“Alien vs. Predator?” Makes sense. “King Kong vs. Godzilla?” Of course. “Freddy vs. Jason?” Naturally. “Joe vs. the Volcano?” Check. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?” I can see that. Mom vs. Non-Mom? Wait … what? Back up there a minute.
Us-versus-them makes sense when you’re battling evil, but when you’re just not on the same reproductive page, it seems a little extreme. Look, I’ve been on both sides. I waited quite a while to start a family, so I spent a lot of time around women who were already mothers. Now that I’ve taken the childbearing plunge, I’ve crossed the line to the other side.
Are sides really necessary … or even a good idea? Maybe not so much. We all have the same body parts. For most women, it’s a choice about whether or not – and when – to fire up the ol’ uterus. We need to accept and support others’ decisions, but we should also be aware of what pushes other people’s buttons.
As I said, I’ve been on both sides, so I nominate myself to point out mistakes I’ve made that show each group in a less-than-flattering light. If we can be more tolerant and less annoying, all women win.
One Mouth and Two Ears
People would rather focus their own lives than listen to others talk. That’s human nature. However, let’s try to back away from selfishness a bit. Before I had my daughter, my conversation topics flitted around like a sparrow with ADHD. Once I announced my pregnancy, my vision narrowed. A lot. So did my conversation topics. I don’t think I was particularly great company at either extreme.
Don’t be like I was. Regardless of family situation, pick a couple important things you want to discuss with your girlfriends, regardless of mom status. The next step is crucial: alternative topics with your conversational partner. No one dominates the chat. This means that, even if you can’t relate, you don’t have to feign interest in someone else’s life for too long.
You learned this in kindergarten: take turns. One woman talks about her job stress. Then the other vents about shortcomings in the local school district. Switch again! Time to confide relationship angst. Now over to the reward vs. punishment debate.
It’s fair. No one dominates. Make sure that while you’re waiting for your opportunity, you don’t tune out. Your friend is looking for either advice or a sympathetic ear. Because you’re going to be front and center soon, you can afford to be generous.
Tah-dah! You’re now an attentive listener. Try to be a considerate speaker, too. Don’t choose topics you know your friend can’t relate to. Sure, she likes your kids, but she really doesn’t care about potty training. No one does outside your house. No one.
Any decent conversationalist looks for common ground. In 1922, Emily Post defined “bores” as people who force their topics of interest on others. Nothing’s changed. Emily had it going on.
Reach Out, Reach Out and Touch Someone
When you made friends before having kids, you had so much in common. Once you get into the us-versus-them mindset, it’s easy to lose contact with the friends who don’t have kids yet. You think about calling your mom friend but decide you don’t have the energy to hear about the crisis du jour, which never seems critical to you. Or, as a mom, you’re wondering if it’s worth paying a sitter when you’re afraid of getting dissed for talking about your kids. So no one picks up the phone, and the friendship dies a little.
Not all connections are made to last, but life changes don’t automatically negate past relationships. Everyone is entitled to evolve. Being the same person at 30 that you were at 18 probably makes you a bore. As poet, Robert Frost, wrote, “Nothing gold can stay.” Change is part of a natural cycle.
So go on, keep in touch with the other. Avoiding her might well mean losing her … and is that what you want?
We Shouldn’t All Try to Be Judge Judy
As I encourage everyone to get along, I want to make an important but obvious point: The lives of moms and non-moms are not the same. Why do we spend so much time comparing ourselves? The obvious answer is that we want to feel good about our choices. Can we hold onto that while not looking down our noses at others? Of course we can! We just have to make the effort.
First, we have to start off by recognizing that there’s no good vs. bad here. This is an essential step because it keeps us from being judgmental. My choices haven’t been any more valid than those of my friends. Diversity adds spice to life.
Before I had my daughter, I didn’t know when I would have kids. They seemed to suck up life and resources – and they do … but there are benefits. Perhaps – well, certainly – I was a bit too judgmental toward women who became moms before me. How was my choice not to procreate superior to the decision to have kids? Don’t look too deep for an answer here. The correct response is, it wasn’t. It was just different. The choice was better for me, sure, but not superior in the grand scheme of the universe.
Before I had my daughter., I couldn’t understand why the lives of my mom friends always seemed to revolve around their kids. I get it now … but I also realize that there’s got to be time to touch base with the larger world. While they are important, I don’t want to be defined solely in terms of my family. In order to keep this from happening, I have to make an effort to do things as a real human person, not just a mom. That means sometimes hanging out with them: the non-moms.
Look, I know I make value judgments all the time. Which candidate will get my vote (at his rate – none of them.)? Is this restaurant worth the wait? What am I willing to do to reduce my carbon footprint? Would a cat or dog – or guinea pig or fish – be the best pet? Some of those determinations are actually important, with long-term consequences.
However, criticizing someone else – even if it’s just inside my head – because she’s made a different procreation decision? I hate to say this about myself, but that’s just poppycock. I feel better about myself if I’m convinced I made a superior choice? Wow, that’s shallow. I’m better than that. We’re all better than that, sisters.