Motherhood: A World of Shush
(Note: As I read this blog post three years later, I realized how much has changed. While I certainly felt the judgement during those early days, it is hard to remember today. It is hard to remember because the judgement has passed. I am not sure if I am surrounded by more supportive parents or if I just have developed so much more confidence in my parenting ability. Maybe I don’t give a damn about another’s opinion! So take heart, new mama, tough times like the first emotional months will pass into stronger times.)
As women, we have fought for years to have choices and rights. Now as a mother, I notice that the choices I make need to be kept quiet unless I know the opinions of the mothers around me. Let me give a few examples.
Breast v. Bottle
We have the right to choose to exclusively breastfeed, to breastfeed with supplements or to formula feed. If you exclusively breastfeed, then society allows you to be proud. Some (not all) breastfeeding mothers shout it out along with the number of months they made it as they wear their proud-warrior-breastfeeding-mama-I-am-better-than-you badge. If you choose to formula feed (for whatever reason), society says be quiet and hold your head down. Don’t dare mix up a drink for your hungry (albeit just as healthy) baby in a public place because you will get the stares. Shush you formula feeding mama!
Pediatricians and Daycares
Next up, be quiet about your pediatrician and daycare choices. If you don’t have the one your mother acquaintance has, you will be judged because theirs is better. Actually their OBGYN was better too giving their baby a head start before he or she was even born!
Be quiet about how much money you chose to spend on all the needed baby equipment. However, even if you remain quiet the brand gives it away so if you didn’t spend a ton of money on your little one’s crib, stroller or car seat you are judged. I mean really money equates love in these judgmental circles.
Working v. SAHM
Shush about going back to work because non-working mommies judge. Shush about staying home because working mommies judge you.
Heaven forbid you talk about vaccines because the anti camp will send you horrific stories that will keep you awake at night (if you aren’t already). But the rest of the world tells you that you have to vaccinate in order to send your child to school.
The shush list can go on and on. I’ve developed a theory on the constant stares, proud bragging moments, unsolicited advice and nonstop judgement – we all want to do our best for our babies. Our hearts and intentions are well meaning. We are nonstop doubting ourselves therefore justifying that we are making the best decision of all makes us feel better. We, even unknowingly, put down the decisions of other mothers to make ourselves feel like we have the best and have done the best. So in our dark moments of doubt we can at least say that we didn’t do it as bad as so and so’s mom!
I try to watch myself when my brain automatically makes a judgement call on another mother’s actions. We are all trying our best. One friend put it kindly after a firestorm of e-mails I received about feeding Buckner at 4 months old saying, “Do what is best for your child.” We are all different individuals as are our babies. We celebrate differences as adults so why do we expect child rearing to all be the same? As long as you are taking care of your child, let’s celebrate the differences of childhood and no longer live in a world of shush.