Today is El Dia de Las Madres here in Mexico. Currently, I am sitting at a marina restaurant in the gated resort community where my children go to school, passing time between two of their Mother’s Day programs. Directly to my right is an overpriced gift shop, to my left, a Caribbean-style Omni, and in front of me is a “dolphin discovery” center where you can pay shit tons of money to
swim with dolphins pose for really expensive photos in close proximity to super intelligent mammals in captivity.
What? You mean I’ve never quite explained this element of the girls’ current school experience? The fact that they attend a rich kid school in a guarded neighborhood gilded with condos and mansions?
Yeah, well that’s because until today, I wasn’t too excited about sharing this minor detail. In fact, before today, I felt the need to justify this choice to anyone who knew:
“It truly is the only good school within 45 minutes of our house.”
“We’re really not rich — three kids can go to school here for the price of one private school tuition, stateside.”
“It’s the only place here my kids can receive a quality education in both Spanish and English.”
“We live in a mixed-income neighborhood in Tulum intentionally, and make a point to expose our kids to people from all economic walks.”
But something happened this morning that makes such explanations seem unnecessary, even ridiculous.
First, I should explain that this month — as a part of an ongoing collective project here on my blog — our Home Work, if you will, was to let something go, whether a thought, a behavior, a vice or a judgement that no longer serves us. Had I not already been thinking along these lines, I’m not sure my day would have proven half as impactful.
As I approached the school in my usual knit tank, sky-blue secondhand skirt, well-worn Chacos and makeup-less, neutral expression I was, as always, struck by the…slightly different attire of the majority of the mothers:
Equally notable were the mothers’ mannerisms:
Now, I’m an open-minded person, truly I am. I have a general love for the whole of humanity, friends in every income bracket and no problem with rich folk, per se. But surround me with chicas ricas who can barely walk because of the height of their heals and who must have chronic sore throats from all that squealing, and I automatically start scanning the crowd for someone unshaven or draped in linen or sporting seed beads to save me from certain and impending…smalltalk.
Anyway, uncomfortable enough in my own skin to recognize the presence of unevaluated thoughts, I breathed deeply, identified the unwanted emotion as judgement, then slowly released it with a giant exhale and silent affirmation…
“I let go of all judgement toward each woman in this school because holding onto that story no longer serves me.”
And not even kidding, in an instant, all the fresas became real people with real lives…
Then I asked myself why I cared how they were acting and imagined them as a tribe of indigenous women washing clothes in a stream. Suddenly, their loud sing song voices were sweet, soulful music, their exasperation comical and invigorating, their laughter over nothing a true gift of the light-hearted and their drama a dying art of passing stories.
By the time all the moms had congregated and our kindergarteners began singing, I was fighting back tears. First gushing over my own baby, then scanning the faces of each of these women, wearing nothing half as gorgeous as absolute adoration on their own beaming faces, it hit me that not only do we have much in common, but that what we share is all that actually matters:
And suddenly, when I looked beyond the wall of cameras and iphones, I saw something strangely familiar in these women’s faces:
I saw pride.
I saw joy.
I saw exhaustion.
I saw depth.
I saw sadness for the fleeting sweetness of childhood.
I saw real women.
Once I dropped the judgement, they each looked a whole lot like…me.
The most profound moment of the morning, however, came when we were all dispersed to our children’s classrooms for a final surprise. As “fate” would have it, I took a seat across the table from the one woman in the school I had previously pegged as the queen bee-otch.
As each child ran to her cubby, returned beaming with pride and unveiled an oversized, hand-print palm tree t-shirt, this particular mother — the very same woman I’ve seen yell rudely across a classroom when her needs weren’t quickly met, chew out a security guard for challenging her parking place and push the teachers around as if her son were all that mattered — cupped her baby boy’s face in her hands, gazed deeply into his eyes, then buried her tear-soaked face into his hair as if…he were the only thing that mattered.
How dare I judge her story? How dare I pretend to know the weight she carries? How dare I assign a label to this mother — to any mother — who clearly loves just as deeply as I do and gives everything she has.
None of the women I saw today know that I’ve judged them, nor does it matter whether they’ve judged the quiet wallflower of a mother who apparently only owns one skirt.
What matters is what I’m called to say to you in retrospect — to all women; all mothers everywhere:
I’m sorry for every judgmental thought I’ve ever entertained against you.
I’m sorry for my shallow depth of field that has prevented me from seeing beyond appearances.
I’m sorry for the times when you were dying inside and I pegged you as rude or uncaring.
I’m sorry for reducing you to an economic bracket or assuming you anything like another woman I once
I’m sorry for failing to see that my heart for impoverished women had been discriminating based on something so irrelevant as money.
And I’m sorry for letting preconceived notions get in the way of relationship.
Mostly though, I want thank you for being your child’s everything. You’re irreplaceable, you know? We have this in common, at the very least.
