When I was in high school I definitely did not fit in. I was shy, reserved and had a tendency to dress in black, listen to dark rock music, and read a lot of obscure literature. It wasn't all bad though, I had a small group of fantastic friends (and we are still friends today). Pretty like-minded friends who let me be me without feeling like I was a weirdo. Thinking back though, every single one of us in that school courtyard probably felt like me at some point or another, and relied on their little group of close friends to help them get through it all. Some were outspoken, some were popular, some were considered “nerds” or as I liked to say “the smart ones”… Some liked to party and some liked to study, some liked to do both. Some were bullies and others were bullied. It wasn't easy: high school was a battlefield every day for me and I just felt happy with the knowledge that one day it wouldn't matter anymore. One day we would all be adults and wouldn't need to compete on any grounds anymore.
Gosh I was wrong wasn't I?! I can't really speak for men because I'm not a man, but I can speak for women, and bloody hell, when does the competition end?! Born and raised a feminist I have always tried to promote my fellow sisters, group us together and unite us in our endeavors (and I'm sure I messed up along the way too). I’ve always refused to fight for male attention, and would always back down rather than stand in someone else's way (and anyway, if you have to fight for someone's attention then they aren't worth your time). Obviously I don't like it when people steal my ideas, my thoughts and my writing, but it happens and it's part of life, I'm not going to put you on blast for it (well unless it's blatant plagiarism then I will).
I've always accepted that not everyone is going to like me, and that I'm not going to like everyone. It's normal.
I stumbled into motherhood blindly, learning as I went, making mistakes and figuring it out along the way. I still am. But at the same time I also stumbled upon the fact that high school never really went away. It started with the BabyCenter forum that I joined during my first pregnancy which for some reason reminded me of an ongoing online Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. You think your birth club is just a group of pregnant ladies supporting each other right? Oh no… It's as cliquey as high school, and if you don't spend half your life joining in on discussions or kissing other women's backsides you are ignored or insulted. It gets exceptionally fun when topics like breastfeeding and circumcision are brought up. You would think the end of the world was nigh!
Then I discovered the world of mommy or mummy bloggers. I've been blogging since 2003 when my friend Morgan created a LiveJournal for me to document my impending trip to the Middle East. From the Inside became my little online home, a place for me to publish my writing, to gain confidence. I've always written about everything, I'm a writer by profession too, so writing about motherhood came naturally. Motherhood gave me the confidence to be more open in my writing and pushed me to create more, to search more from within, to even start promoting myself (my worst nightmare). And then I found whole communities of parents on Instagram and Facebook who were also writers and mothers and fathers. I've always been a little hesitant to jump into new groups of friends because I've been burnt in the past and I do have trust issues. And if you look at some of the big parenting blogs, the comment sections are appalling, a bunch of men and especially women shaming each other, bashing each other, even ripping each other apart. If you happen to practice extended breastfeeding you know what I mean, you will find people telling you that you are ruining your kids for life (sorry babies, I never even gave you a chance I guess!). So I slowly tiptoed into some little groups on Instagram and ended up making some wonderful and supportive friends, just at the time that I was moving away from my home of 11 years, across the country. We may not live near each other, but we talk frequently and I trust these people to always be honest with me.
I'm not perfect. I'm opinionated and shy and don't always say how I feel because I don't want to hurt people. I yell at my kids and let them run around like little monsters, screaming loudly, because I believe we should be allowed to express ourselves as we see fit. I can't stand rude people and if you hurt me enough I will cut you out of my life forever, without another thought. I'm not a crunchy mum even though I could be, I’m not a scummy mum, or a crummy mum or a posh mum. I'm not a soccer mum or a crazy mum or a wine mum or whatever other mum names that exist out there. I'm Jade, a British French immigrant to the US writer bartender photography lover 39 year old woman who also happens to be a mother of two, nearly three, amazing little kids. I will never fit into a mould, and honestly I never want to fit into one. But I will always reach out to support my sisters and brothers in times of need, or in times of no need too. Because in the end, parents, or not parents, we are all in this world together, trying to figure out our paths. Of course if you are raising your kids to be racist thugs, or neglecting them, or abusing them, then yes, you deserve all the wrath you can get, but other than that, enough with all of the criticism and bashing! There are so many terrible things happening in this world that our energy would be so much better directed at doing something to help rather than criticizing each other.
I wish we weren't so conditioned to constantly create competition, to point out other's failings and laugh at each other. So, I ask you all today to tag someone who you love and who you support, and ask them to do the same with someone else, and take some time to think about what we can do to make someone else feel more supported and included. It's sometimes hard to remember that when someone posts a picture or a blog post, in reality they are vulnerably putting a little part of themselves out there for everyone to see. I know that's how I feel every time I hit “publish”.
Maybe I am just a little bit of a hippie mum at heart.
Jade Anna Hughes is a writer and photographer who was born in the UK, grew up in France, called NYC home for a decade before relocating to the California sun. She has two young daughters, another child on the way, and spends most of her “spare” time writing, reading and trying to change the world. Her first book, With Spring Comes Hope, is currently available on Amazon and B&N worldwide.
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