If We’re Really Curious About Motherhood, It’s Time To Ask New Questions

Let's ask moms more.

Imagine a big awards show for moms everywhere.  We’ll call it The Momscars or the Mommys or something wittier that I haven’t thought of yet.  There’s a red carpet, dozens of photographers, a crowd of eager fans.  You saunter along, basking in the attention being lavished upon you.  This is your night.  A night to celebrate you and the wonderful mom that you are.

Like any red carpet, there is a line of people waiting to hear all about you. As you approach the first person, you run through all of your incredible accomplishments as a mom.  You make sure you have a funny anecdote at the ready.  This will be your moment to share what motherhood means to you; an opportunity for a truly poignant conversation.  You take a deep breath and wait for the question.

“How’s breastfeeding?”

What? You freeze.  Surely this can’t be the all-important question that is being asked of you.  With everything you’ve accomplished, this is what they want to discuss?  You stammer, unsure how to answer.

The question is a complicated one.  If you aren’t breastfeeding then you are going to have to defend your reason why.  If breastfeeding isn’t going well then you’re probably going to have to listen to a story about the reporter’s sister’s hairdresser who also struggled with breastfeeding.  Even if breastfeeding is going well, it’s not really the conversation you are wanting to have.  You smile graciously and try to change the subject to something more substantial.

“So, are you getting any sleep?”

Oof.  This is not going great.  Yes, sleeping and eating are important but they have very little to do with what you love about being a mother.  It’s time for one last attempt to shift the conversation.  You decide to share that even though it’s an incredibly difficult job, you absolutely love being a mom and getting to experience the world through your child’s eyes.

“Oh, just you wait.”

You stare back, dumbfounded.  Was that a threat?  When trying to share your joy, did this person seriously respond with a vague threat disguised as a bad joke?  Realizing that this conversation is doing little to fulfill you as a human being, you mutter an excuse about how you need to get going.

Now, take the above scenario and make some adjustments.  Instead of a red carpet, it’s the park or your workplace or the grocery store.  It’s not a reporter that you’re conversing with, it’s another mom or your co-worker or a complete stranger.  Also, you’re not really sauntering.  It’s more of a frantic scrambling.

Those things change, but the questions are the same.  These are the standard questions we have for mothers, especially new mothers.  They are questions that do little to get to the beautiful, hilarious heart of motherhood. Instead, they leave our mothers feeling like their lives amount to little more than sleeping, eating, and stress.

Let’s change the script.

The next time you have a conversation with a mother and you feel yourself asking one of these “standard” questions, challenge yourself to ask them more.  Ask them about their favorite part of motherhood.  What has surprised them?  What skills from their pre-mom life have helped them most in parenting?  Or, you could simply ask about them.  Ask about the woman they are instead of the mom that you assume them to be.

Let’s not ask more of our mothers, but instead let’s ask them MORE.  There is more to motherhood than simply meeting the basic needs of your offspring.  Moms do so much MORE than feed their children and put them to bed.  They nurture and challenge and celebrate.  They encourage and value and love.  Moms give us so much, so let’s give them more to talk about.

By asking moms more we are telling them we care.  Not only do we care, but we see them and all that they are giving to their role as a mom.  When we show a genuine interest in their experience we are letting them know that they are not just another mom in the crowd.

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