Camaraderie in the Strangest of Places

Public_bathroom_toilet

Over the weekend, I was at an event and while making a stop in the bathroom, I overheard a woman a few stalls down asking her neighbor for toilet paper. Of course her neighbor politely obliged (because who doesn’t want to help in that situation).

While listening to the toilet paper exchange, I realized we find camaraderie in the strangest of places.

I took a sociology class in college and for some strange reason, I remember, very vividly, the professor pointing out the odd social norm of bathroom habits between men and women (I promise this blog is not all about bathroom habits):

Men go in separately but (usually) enter a group setting in the bathroom. While women usually go in a group, but are separated when they enter the bathroom. However, when in need of something so important such at toilet paper, the barriers of bathroom etiquette are broken and your stall neighbor has now just become your best friend.

It was oddly heartwarming to hear the kindness and courtesy of each woman. No questions, no reservations, and no judgment. Just help.

I have found the same to be true with parenting. Motherhood specifically.

A friend of mine, with twin girls, recently wrote of the ever-stressful-happen-at-the-wrong-time toddler defiance: one of her girls decided to run frantically around the parking lot of King Soopers while my friend, of course, had her hands full and not even remotely close to the car.

Without missing a beat, a lovely woman helped hang onto the behaved twin while my friend frantically tried to corral the other. This woman, of course, became my friend’s new BFF.

Last April, we took Ella to the zoo. While trying to keep track of the baby, the diaper bag, the stroller, a hat, and shoes, a shoe inevitably fell off. Luckily, another mom came running up to me to hand me Ella’s lost shoe. As I thanked her, she said “Of course! We moms need to look out for each other and falling objects!” I was floored and grateful.

I find myself to be fortunate enough to have not encountered a “mommy war” and have only seen the beauty and camaraderie that comes with being a mother. And like my fellow mom at the zoo said, we really do need to look out for each other.

The strange places and topics of conversation creating camaraderie between mothers is interesting and entertaining.

I used to think it was strange when a random woman would talk to me about breastfeeding. And I’m a pretty modest person so talking about such things was uncomfortable for me.

But it was through some of those strange conversations, that I found an amazing number of women who have had difficulty with breastfeeding. That is not generally the message conveyed through childbirth classes or the lactation clinic. At least that was not the message I received. Because breastfeeding was hard and didn’t work out for me, it was incredibly comforting to hear stories of other women and their struggles.  My husband was incredibly supportive, but he could never fully understand the emotions I went through. But other women did and that helped me through those feelings of failure.

Sometimes, the best support you can receive is from a total stranger because they don’t have an obligation to be nice to you. The risk and return of being nice to a complete stranger can sometimes be mutually exclusive; you may take a risk to be nice but don’t always get something in return.

As it is said many times over, this motherhood gig is a toughie. We depend on the wisdom and the eyes of those who come before us.  And it is also up to us to pay it forward when the time comes.

No questions, no reservations, and absolutely, no judgment. Just help. Even in the bathroom.

5 thoughts on “Camaraderie in the Strangest of Places

  1. I completely understand and I’ve had those wonderful encounters with strangers myself. But I can’t help thinking of the “Seinfeld” episode in which Elaine needed some toilet paper in a public restroom and the woman in the stall next to her refused to share. “She couldn’t spare a square?!?” I have so say I’ve had some of those encounters, as well! 🙂 -Amy at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Mark. I wasn’t meaning to leave out the men in our lives, my examples just happened to have women in them. Dads are important and great too! And I agree, it definitely takes a village!

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