Thanks Beth! That was perfect for me at this moment and a great reminder for many moments. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
So fucking beautiful and powerful and well said. Everyone can relate to this story, it’s all of our stories in some way or shape. Thank you, Beth Berry.
Another brilliant entry that found me at just the right moment. Bless you Beth and have a joyous Mother’s Day.
So many times I have read your blog & have wanted to send you a note .I do not even remeber how I found your site. I am a 58 yr old Nana who lives in Ohio with grown children & grandhildren who live all over the U.S – Olympia,WA , Oceanside CA, and Charlotte,NC.
I just would like to say thank you & I hope you know that you are an amazing & brilliant young woman who often brings me tears of joy .Rarely does a person convey their mindfulness so clearly and I thoroughly enjoy your writing . We have visited Tulum a couple times in the past — a beautiful place indeed ! Many thanks and blessings and best wishes to you for a wonderful Mother’s Day ! Namaste,Joanne Griesinger
This made me cry for all the ways we shut down our hearts to each other. Thanks for offering a window.
Thank you! It is so easy to think highly of (be generous to) those we think need our support but so much harder to not judge those who we assume do not.
Very very good… Thank you
WOW! This is a beautiful post and one that I think or KNOW I really needed to hear. This is a brave thing to actually write down…everyone thinks it. But, no one wants to admit it. I think this honestly applies to situations such as people I work with, people who “tell” me how to parent, or even family members who always seems to be judging me….obviously I judge a lot! Thank you again!
That was beautiful!
Lovely surprise to see a new post today.
Poetic and profound. Thank you.
how very REAL — and convicting. Thank you.
Tears……such beauty in your soul. LOVELOVELOVE this. Happy Mamma’s Day, beautiful friend.
Sweet Jesus…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed a comment (here) and then erased it. But *this* time…this time I won’t.
The scenerio you shared has happened to me too many times (over so many years). If only had the insight to truly comprehend the larger “picture”. Beth, I thank you. I thank you for sharing your life, thoughts, confessions, and family. Happy Mother’s Day!! (from Southeast Louisiana).
Beautifully written, Beth. It is true that while I have always told myself not to judge other moms, I DO in fact judge moms in high heels and makeup with shrieking voices. And now I see that you are right… we all have stories to tell, and as long as those moms are giving their children the love and respect they need, they are doing a great job. And bless them for being able to walk in the heels, ’cause I can’t. I am lucky to not be dropping my children off in my slippers. : )
I always really enjoy your thoughts.
In one of my favorite books “Like the Wind” by Laurens van der Post, it talks about how “corruption” comes three ways ‘through, power, suffering and numbers” by this definition it seems like we all have the capability of becoming wrapped up in ourselves, no matter our station in life.
I’ve had plenty of my own prejudices and it really helps me to step back and try to see the real story instead of the story I’m making up….
You are amazingly insightful, Beth Berry. Thanks for reminding me that humanism kinda trump sit all.
I can relate…. when at a national YWCA USA meeting judgement started permeating a dining room full of YWCA feminists supposedly advocating the empowerment of women and the elimination of racism. I caught myself and thought, it’s NOT about trophy wife vs. non-trophy wife, it’s NOT about breastfeeding mom vs. bottle-feeding mom, it’s Not about stay-at-home mom vs. working mom… the battle is bigger, sisters, and certainly not among ourselves. The battle IS to empower ALL women and eliminate ALL racism/sexism, and we MUST fight as a collective to advance for a better, stronger, healthier, supportive future. We owe it to our HERstory, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters. We owe it to ourselves.
Wow. So profound. I find myself guilty of this so often. Food for thought.
I am reading this shortly after viewing this: http://vimeo.com/65576562
Feels as if the universe is telling me something I need to hear this morning. Thanks for being part of that chorus.
Good for you!! It took me so many years to just flow, embrace my own “fresez”, and try to not to judge and be compassive with this special kind of Mexican women around me. Though, I sometimes find myself still trying and, even worse, sometimes being myself one of them. I will remember this post next time I’m in this situation. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you. I needed to read this and now I need to remember this!! Anne
Thank you so much for this.
Hugs from Texas to one majorly inspiring mutha!
Where did you get such insight and courage? Not from me. Proud of your heart.
Beautiful! Thank you for that loving message 🙂
I almost stopped reading when I got to the judgy part of the post. I’m really, really, really glad I kept reading.
Thank so much.
This is so beautiful. I have often felt the same way, annoyed by the other wealthier moms at my children’s schools, we are FAR below the average income level for our neighborhood,so I often feel judged by them but I am also the one doing the judging.
We all love our babies and are doing the best we can with what we have. Money may not be an issue for them, but who is to say how hard they struggle to keep up with their lifestyles and the pressure that bring with it.