Growing up, my mother gave me invaluable communication advice. She taught me how to communicate respectfully, honestly, and to keep empathy in the forefront of any words I formed and shared.
Moreover, my mother taught me that as a woman, I had a responsibility to be a leader in any circle of conversation. She was transparent in sharing that some women will do their best to tear one another down. “Talk about things, not people,” she’d say. “Think about how you’d feel.” “Remember that words stick.”
She was constantly reminding me about the power of words and the mark they make and leave on others.
Her emphasis on this topic was appreciated, but of course, I struggled. I now understand the goal wasn’t perfectionism but rather genuine effort and regular reflection. Essentially, if I could try my best and never lose focus on the efforts within exchanges, I’d become a kind and sincere communicator.
This was and remains hard work. Gossip and negative talk never leave most conversation circles, which at first was surprising to see and difficult to digest.
Once again let me begin with a confession of sorts. I am not a perfect 10 on this subject nor any other. I indulge in the occasional Steel Magnolia Clairee Belcher vibes type of talk. I try to keep it surface level and sarcastic, but I know my mom would tell me, “Be careful with slippery slopes. They’re slippery for a reason.”
Mama, I know.
With this noted, I handled middle school and high school well by heeding her advice. In the most challenging of conversations, I heard her voice, and it guided me to kinder and more compassionate language. It continues to do so today, but y’all, mean mom talk is probably the most cringeworthy and upsetting thing I’ve witnessed since the teen scene.
Malicious mom gossip is exhausting.
Whether it’s surface stuff, like which mom is a PTO failure or a gross pile of pathetic parenting via social engineering, aka determining which children to include and exclude based on popularity or status—it’s all disturbing. Recently I was caught in the crossfires of mean mom talk, and I’m still healing from the battle wounds.
I found out a mom wasn’t happy with the way I handled something because she was sending texts about me to other moms in our circle. It became a campaign of sorts to convince people of my inabilities and screenshots were shared with some insulting mischaracterizations and improper insinuations.
Who needs manipulative mind games, especially amidst a global pandemic? I am tired from the incessant worrying, and I am angry about the behind-the-back gossip. It’s hard to hear and soul shifting to see. Again, I’m not perfect, but I’m also not mean. This is mean.
And then came the memory of me in the backseat when I was in middle school. I was complaining to my mom about how this girl wouldn’t leave me alone and kept spreading rumors about me and the things I had or hadn’t done. My mother asked, “Will this matter in ten years? If not, let it go.”
At the time Frozen didn’t exist so she couldn’t add some Elsa imagery to the advice. But today I’m about to pull an Olaf, “I just thought of one thing that’s permanent, love.”
Here’s some nice advice for the nasty: build something beautiful with words, something that won’t break a spirit or shake confidence for someone.
Talking about other moms is toxic and traumatizing.
If you struggle with communicating, ask for help but don’t give hell. Women need support and empathy. Try harder.
Oh, and mom, thanks.