I am sitting in my “lounge” writing this, freshly showered, with natural, but beautifully chic make up freshly applied, sipping a freshly brewed coffee with foamed milk while my adorable baby sleeps in upstairs. Yesterday morning I had to reflect for a minute on how many days I had been wearing the same outfit. My husband, who with his omniscient man powers deduced that his wife was getting the winter blues being trapped in the house with a baby in the Scandinavian, dark rainy winter sms’d me to see if I would meet him at a shopping center after he got off work, knowing that this would motivate me to shower and get out of my funk, all while save him from the risks associated with telling one’s wife that she should eventually shave her legs even though it is winter time.
I sprung into newly motivated action during my little one’s next nap, taking a long shower, shaving, applying deliciously scented organic lotion before getting dressed and beginning the daunting daily task of feeding, dressing my baby in 3 layers, and topping them off with the ubiquitous Danish winter time baby outfit called a “flying suit” (which is a must for every baby in the village of Denmark), only to have him poop just as I was slipping my shoes on.
After going back upstairs in my winter gear, working up a sweat while changing and re-dressing him, and finally making it out the door, I had to begin the task of loading up the baby carriage with the normal baby gear, covering it with water protection, trying to get little man’s mittens on which is an exercise which requires its own dedicated meditation time, all while he made his ever present, not quite crying, but threatening to cry, whiny chant of “eh….eh… eh, eh”. I then walked swiftly and deliberately to the metro, remaining calm and collected reflecting on how nice I have it compared to so many in Denmark who don’t have their own garage, who live on the 5th floor with no elevator, who may not have the money to afford the nice baby stroller or all the cool parenting gear we have, trying to ignore the “torsne” (“melting falling snow”? – yes, the Vikings have more words for snow than we have in English, but fewer words for modern discoveries, like “nipples” which they call “breast warts”) that was zooming into my face in a painfully piercing way, when I realized I had left the car seat, which I also needed to load up onto my gypsy wagon so we could come home from the mall together in my husband’s luxurious car.
Then it all began, I cursed Denmark to myself all the way back to the house. Why have I chosen to give up my American life, where each person in the family having a car is normal, and central air conditioning cools our homes in the summer, and going out to dinner or ordering take out several times a week is affordable? Instead, I have voluntarily moved to this place, where I have to pay 48% of my salary to the government to provide services to all the people, one of such government treats being “baby money” which my husband and I don’t even get a normal share of because we apparently “make too much” and therefore don’t get to receive as much of a percentage of the tax benefit back proportionate to the taxes we pay because it’s just not fair to the other people who have, erm, not worked as hard as we to get where we are and are spending just a few more years of their 30s following their hearts to not sell their soul to the corporate work force because then poor babies would be selling their little hipster selves out.
The bitterness creeps in. And as I harden my face, start chewing on my own gums and space out momentarily to board the metro with all the other poor winter commuters, I don’t even engage with the other hardened souls elbowing their way past me onto the metro to race in front elderly and fragile people to get the last fold up seat on our temporary tube trip.
On the way home from a very relaxing and enjoyable time at a sub par mall where we ended our visit with a totally overpriced and crappy dinner at an “American Diner” where we ate so we wouldn’t feel bad for having a baby who yells incessantly with us, I realized that living in Denmark is yet another example where life is all about managing trade offs. I am so happy with my life here 95% of the time, yet since it is a choice I have made, when even very momentary unhappiness sets in, it is accompanied with doubt, anger and fear that I have made the wrong choice. The feeling is one of guilt to myself, for it is I who have made the choice of moving here, instead of it just being my fate, which would be much easier to manage.
I carried these thoughts with me as I performed my nightly ritual of being my baby’s human pacifier until he falls asleep while surfing facebook. Admittedly, I am a sucker for reading the parenting blogs, mostly written by mothers that I find on my news feed that friends have “liked” or are trending, etc. And, when the night feedings get lonely and I need mind numbing reading materials accessible in the dark on my phone to help me stay awake, I even venture into the comment section to read people’s opinions about what those articles or blogs say.
And that’s where I see the anger. I see the thoughts that come over us in our weakest moments that we usefully train ourselves to push away, spilling out into the comment sections. The expressers of even the mildest opinions become targets of name-calling, bigotry, and hatred. The impassioned outrage I felt earlier in the snow becomes personified in these comments as the aggressors project their darkest and most emotional fears and doubts onto poor undeserving writers instead of biting their tongues, dealing with their own demons and maintaining a sense of courtesy that is still mostly adhered to in the physical world.
It isn’t that surprising that republicans and democrats who used to possibly engage in heated debates at cocktail parties or on school campuses tear each other down a little more harshly in this unfiltered world where accountability is less immediately than in the less virtual world. It is feasible, although not without disappointment, that religious debates get more passionate without the chains of expectations surrounding civilized discourse to hold them back. But what I cannot wrap my head around is why we have let this forum of instant anger expression remove all of our filters that previously caught reactionary absurdness.
To give a specific example that hits close to home is within the area of motherhood. Sure, mothers have been judging each other as long as women have felt insecure. But in the past, just as I would not have randomly gone off on a Danish person in the park simply because I was temporarily annoyed with living in Denmark yesterday, women would have had the self respect to take a look at themselves when experiencing jealousy or insecurity and instead of lashing out at the other mothers, talk shit about them privately to their friends, like civilized adults.
And what is most noteworthy about this trend, is that it is normally the ones being positive about their mothering experience, who get the worst of the anger. I read a blog last night where a girl simply writes about how surprisingly great she found motherhood to be, especially after all of the horror stories she heard while pregnant. The article really resonated with me, as I have had a similar experience. Yet the author was attacked in the comments for showing off and not taking the feelings of mothers who haven’t had it so good into consideration. It is a double standard that the commenters on such articles expect the author of a written monologue to have the couth expected in a dialogue when they are the ones who have that very luxury and do not exercise it.
In real life, as I go from coffee date to mother group to mommy & baby yoga, to another coffee date, I note my fellow mothers’ frustrations and take care not to “rub it in” that I have in fact showered most days, and that I have had no problems with breast feeding, nor that I have lost all of my baby weight without even trying. When a close fellow mother of mine confides in me that the baby is coming between her and her husband or when another confides that her husband has hinted that she needs to lose weight, I use my human skills of social grooming and don’t respond with “well, that’s too bad, my husband is awesome with our son and thinks I’m super sexy; here, would you like a bite of my fried chicken? It goes well with your depression”. No, because in real life, we use our friendly filters. We don’t lash out at people with our selfish comments the way that social media allows us to do online; we naturally exercise empathy.
As women who chose to have children, we are all in the same boat. We are not a group that should be at odds with each other over petty differences, but rather, we are a natural support structure that comes in quite handy when going through what is a beautiful combination of the most difficult and most wonderful thing that will ever happen to us. Let’s stop and think next time we wish to vent our frustrations by insulting others. Just as one wouldn’t go off on a poor innocent local because they are not happy about the weather, let’s be kind to one another even if we don’t parent our children the same way or feel the same way about motherhood as each other. And while we are at it, if everyone could stop hating on skinny people, that would be great.