It was crystal clear to any experienced mom within shouting distance of this woman. She did not yet have a mommy compass.
The mother in question was trying her best to swim in the shark-infested waters of a newly formed play group. As the other mothers peppered her with questions, I could see the look in her eye. It’s the same look I get when surrounded by a bunch of grown women who still seem to think we are in our sorority days. Fear. Loathing. And confusion/terror at not quite fitting in. Combined with a sense of relief that you don’t.
I like to use my mommy compass for situations like the one in which she found herself.
A mommy compass is that inner knowing, hard earned over years of mothering, that you are doing ok—that you are headed in the right direction. That despite the fact that you do not hand-roll sushi at home, make entire meals out of quinoa and chia and use only the freshest eggs from the chickens that you raise in your own backyard (just like Martha), your children will still grow up strong, healthy and well adjusted.
The mommy compass is also extremely useful in situations where other mothers are throwing out terms like “stretch goals”, “enrichment” and “leapfrogging.” And no, they don’t mean the game where one child jumps over another. Not this fast-paced crowd.
I especially like to pull out the mommy compass in response to a look of horror or a catty comment. I actually had to use it with my own mother once. As she recoiled in horror at the wrinkled dress shirt my son was wearing, she commented, “Oh that is just shameful. How can you let him wear such a wrinkled shirt?” After consulting my mommy compass for all of about a millisecond, I let her know that “shameful” has nothing to do with wrinkled shirts. Malnutrition, neglect and motherly sarcasm/judgment? Now those are shameful. A wrinkled shirt is just everyday life for a busy working mom. Something, I reminded her, she should know since she was one.
Here’s the deal: we all question ourselves as parents at one point or another. And we should. It’s healthy. But we all also have a gut instinct and inner voice that tells us when what we’re doing, even if it defies conventional wisdom, is right for our child. We just have to tune out all the other mommies for whom that is threatening.
The mommy compass ignores pack wisdom. And it knows that while we may lose battles with our kids—they may screw up, do things that make us cringe and generally not take our good advice—we will eventually win the war. Because we don’t give up. And eventually our kids catch on to the fact that we have at least a small bit of wisdom worth their time and attention.
As this mother scurried off to research local classes in Mandarin and Latin for her 18-month-old who could barely speak his own language with any skill, I had to smile. Give her another year or so. Or another child.
Her trek has just begun. And she’s not yet realized she is truly not lost.