Do you remember making dioramas in elementary school? I'm fairly certain every child received this assignment at one point during their early education. The content or themes surely varied, but the objective was always the same: create a static scene within the confines of a shoebox.
As a mom of only six months, I'm new to the maternal community. Without a doubt, my ship would've run aground quicker than Forrest Gump's shrimp boat if I didn't have the support of other moms, both those familiar and those I've never met. During those grueling first three months, I pored over my mom Facebook group, desperately seeking advice, life experience, and frankly, someone to admit they were caught in the same emotional struggle as me.
Whether I was posting a question or replying to one, I got the sense that most of us just want blunt honesty. If it's a pig, skip the lipstick and just let it wallow in its own shit. But even when we're dishing out some real talk, we always end on a high note with a verbal fist bump. You GOT THIS, mama! High five. Exclamation extravaganza!
Of course, there's always the Hyde side of a communal coin. The side from which the judge Judy's come out to play. The people that make us scared to reveal our true selves because we dared to go about life differently than they chose to.
We've all been recently walloped with a good dose of mom shaming in the wake of the Cincinnati zoo debacle. I was stunned at the Today Show's onsite reporter ending his segment with this paraphrased missive: while we cannot reveal the identity of the mother of the child, we can tell you that she works at a day care where she "TAKES CARE OF OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN." Dun dun duuuuun. They may as well have said 'this unfit mother puts razor blades in Halloween candy and arsenic in your child's applesauce.' We all know what a day care is, Mr. Reporter. Way to fan the Internet flames.
Accidents aren't allowed to happen anymore, as this author so sagely pointed out in the wake of the zoo incident. She posits that "we" require a reason for which something happens, rushing to pin a tragedy or paint a scarlet letter on somebody in an effort to wrap our minds around a bad situation. Many times, that person is a mother.
Quickly concluding a mom isn't "doing it right" happens ALL the time. Mom hands her child a screen - gasp! Bad mom. Mom doesn't make her own baby food. What a lazy slob. Mom doesn't breastfeed, mom bought a plastic toy, mom enables the princess culture, mom allowed her son to paint his nails. We're all going to hell in a hand basket and we know who's to blame.
We constantly observe moms doing or not doing and we make a once and final judgement on just how fit she is to parent. Would you want a fleeting observation made about you to define who you are to someone, once and for all? Would a diorama of your life tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?
In the mornings, almost daily, Harlow and I go downstairs after nursing and a little play time so that I can eat breakfast and get my day going. She goes into her jumperoo or jungle play yard while I drink my coffee, eat my yogurt, and check my email. It dawned on me that somebody walking by our townhouse may peer into the window, see my daughter playing by herself, me sipping coffee and looking at my phone, and think, "Wow. She's more concerned with Facebook than with spending time with her own child. What's the world coming to?"
What's really going on is this: I use those 15 (a mere quarter of an hour out of the 12 I'm up with Harlow everyday) minutes for both my and her benefit. Yes, I'm getting my caffeine fix and posting on Instagram (or Snapchat, I'm realllly trying to get on board) to promote this site and my styling work. I'm also trying to foster Harlow's ability to play independently. As confirmed by my nanny, a Montessori educator currently working towards her masters degree, promoting the capability to entertain herself even for a short while at this stage will pay large dividends when Harlow's a toddler. If she doesn't begin to hone that skill now, she'll always just assume I'm there to fill every minute of her day and expect me to come up with a new and next activity.
Don't get me wrong. I want to be present in every facet of Harlow's life, but I want her to understand that just because mommy steps away doesn't mean she has to stare at the wall. One of my greatest entertainers as a child was my own imagination, and if I can help my daughter develop hers, that would be one of the greatest gifts I could ever give her.
So there's the truth of the situation that a passerby would never know. When those 15 minutes are up, we stroll around the neighborhood talking about all the things we see go by. We hit up one of the awesome Mother Goose gatherings at the local libraries. We visit her Dee Dee and great grandmother, we sing nursery rhymes, we practice our French and do our exercises to strengthen her gross and fine motor skills. If I'm holding my phone, it's to take a picture. Pictures, at least 20 of them. Sure, she did that thing before, but never that way, on this day, in that outfit. Click, click, click!
The things I never understood about motherhood prior to becoming a mom could fill a book, and so could the new things I learn everyday now that I am one. Balancing a baby, a house, and a husband when you've got raging hormones and the mere illusion of a proper bladder takes its toll. Sometimes a mom is just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes she leaves a dirty diaper on the floor of a public restroom because she's so flustered she didn't even realize she missed the trash can (a true story, no it wasn't me, yes the women who saw it were compassionate). A mom may be cranky because she hasn't had a home-cooked meal in months, or completed a full REM cycle since giving birth.
Sometimes what happens in a moment isn't a spoiler that gives away the ending. It's just a snapshot, a speck in the galaxy of life.