For more than a quarter of a century, I’ve been a mom, and I’ve noticed a pattern that occurs in mom circles. Namely, that moms draw circles. It’s easy for us moms to gravitate to other moms we perceive to be “like us.”
This isn’t a criticism as much as an observation. We humans tend to link arms with those who are not only in the same season of life as us, but also those who are experiencing that season in similar ways.
Consider for a moment the brilliant observation made in this essay. It’s not about motherhood, per se, but it is about our human proclivity toward drawing circles, either one large circle or many small ones.
“[B]iologists could be categorized as either ‘lumpers’ or ‘splitters,’ depending on whether they tended to group organisms into categories or to emphasize the differences between them. [A lumper] might talk about the characteristics of birds, for instance, while [a splitter] might get prickly about someone calling a mallard a duck. [The theologian John Stott] wrote that the same often happens within the Christian community. Some emphasize similarities within the body of Christ, while others focus on the distinctive differences between Christian groups.” Read the whole article here.
Using biologists as an example, this essay discusses the way churchgoers either “lump” large swaths of people together or “split” people into smaller groups according to real or perceived distinctions. This is a fascinating observation worthy of its own discussion, but for now, I want to explore this same phenomenon in the realm of motherhood.
This pattern of “lumping” and “splitting” happens among mothers all the time.
To be sure, becoming a mom is a powerful life-changing identifier. But within this larger “club,” it’s very common for moms to self-split according to certain distinctions. The following hashtags reveal this to be true.
On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with using a hashtag to try to connect with other moms who share a similar set of circumstances. It can be quite validating, for instance, for a mom with a child who has special needs to hear from another mom who is experiencing some of the same things. At the same time, some of the “splitting” we do as moms can also serve to draw certain lines in the sand by openly declaring who is “in” our particular circle and who is “out.”
Personally, I lean more toward “lumping.” As a mom, I want to recognize the unique differences and challenges each mom experiences while also bringing all moms together under a more unifying banner. What would that banner be called? I think “motherhood” would do. Plenty is there we can unite around.
Perhaps the reason I wish for more “lumping” to happen in the mom arena is because I have often felt outside the circles that favor “splitting.”
For instance, I am a mom of two daughters, but I can’t say I’m a #girlmom because I also have a son? Is the hashtag exclusive to those moms who only have daughters? The same goes with being a #boymom. And that’s just one example.
But even before the Internet, moms had a propensity for “splitting.” Natural-birth or Epidural-birth? Breast-feeding or Bottle-feeding? Cloth-diapering or Disposable-diapering? Home-schooling or Public-schooling? On and on it continues, with or without the hashtags.
My point is, we moms are deeply invested in our kids, and rightfully so, but it’s also too easy for us to conflate our identities with a certain “type” of motherhood. The Internet has merely been an engine for helping us rally our “tribes” together with greater ease, but I’m not convinced such tribalism among motherhood has really been all that helpful. If anything, the “splitting” we do among ourselves as moms is mostly discouraging. That’s why I think “lumping” is a more hope-filled way to bring all moms together.
What if we simply gathered around the same proverbial table and listened to the different experiences moms have had? What if we opened our circles and invited others to join us, regardless of our mom-circumstances?
As moms, let’s focus more on what we have in common, and less on what makes us “unique.” Let’s unite around our universal desire to see our children grow to become kind-hearted human beings who love others well. There’s so much more hope in that.
I’m a mom. Period. While I share many of the same experiences listed in the aforementioned hashtags, I don’t really identify with any one hashtag. I prefer to be among the #hashtagless moms. Hence, my penchant for “lumping” rather than “splitting.”
How has “lumping” or “splitting” in motherhood impacted you?
I would love to hear your thoughts here.
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You can read more in the #FindingHopeOnFriday series here.