I had to bite my tongue.
The conversation was veering off into a place of divisiveness. And as the only parent in the discussion, I wanted to play my trump card.
“You’ll never understand until you’re a mom.”
But I took a deep breath, swallowed those words, and let the conversation continue. I wasn’t going to go there.
Motherhood is a series of seemingly incomprehensible ironies. How can you be more exhausted than ever but increase your productivity? How can you be so ridiculously busy but still be bored? How can you want nothing more than to raise your child into independence but grieve as you watch them do so? How can you maintain an unwavering, all-consuming love for these people while they frustrate you more than anyone else on this earth?
It is hard to understand. And entering motherhood does give you a changed perspective. But even so, I think we should always avoid using that dreadful phrase. Here’s why:
It makes assumptions about another person’s motherhood journey. Some women choose not to have children, some women struggle with fertility, and others might want children but haven’t found a partner with whom they can start a family. Uttering the words “…until you become a mom” assumes that their life’s journey will mirror yours. It might not. And that’s perfectly okay. A woman’s life can be complete without children.
It undermines genuine empathy. You might not feel that they get it. And they might not – because they’re not you. That doesn’t make it a “mom thing.” Most people have a genuine empathy and curiosity, and this is healthy and vital to good relationships. But to devalue someone’s perspective as simply incomplete and worthless because they are not a mother undermines and fails to acknowledge their attempts at empathy for your situation.
It’s alienating and insulting. Does becoming a parent really give you this deeper perspective and allow you to suddenly become all-knowing? Because for me it’s basically confirmed the opposite. Parenting changes your perspective, that is true. But it doesn’t mean that your changed perspective is better, deeper, or more complete. Differing perspectives are necessary for healthy and robust discussion and growth, and the phrase insinuates that people without children have a more limited capacity for understanding certain topics. Their perspective might be different, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valid.
It accomplishes nothing. Okay, maybe it accomplishes something – that something being the abrupt end of a conversation and the damage of a relationship. It would be more accurate to say it accomplishes nothing productive. It promotes divisiveness instead of unity, silence instead of conversation, hurt instead of healing. Its intent is not openness, it’s closure.
Even though it’s tempting because the mama-bear inside of us doesn’t really like to be tamed, let’s take a step back and gain some perspective. Though motherhood may be a significant facet in our own lives doesn’t mean we’ve somehow achieved the be-all and end-all of existence on this earth. Everyone’s journey is different; let’s honor that by banishing this phrase from our vocabularies and seeking unity.
Do you agree? Or do you think using this phrase is valid? How have people responded when you’ve used it?