I’ve said it over and over, ad nauseam, that the hardest thing about being a mom is the constant judgment. Once you have a child, even the previously well-restrained critic thinks s/he has a reason to interfere and offer an opinion. And people have opinions about EVERYTHING, starting the minute you conceive.
Is that coffee caffeinated? You’re not going to have an epidural are you? You’re going to give birth WHERE? What do you mean you don’t want to breastfeed? What do you mean, you want to breastfeed? Are you sure you don’t want to circumcise him? You’re going back to work? Don’t let that baby sleep in your bed, you’ll smother him. Don’t let the baby cry for a second. Give him rice cereal, he’ll sleep through the night. Don’t offer purees. Don’t offer REAL food, do you want him to CHOKE? Vaccinate. Don’t vaccinate. Be vigilant. Relax. Stick to a routine. Be flexible.
There are people who are pushy, who see the world in black and white, who haven’t updated their worldviews since they had their own children thirty years ago. There are people who are just flat out rude and lack understanding and empathy.
But that’s not who I want to talk about today. Those people are cringe-worthy, but every generation has them and though they make my heart shrivel up into a tiny dust ball of anxiety and insecurity, even I can mostly roll my eyes at them and move on.
The problem isn’t those people. The problem is the rest of us.
I’m talking about the pregnant woman who says all the right things about supporting everyone’s birth choices but secretly thinks I would never be induced. I’m not weak enough to get an epidural. I would never consent to a c-section.
I’m talking about moms whose eight-week-olds were sleeping through the night. They thought to themselves, I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about! only to have the rug ripped out from under them at four months when she starts waking five times a night.
Have you ever talked to someone whose words say “I support your choice to work outside the home” but whose eyes say Your baby grows so quickly, how are you okay with someone else raising him?
Who among us hasn’t had that smug moment? I know I have. One time, in the dark, in the middle of the night, I whispered to my husband Breastfeeding isn’t that hard, I don’t know what people are complaining about.
I have since been humbled. Humbled to my core.
It’s not about the vocal judgers. Not the condemners, or the people on your mommy message board who are all smug about their perfect little babies. The real work to be done lies within moms like myself, a secret judger, a woman who talks the talk about being accepting and understanding and compassionate, but has a nasty little voice in the back of her head that says but you should have tried harder, like I did. I am a better mom than you are.
I don’t for a moment believe I’m the only secret judger out there. We all have our smug moments, our superiorities, but I’m willing to guess that most of us have been cut down a notch from time to time. No one is perfect. Parenthood challenges the assumptions you have made – about children, marriage, nutrition, sleep, priorities, and about yourself.
In the end, we all need to work harder to believe – not to just say we believe, but to really, truly believe – that everyone knows her child best.
Until you have been there, through the night and into the wee hours of the morning, in the doctor’s office, crying in the shower wondering what on earth you are going to do next, how to make the best decision, how in god’s name you are supposed to know what is right for your child…
Until you have been THERE, you don’t get to have an opinion.
I am not an expert on parenting. But I am an expert on parenting my child. You are an expert on parenting your child. Now let’s all support each other – for real – as we yawn, pick Cheerios out of our hair, clean milk off our shirts, and smile.