*Just want to note before you read this post that I have no real reason for writing this on today. There hasn't been a bad experience recently or anything else... it's just something that I've thought about for years and thought I'd just ramble on about it here. :)
I remember a day when I used to know it all. I used to feel confident in every decision I made. I knew exactly what I would do in any given situation.
Then, I became a mom.
And, all of that went out the window. In the effort of full disclosure, I will say that I'm still pretty strong-headed. I, like all moms, have doubts in my abilities as a parent from time to time. I, like all moms, wonder if I really have a clue about what I'm doing. But, I also, like or unlike others, feel confident most of the time in my decisions. And, once I make them, I commit that they are my choice and if they are wrong, I don't care to admit it. I am human. I am a mom. And, there is no reason in the world to think that I am going to go through parenting without making mistakes. I have made them all my life... I didn't immediately become perfect when my daughter took her first breath.
With that all being said, things changed when I became a mom. Things that I thought were simple and easy choices weren't necessarily that easy. I wondered if I would ever feel as confident about my choices as I did before I had a daughter. I wondered why it was that way for a long time. And, after my daughter reached her first birthday, I started to feel like I was gaining my old confidence and I began to slowly realize why.
I was an avid reader of all things parenting when I first became a mom. I was among the first of my close friends to get married and to have a child. Most of my inner circle of friends were not yet mothers, so I had to rely on other resources for information. And, these resources were wide and many, I will tell you. I can remember reading articles after articles... most of them just being confirmations of what I felt or thought or completely disagreed with. :) Yet... there was one article that I read that stands out in my mind. I wish I could find it. It was so compelling. It stuck out in my mind at the time for several reasons... and it really put a lot of things into perspective for me.
It was an article about moms... all moms and their relationships with each other. It had nothing to do with actual parenting. It was about moms judging one another for their choices. It hit home for me, because one of the hardest things for me to deal with as a new mom was the bombardment of advice that I received from other people. Again, many of my close friends were not yet mothers, so other people, particularly moms, felt as if they really needed to share their wisdom with me.
I'll never forget the woman who told me in line at Old Navy that I really needed to clip Bailey's fingernails before she scratched herself. My jaw literally almost hit the floor. I was caught so off-guard that I don't even remember what I said to her... but I remember thinking of all kinds of things that I wished I would have said later on. :)
Now, in an effort to not sound like an unappreciative brat, I want you to know that I absolutely cherished so many of the conversations that I had with other moms. I can tell you that there are certain people that really helped me make decisions, to trust my instincts, and to just feel like a normal person for wondering how in the world to do these things. There were even friends who were not moms who helped me by reminding me that I was allowed to make my own choices and not feel pressured by everyone else to do what they were doing (that's totally a shout out to you girls at UC!). :)
Yet, there were the moms who decided to tell me what they thought by saying things like, "Oh... well, you just have to breastfeed. It's only natural. Bottle fed babies are usually overweight and unhealthy." Or you had the other, "Breastfeeding is the biggest hassle. You will never be able to do it. It's too much work and you are so confined to the child. Just don't do it."
So, here I was, a new baby on the way, and people just forcing their opinions on me... not in a constructive way, but in a very matter of fact and judgmental way. I felt attacked... as if whichever decision I made would be choosing a team or a side. The article that I read that made such an impact talked about how mothers seemed to be on teams. That there was this way or that way... and that only one way could possibly be correct. The article went on to talk about how moms, if they stopped alienating each other by making them feel judged, could be a force to be reckoned with... a strong, united group of people who could help each other through situations, good or bad, right or wrong, and find the best solutions for that individual. It said, quite simply, that moms could be a new mom's worst enemy... and that moms did this to themselves. And, it made the case for women to stop judging each other on everything from breastfeeding to working versus staying at home, and to, instead, start supporting each other and celebrating each other's differences.
Now, I can assure you that I don't ever think I have attempted to sabotage a new mom by sharing with her my opinion. That's not to say that I haven't though. I am quite certain that I have, even as recently as the past year, said something to the affect of, "Just don't do this..." to my best friend. Thank God she knows me and could easily have said to me, "Oh really..." and I would have cracked up at myself for being that mom. I can also assure you that I often want to look at a mother who wants to give me advice and say, "Did I ask for your opinion?" Haha. It's much easier to feel that way after two kids who have survived (by some miracle) through the toddler stages and are now entering the very scary, school-aged world.
I also can assure you that I think it is natural for women to align themselves with other women who make similar choices. I have to admit that I have an easier time talking to someone who has kids that are interested in the same things as mine... that I had an easier time talking about my challenges with breastfeeding to other moms who also struggled with it. There is just a natural progression about that type of relationship... and there is not one single thing wrong with it, until... you alienate someone else.
Why do we feel the need to judge each other? To make each other feel like they made a choice that was wrong? Why do we as parents feel like we need to confirm that our way is the right way? Does it really have to be this way or that way? No. It doesn't.
Each child is different. Each parent is different. Each situation is different. We should embrace that... not try to streamline it.
For example, I have been on both sides of the stay at home versus working mother fence. Each time, I've been treated like I am making the wrong choice by some other mom. As a working mom, I've had moms make comments about "Don't you feel like your kids are spending more time with their sitter/day care teachers? I just couldn't do that to my kids." As a stay at home mom, I've heard, "Don't you ever get tired of being at home with kids all the time? I don't see how you can stand just doing the same thing over and over all day."
Really, ladies. We need to support each other more. To lift each other up for our differences and celebrate each other's confidence to make our own way for us and for our kids.
Each and every new (and old) mom is looking for reassurance that they are doing a good job... that their beautiful baby is thriving because of their love and care. None of us get into motherhood with the idea that we want to be told we are doing it all wrong. Help each other... don't force your opinion... listen to each other. I know that it can work. I have it with my friends now. Sure, Dawn, Rebecca and I agree on a lot of things. But, each of us have different birth stories. Each of us have different experiences with breastfeeding. Each of us have different ways to get our kids to sleep at night or had different ways of sleeping with them when they were infants. You know what? All of our kids are happy and healthy. All of our kids can get themselves to sleep. All of our kids (except Jake, haha) eat.
Go forward and support each other... women's liberation wasn't created so that we could divide ourselves into two groups of this way and that way. We just keep knocking ourselves down by forgetting that.
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