Ladies, I have a proposition: let’s lose the labels. I’m not talking about the designer variety, although I love a good designer label. I’m talking about mommy labels. You know the type, right? “Working mom,” “stay-at-home mom,” “work-from-home mom,” “part-time-working mom,” etc. The list is endless.
Now, before I get too far into this, let me be clear. I don’t think labels are innately bad, wrong, or out to get us. In fact, they serve a valid purpose. Labels—of any kind—help us create meaning and identify ourselves as individuals. They help us connect with others who share similar interests and likes. They help us find our fit, our people.
Labels, in their simplest form, are not the problem. Exclusion is the problem. Or, at least that’s my experience with labels since becoming a mom myself.
When you can’t find a fit…
Most moms identify with at least one common label. Let’s take working mom and stay-at-home mom, for instance. Each label, respectively, comes with its own points of pride and insecurities (the grass is always greener, right?). There’s nothing wrong with identifying with one of these labels. In fact, many moms feel a sense of belonging, or connection, when they meet other moms with the same label—and, that’s great! Being connected and supported by moms in similar roles, with similar lifestyles, is a beautiful thing. But, what if you can’t quite find a fit?
You see, I don’t fit a label. I don’t check any of the standard boxes. I’m a self-employed entrepreneur and writer, sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time, work-from-home mom. You’re confused just reading that, right? Me too. And, that’s where the problem lies. If I can’t fit a label, with whom will I connect? Where will I find my people?
It’s not a “me” problem; it’s an “everyone” problem.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this sounds like a “me” problem. At first glance, I would agree. But, the more I speak to other moms on the playground, at work events, and other common chit-chat spots, the more I realize this applies to far more moms than just me. It’s an “everyone” problem. Everyone struggles with their identity as a mother at one point or another. Mine just happens to occur more frequently when trying to use a label that helps others understand who I am, what I do, and when I might be free for play dates.
Before I was a mom, I never felt the need to attach to a label at all (aside from proudly boasting my alma mater décor—hook ‘em, Horns!). I’ve always found confidence in myself and my life choices. And as much as I adore my firstborn (and second one on the way!), I’m more than a mom. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, friend, aspiring writer, volunteer, cookbook lover, travel enthusiast, and so much more. I don’t fit a common label. And, I’ll bet most other beautifully complex mothers don’t either. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes you, “you.”
So, why now? Why do I feel the need to attach to commonplace when my situation is uniquely my own? The answer: being left out is lonely.
Loneliness is for the birds.
Being left out is lonely, and it hurts. That might sound childish, but it’s true. It hurts just as much as an adult as it does a child, especially when you’re new to the motherhood game. When you bring home that new bundle of joy, you’re elated. And then you’re emotional, leaking, and sleep deprived. Combine that with not being able to find your people with all these labels floating around, and, well, things can get lonely.
I don’t know how to fix loneliness. But, I do know the more I speak to and learn from other moms, the more I find that others have felt this same way—at least once or twice—too. Because here’s the thing: we all want to be heard, understood, and included.
So, let’s do that. We’ll never better understand each other’s situations if we divide ourselves—even unintentionally—by labels that don’t capture each of our unique personalities or situations. Why create exclusion when we’re stronger together?
Let’s lose the labels.
Let’s tear down the boxes that make us feel trapped. Let’s create circles where all are welcome. And if we can’t do that, let’s at least agree that at the end of the day, we’re all just doing our best. If our children are well loved and cared for, we’ve done our best. Let’s rest easy with that. Let’s rest easy with the blessing and privilege of being called “Mommy,” no strings, or labels, attached.