A Joni Mitchell song is streaming through my brain right now.
Maybe you know the one I mean — “Both Sides Now.”
More on that later.
First, let me launch into proving my case.
My mom grew up in one place, until she graduated from high school.
Then she met my dad on a blind date, married this military man and traveled the world, never staying anywhere longer than a couple years.
Her background, though, wound up benefiting me in all the starting over scenarios. Why? Because her own calm sense of security and consistency instilled reassurance in me.
The same held true, in reverse, when my children came along.
Since I had always been the new kid in school, I made a concerted effort to counter that message with my girls.
In both cases, reverse psychology proved effective. Sometimes embodying the confidence we wish we had, and modeling it for our children, can be a good gift.
The other experience that gave me an appreciation of “both sides” was taking on the roles of stay-at-home mom and working mom.
And even though this has now been years, decades, ago, I find that there is still a lot of ground to cover to improve the chasm.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, I loved getting to bake something for the class party, serve as PTA president and experience reduced stress when there was a snow day because I didn’t have to rearrange child care or take a vacation day.
Sometimes we in that category would sense a tone from the working moms, as if we didn’t have enough brainpower or capabilities to hold down a job. Like our contributions to the world weren’t as valuable.
I never subscribed to that theory, though. I did, and will always, believe the greatest and most fulfilling thing I ever got to do was be a mother to these two humans I was entrusted to prepare for the world.
Of course, I’ve also been a working mom. I got to experience what it was like to be the one who brought in cups or napkins for the class party, let off the proverbial hook because everyone presumed my schedule would not lend itself to much else.
Funnily enough, this role was no more superior, or revered, than the other one had been. Apparently, there is still plenty of guilt to go around.
The stay-at-home moms didn’t miraculously have more respect or admiration for me or treat me as though I was suddenly much smarter for being able to have, and hold down, a job.
So where do we go from here? Why are we still so divisive? Where is it written that we must pick a lane and stay there?
There are other examples of experiences checking out both sides of equations.
I’ve been married and a single mom.
I’ve been younger and now I’m older, had sickness and health.
I’ve held onto friends and lost friends, had strong family ties and undergone family members who decide to become estranged.
All of this proves only one thing — we hopefully have a greater understanding of vantage points other than just our own.
Or does it?
The lyrics of the aforementioned song say it best.
“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall,
I really don’t know life at all.”
In other words, it pays to broaden our scope, open our hearts and our minds in hopes of having more understanding and compassion of the other side of things.
None of that makes us an expert. On anything.
But hopefully at the very least it might break down barriers and help us better get along.