What Would Shonda Say?
I am just about finished reading Shonda Rhimes’ book, The Year of Yes. And from this day forward, it will be my personal manifesto. In fact, I think it should be required reading for young women, grown women, mothers, and future mothers. In short, if you have two X chromosomes (which would make you a bona fide female), you need this book in your life.
The next time I open my mouth to give some lame excuse as to why I cannot make a social event (because I’d rather sit Indian-style on my living room chair, as I consume an absurd amount of chips and guac while reciting Kim Kardashian’s dialogue as I watch the same episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians for the umpteenth time), I’ll ask myself ‘What would Shonda say?’ When I am set to ditch the workout because I simply do not feel like it today, I’ll ask myself, ‘What did Shonda do more than 100 pounds ago?’ When my son asks me to sit down on the floor with him and play with Thomas and his friends yet again, I’ll remember Shonda saying that the answer is always ‘yes.’ When I find myself in the crossfire of mommy wars, I will, as Shonda says, ‘fully lay down my weapons’ with the understanding that there are no opposing sides in motherhood. There is just all of us doing the best we can with whatever it is we’ve got. And on days when I feel like I am doing the damn thing as a working mother, I’ll remember that Shonda says that I am to stand boldly and unapologetically in my ‘badassery.’ No self-deprecation or fake humility. Just straight Wonder Woman mode.
While speaking with one of my girlfriends recently, I found myself in a ‘what would Shonda say’ moment. My friend has a tremendous amount on her plate right now. Her husband is in the early stages of a physical injury that will have him out of commission for months. She is settling into a new house, caring for herself, her husband, her step-son, and their dog all while commuting to her demanding corporate job located in a neighboring state. Definitely not the easiest of times. During our chat, she shared that someone recently likened her to a single-mom, to which she replied that her situation is worse. As she explained, a single-mother only has to care for herself and her child(ren), while she is caring for herself, another adult, and a child.
I readily admit that my Spidey-senses immediately tingle upon any reference to single-moms. Because I am one. Normally, I am quick on the draw when anyone says anything that seems critical or conclusory about single-moms. But this time, I paused and thought:
What would Shonda say?
What would Shonda say?
What? Would? Shon-da say?
And what I came up with was, ‘No one situation is harder or worse than the other. They both have their challenges.’
I think Shonda would be proud. In the words of the wonderful writer Bebe Moore Campbell, ‘your blues ain’t like mine.’ And mine are not like yours. That’s just how it is. There have been countless occasions upon which I have had women, who are married, provide a litany of reasons why they are ‘like a single-mom.’ Each time this happens, the words, ‘Are you fu*#ing serious?!’ reverberates in my head. There is no being ‘like a single-mom.’ You either are one or not. At 4’ll, I am not suddenly like 5’11 when I throw on my heels.
Challenges exist in every family and within every home whether you are a single-mom or married. We mothers need not compare or whip out our scales to weigh whose load is heavier. It’s all heavy. It leaves all of us with bumps and bruises. It throws all of us out of whack sometimes. But hopefully, there come times when we can lay down our heavy loads, stretch a bit, and know that we have the strength to carry on for and with the people we love the most. Because for some, that load gets heavier. There is no resting or getting up from under it. There’s just the weight that pulls them further and further down. Until it crushes.
On the same day that my friend and I had our conversation, the story of a young mother of three, who was arrested for killing her toddler, permeated the local news. The story sent shockwaves throughout my small city where the tragedy occurred. The allegations were horrific. The baby girl suffered significant trauma to her face. She had internal bleeding. And she was allegedly placed in a freezer.
This is a mother whose load was heavy. Totally unmanageable. Crushing.
I could not help but think about my early years of motherhood as a single-mom. The first two years when I did not sleep for more than four hours at a time. The years when my son cried for almost everything. The ‘terrible-twos’ that is just making its exit at three and a half years old. The year when I lost count of how many times we sat in a doctor’s office for everything from the common cold to Scarlett Fever to respiratory infections. The years that my mother has had to fly from south to north to give us a hand because there are so few around.
My load was heavy. Very heavy. And it still is. But thankfully, there are times when I get to rest it. Even if only for a little while.
For the luckiest of us, we always get to rest our load. At some point and for some time. This is what I will remind myself when I want to clad myself in mommy martydom. That young mother in my town, however, was either so mentally ill-equipped to carry her load or never got to rest it. And now a precious baby is dead.
For this one, I do not need to ask what Shonda would say. Instead, I will simply lay down my weapons and say, ‘have mercy.’