I flew into my four year old’s preschool for a meeting one evening—winded, bat-out-of-hell, mom style. I’d been up since 5:30am. Started my day with a killer workout that had me waddling slightly from sore muscles. I’d poured myself into nine hours of productivity at my paying job, busted my arse home to gather my three children, and made it to the school with five minutes to spare before the meeting began. Can you say winning?
A well intending (I am sure) woman, whom I know fairly well, said to me, “You look so tired.”
I was dressed for work, meaning—I was showered, hair done, makeup-ed and not wearing “athleasure” wear. That in and of itself is IMPRESSIVE, and I’ll add, likely the LEAST tired I ever look.
I responded, “You know, that is the third time you’ve said that to me in the last four times we’ve seen each other. I think it’s time I get a shirt that says, I AM TIRED. I have three kids.'” We were in a room full of women—mothers, and we all laughed at the joke—funny because of its truth. We progressed with the meeting.
I know the comment was made out of care. It was her intention to express some kind of authentic observation. Kind of like, “Hey, I am seeing you and not just blankly looking at you. And you are doing a lot of things…and you look a little frazzled…and maybe a touch (load) exhausted.”
My rational brain understands what was intended.
What I heard was… “You look like shit.”
This is a simple case of words confused —highjacked by an emotional override— lost in Momlation.
I know this Momlation of common concerned English is inaccurate and ridiculously sensitive. I know it’s me reading into something that wasn’t actually said. But that didn’t seem to change my emotional response—the guttural punch in the gut, which happens when your heart responds, silencing your head, and takes over all the feels in your body.
The thought occurred… How many times have I done the same thing? What endless number of women have I thrown into the downward spiral of Momlation because I didn’t take an extra moment to check myself?
So, in an effort to do better, I’ve deiced to write some easy-to-remember notes. A simple one, two, three, THEN speak method.
While this is mostly for myself, I think the system may very well work for many in translations regarding the languages of Mom, Woman, Friend, and also…the difficult to master language of How Not To Be An Ass. (I suffer regularly from violent episodes of tongue-tied-foot-in-mouth Ass Speak for lack of knowing that last language better.)
Three simple rules to help avoid the pitfalls of Momlation in conversation…
Number 1. Use words like strong, healthy, stunning, and vibrant when referring to looks. If a comment pertaining to looks does NOT use these words or their synonyms, you have two options. A) Comment on something that DOES NOT pertain to looks. B) Keep your mouth shut.
Number 2. Learn the difference between a person seeking a listening ear and a person seeking a problem solver. This is a tricky one. So…if unsure under which category to file a situation, you have two choices. A) Keep listening and wait to be asked for your opinion on how to solve an exemplified problem. B) Keep your mouth shut.
Number 3. Be a cheerleader. If a person is sharing with you something he/she is excited about i.e. a fitness goal or sporting triumph, pursuit of a degree or training, a new job or the return to an old job, a change in his/her house or living situation, a new relationship, a hobby, or the twenty-five pound Guinea pig he/she recently adopted—share in his/her excitement. If you cannot share in the excitement for any reason, you have two options. A) Force a smile. B) Keep your mouth shut.
I cannot in good conscious complete these notes on Momlation without mentioning the caveat. There are exceptions to every rule. Momlation is no different.
The Circle of Trust breaks all the above rules.
If we are lucky enough, we have a circle of people (usually a quite small number) whom we can give our hearts and our feels, our failures and our fears, our triumphs and our treasures. We can hand them over and we can say, “Tell me the truth.” And we REALLY mean it. The people who make this protective circle, they LOVE us. And despite our screw ups or monumental mistakes, they love us ANYWAY…in spite of, because of… These people must break the rules because sometimes you need a trusted voice to say, “You’re being stupid—this isn’t safe, or healthy, or etc. etc. etc.” Or maybe you need someone who can look you in the eye and ask, “Is that a good choice for you? Really? Why?”
Thank you, God, for The Circle of Trust. They are my tribe, my healers, my truth telling-cheerleaders—a rare breed. I am constantly reminding myself to take care of them, do right by them, and love them hard. These rule breakers are the best kind.
And at last, in closing…REMEMBER this one…
If you are unsure as to whether or not you are one of these people—Are you within the circle of trust for this person in front of you? If there is any question as to whether or not you are in the circle… You have two choices. A) Keep your mouth shut. B) Keep your mouth shut.