When I became a mother, I didn’t just become a mother to my own children. But I didn’t know that at first.
As babies, my children were my entire world. Their tiny heads that smelled like hay. Their buttery thighs and edible toes. My love for them left me breathless, full, frightened, and amazed—all at once.
When they were little, I held onto them for dear life, worried about anything that might harm them. I worried, too, about whether I was good enough for them. Did I hold them too much? Too little? Was I making all the right choices? Should I parent by instinct, or by the book? Could I make up some strange combination of parenting styles and just go with it?
And the other moms—oh, I’d compare myself to them. I’d criticize and judge them in my head. For the five minutes I saw them, of course, which in hindsight seems so ridiculous.
Now that my kids are older, I am outgrowing much of the doubting and pettiness that plagued me as a new mother. I see that I basically haven’t screwed them up too badly (or at least the full extent of my damage hasn’t been revealed yet!). And I am beginning to see beyond the world of me and my own children. As I settle deeper into my role as mother, I am seeing my mother-heart expand. I am mother, to everyone, everywhere I go.
Sometimes I feel like the media plays up this idea that we mothers are always hating on each other, throwing judgments left and right, lost in our own bubbles, fighting only for our own children. I see that sometimes, and I have been guilty of it at times. But when I look around, and really pay attention, I see the opposite. I see so many mothers with their hearts wide open. We are all looking out for each other and our children more than we know.
Take, for example, after-school pickup at my son’s school today. After I gathered up my son amid the gaggle of children and parents, I noticed that there was one girl still standing by the door, waiting for her mom to pick her up. The girl looked a little distressed. I knew that her family had been having some trouble, and I saw it in her eyes as she waited those minutes for her mother to show up. The teachers—mothers themselves—waited patiently with her, chatting, and reassuring her that her mom was on the way.
Just as I was about to take my children down to the playground to play, my friend’s little girl came limping up the back steps, crying hysterically. Her leg was bleeding, and she couldn’t find her mother. I took her hand, and we walked through the crowd. I could feel her little chest heaving sobs against my arms as I guided her through, and I felt my own heart quicken, as I worried if perhaps it was worse than just a scraped knee.
I brought her to her mother, who was holding the baby that she’d been babysitting. Our other friend took the baby so my friend could tend to her daughter. A group of us moms stood vigil to make sure the little girl was OK (she was fine). My friend threw cold water on her daughter’s cut and used a baby wipe from another friend’s purse to wipe it down.
Meanwhile, my eye was on the little girl waiting upstairs for her mother, and I let out a sigh of relief when her mother came and scooped her up. Soon enough, my friend’s daughter stopped crying, and we were all down at the playground, our children swinging from trees and running up slides.
Yes, we mothers are assholes to each other sometimes. Yes, motherhood is so damn hard and isolating that it’s easy to get wrapped up in the nitty-gritty of our own troubles. But if you look around, you might see more kindness than you realize. You might see mothers lifting each other up. You might see mothers caring for each other’s children as if they were their own.
So let’s notice that. Let’s celebrate it. Let’s harness the power of our mother-hearts. Let’s use it to change each other’s lives, and to change the world.