October 15, 2014
Motherhood: Ending the Judgements, Competition & Shame.
I started to notice it when I was pregnant. The questions, "Where are you delivering?", "What kind of birth are you having?", and my extra-special favorite, "Where are you going to live? You're moving??! Why?" or even better, "You're moving in with your PARENTS? Seriously... why???" There just seemed to be so much speculation about my (and my husband's) personal choices. Everyone had an opinion. Friends, family, nice people, not-so-nice-people, old men on the street, other moms. Everyone had a very specific opinion and reasons backing up why they were right. Often accompanied by their harrowing personal stories that I didn't really care to hear. Long, drawn-out tales about why their idea/opinion/input really should be heavily considered. And followed blindly. Over whatever rubbish I was choosing to do.
It was a little jarring.
Little did I know, that was just the prep course for entering motherhood.
Motherhood is tricky business. No one really told me. Haaaa, that's not true. Pretty much everyone told me. I just didn't really understand how NOT JOKING serious this business would be. It is, by FAR, the hardest thing I have ever done. And no, I don't just mean the pushing-the-baby-out part (although that was no breakfast at Tiffany's.) Being a mom. I mean, wow. It's hard. I shall leave it at that. At least for today.
One really interesting fringe non-benefit of motherhood is the continuation of what I experienced during my pregnancy: the speculation of my choices. I am certainly not the only mother to experience this uncomfortable, obvious, verbal or non-verbal, passing-of-judgement by others. And I'll be honest, I have totally done it, too. Judged other people's choices. Other moms' choices. Yeah, I suck. But the thing is, we all have opinions and reasons for why we do what we do. But now I'm experiencing first hand how awkward and insecure it has made me feel, all while fumbling around, attempting to be the best mom I can be. I am obviously making mistakes left and right. But you know what? I love my son. And most every mom I know... they love their adorable little mini-me's, too. So why are we so hard on each other when the end goal is pretty much the same? To raise lovely, fiercely-loved little rock star babies. Or something like that.
I look around me, and there are debates about which is best when it comes to... pretty much every parenting subject.
Breastfeeding or formula-feeding?
Stay at home mom or working-outside-the-home mom?
Vaccinating or not vaccinating? Delaying? Running away scared from the pediatricians office?
Letting your baby cry it out or coming to their rescue at every whimper?
Co-sleeping or baby in the crib at two weeks?
Cloth diapers or disposables?
Daycare, nursery, nanny, grandmother, babysitter, random neighbor you've met twice... who will watch your child when you aren't with them?
When are you leaving said child with another person? Wait, you haven't done that yet?? Tsk tsk.
I could go on and on. But the dilemma is constant. These choices are really, really difficult to make. Have you ever heard of mompetition? I hadn't. But the sudden thrust into this experience has my head spinning - how can I gracefully transition into motherhood without feeling the slime of this maternal warfare? I'm sure the mommy wars don't end. I anticipate the lame debates to come: Public school or private school? Or home school? TV and video games or books and playing outside? Ugh I'll stop listing here. Because you get the picture.
The judgements, comparisons and unnecessary opinions must end. And I know that it starts with me. I have to stop believing that everyone is judging me and I have to STOP comparing myself and judging others. Reading this article made me laugh, and also really helped. Because after experiencing a mere 11 weeks of motherhood, I am dumbfounded at how spectacularly impressive mothers are. And you know what? New moms are trying to parent their child while juggling a conga line of colorful hormones, the shame of carrying stubborn "baby weight" that just won't seem to get lost, a smattering of emotions and anxiety and for some, even depression. These women don't need to hear opinions or feel silent judgement. They need affirmation and love, because they are spending endless days giving all of that love away to someone else.
You know what every mom needs to hear? You're a good mom. You're doing an awesome job. Way to go, sustaining that little human's life. I speak from the position of being a brand-spankin'-new mom, but I imagine that the future me would still need and want to hear those things. Because what we're doing is hard work. And the judgements, the comparisons... well, they are fruitless. They make zero difference. I am going to keep on parenting the way that feels natural for me and my family. And when I want advice and help, I already have my go-to people who I trust will set me straight. And that random mama that I don't know all that well isn't relying on my opinion of her, either. She's got enough on her mind, she doesn't need to deal with the social anxiety of my judgement passing before her. She needs me to love her and tell her she's doing an awesome job. That her instincts are amazing. And that her child is mega-blessed to have her looking out for them.
So I ask that you join me. Let's end this cycle of mom angst and celebrate the sisterhood we've entered into. Whether you're a new mom, a wondrously wizened mom, a single lady, or someone who detests the thought of ever producing spawn, your camaraderie makes a spectacular impact. When you have a judgmental thought about someone else, stop yourself. Take that judgement and slam dunk it into the little trash can inside your mind. And when you feel shamed by someone else for a choice you've made, remind yourself that she's probably just feeling motivated by that lousy mompetition. Instead of getting offended, immediately forgive her. Release her from your offense. Because you don't have the time or capacity to deal with the that odious frustration. Let's trade the practice of passing judgement on others' choices and start celebrating the sisterhood of motherhood. Because we need each other's affirmation.
To all you glorious, hardworking, endlessly loving mamas, I just want to tell you that YOU ROCK and you're doing a tremendous, sublime, stunning job. I salute you. Now hand that baby over to your man and go get a manicure. You've more than earned it.