Many mommy blogs, or lifestyle blogs purport to have the Answers. I did this! It worked! It’s cool/stylish/covetable so you should know about it. You’re not doing this? You’re crazy!
I frequently catch myself thinking similar judge-y thoughts about [insert your different mommy method here]. I have even sent ‘helpful’ emails (ok, once) to someone who professed to desiring to exclusively breastfeed for a year (no solids). I googled it and then I decided – yup, that’s crazy and ill-informed. I sent her a lengthy email on how she wouldn’t need to breastfeed 16 times day and night for her baby if her baby was showing the ‘developmental signs of readiness’ (as they are called) and that she didn’t have to give her baby puree, she could start the baby on whole foods a la BLW (baby-led weaning/solids) if she was afraid of displacing breastmilk too early. No response – of course. She must have been thinking “Such a presumptuous beeatch!”
I think those of us who are passionate about the choices we have made (the research we have done, the questions we have endured about them) become, quite naturally, advocates for those choices. And advocating for those choices seems, sometimes also naturally, to lead to criticism about other, usually equally valid choices. It isn’t as though misinformed people don’t make mistakes. They do. Maybe a vulnerable, birthing woman doesn’t know their C-section is entirely preventable. (But is it any good to talk about it after the fact? I mean, you can’t put the baby back up there). Maybe someone doesn’t know that, ohhh, junk food is bad (Maybe?) But the likelier reality is someone considered their options and situation and made the choice that was appropriate for them at the time. The junk food is bad but the kids need to eat NOW. The C-section may be preventable but I’m not sure and my baby needs to live NOW. And we need to respect that.
We really have very limited insight into why people make the choices they make and the entirety of their circumstances. Walk a mile in…and so on. In my house, we have tried cloth and disposables (and EC, which is working great)…We have tried baby-led weaning & puree….we tried wearing her on our body and pushing her in the pram…and co-sleeping and her own crib….nursing to sleep and sleep training. Every time we did a 360 from what I thought we would do to what she seemed to like and what seemed to work better (or chose to incorporate two seemingly opposed methods) a little bit of that mommy judgment, that tightness in your heart, the righteousness that makes it possible to cling to your own belief, has melted away. Who would have known that she likes puree? Or she sleeps so well in the stroller? Or that she would calm down at night in a disposable because she wasn’t wetting herself every hour? It seems like everything any parent does is up for criticism – witness the open letters from the blogosphere (a mere sampling provided) to moms using their smartphones at the park (both for and against the allegedly neglectful mommy).
Being a parent is an inventive practice – we are creating as we go. I would say that most ‘experts’ are not saying there is one right answer. Almost every book I’ve read is very careful to couch their recommendations as suggestions that need to modified as necessary by we, the parents. We are the ones who know our children best, and we are the ones who ultimately have the power to change their little lives, esp. when they are young. The responsibilities are daunting! ….I often have to remind myself that what works for me is not what will or should work for another mom, and I do not have the lockdown on The Best Way. Just ‘Our Way’.
This is from the Mommy Friends Facebook page and it is a very eloquent encapsulation of those sentiments. (It’s even hard for me to admit that a weeks worth of junk food dinners might be the best option under certain circumstances, that’s how ingrained my critical reflex is.)
So: let us reflect on the following.
To the mom who’s breastfeeding: Way to go! It really is an amazing gift to give your baby, for any amount of time that you can manage! You’re a good mom.
To the mom who’s formula feeding: Isn’t science amazing? To think there was a time when a baby with a mother who couldn’t produce enough would suffer, but now? Better living through chemistry! You’re a good mom.
To the cloth diapering mom: Fluffy bums are the cutest, and so friendly on the bank account. You’re a good mom.
To the disposable diapering mom: Damn those things hold a lot, and it’s excellent to not worry about leakage and laundry! You’re a good mom.
To the mom who stays home: I can imagine it isn’t easy doing what you do, but to spend those precious years with your babies must be amazing. You’re a good mom.
To the mom who works: It’s wonderful that you’re sticking to your career, you’re a positive role model for your children in so many ways, it’s fantastic. You’re a good mom.
To the mom who had to feed her kids from the drive thru all week because you’re too worn out to cook or go grocery shopping: You’re feeding your kids, and hey, I bet they aren’t complaining! Sometimes sanity can indeed be found in a red box with a big yellow M on it. You’re a good mom.
To the mom who gave her kids a homecooked breakfast lunch and dinner for the past week: Excellent! Good nutrition is important, and they’re learning to enjoy healthy foods at an early age, a boon for the rest of their lives. You’re a good mom.
To the mom with the kids who are sitting quietly and using their manners in the fancy restaurant: Kudos, it takes a lot to maintain order with children in a place where they can’t run around. You’re a good mom.
To the mom with the toddler having a meltdown in the cereal aisle: they always seem to pick the most embarrassing places to lose their minds don’t they? We’ve all been through it. You’re a good mom.
To the moms who judge other moms for ANY of the above? Glass houses, friend. Glass houses.