokingOnApplesauce.com.