Today I read a post from my friend Lynn over at http://diaryofaturtlehead.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/the-world-as-i-know-it/ and it finally got me to sit down and commit to writing some ideas that had been swirling around in my head for a month or so. She is talking about an Ottawa woman who killed her children, aged 10 and 6, then killed herself.
When I look at this story, I wonder what made this woman so different from me. My kids are almost the same age and I am the woman on the street who organizes our yearly street party as well as ladies’ night out. I stay home with my kids and have since Monkey was born, making it 7 1/2 years now. Would people describe me as ‘strange’ or ‘hard to get to know?’ Perhaps. For all that I may seem like a social creature, I know that I only open up to those I feel close to.
So, what makes me so different from this woman? I know that there were mental health issues at play. How could there not be? But what makes me truly sad is wondering if this woman felt so alone that there was nobody she could confide in, to share her thoughts and her insecurities and her fears. Did she have anybody who she could have a cup of coffee with and say ‘What a crap day. The kids were being spectacularly loud and crabby. Is it a full moon or something?’
And this is the thing that was nagging at me even before I heard about his poor woman. It started with a roundtable I participated in at work where the topic of women’s friendships came up. I was truly shocked to hear several of the women (mostly 35-50) say that they had no real ‘girlfriends.’ They claimed that they identified better with men and found women to be catty and distrustful and competitive. They admired my friendships with my girlfriends but had given up on the idea for themselves. And yet, these same women had gone through strings of bad relationships with men and kept going back for more.
It got me really thinking about how truly isolated we as woman are in this society. We are given the message over and over again that other women are our competition – we must strive to look younger, be more fit, have a better job, have better behaved kids, keep a better house, have better sex, wear better clothes, than other women. We must keep our men happy in the bedroom or some other woman will steal him away. We see other women as a threat on our climb up the corporate ladder because there are so few of us making it.
I think it’s time we call B.S. on the whole thing. We are not each other’s competition. We are our greatest means of support. When you get a bunch of women together and let them tell their own truth and really be there for each other, it is empowering and reaffirming and good for the body and soul.
The idea that women are seperate from each other, that they are supposed to seek support and stability only from their male partner, is something that is unique to this century and this North American society. Since the dawn of time, families lived together in multi-generational households. You had your mother and aunts around to help you when you had a newborn. You were taught life skills from the women who surrounded you all the time. They shared their secrets and wisdom with each other. It is a real tragedy that we have lost this.
Of course, I could go into all kinds of reasons why we live the way we do. That’s the women’s studies scholar in me rearing her opinionated head. But we don’t need to go into feminist theory to figure out what to do about our predicament.
Reach out to another mom in your neighbourhood. Get together for coffee. Offer to swap kids for playdates. Tell that new mom you don’t care if she has breastmilk stains on her shirt and her hair isn’t washed. You want to see her. Invite the new woman at the office to have coffee with you one afternoon. Reach out to those ladies you only see at PTA meetings and invite them out for a cocktail. Do you really think they are going to say no? Chances are, they need somebody to talk to just as much as you do.
Let yourself be vulnerable. Let yourself be imperfect. Tell your girlfriend that your kids are driving you crazy and you need a break. Talk about your wrinkles and those extra 10 pounds and how sometimes you feel like you can’t keep up with it all. They are going through it all too in their own way.
I think for myself, I want to make even more of an efford to close the distance between myself and the women around me. I love my dear Muppet but there are things that sometimes only another woman is truly going to understand. And on that note, I think I am going to arrange another Ladies’ Night Out. I think it is long overdue.