We are at a Mexican restaurant to get together one last time before a dear friend moves to another state. I am staring longingly at the queso I can not have because I am, reluctantly, dairy-free while breastfeeding. (Mom sacrifices will be another post — for now, I am just setting the scene.) There are four moms and an army of kids. We are chatting the normal scatterbrained way moms talk while trying to multitask with littles. The conversation shifts to our breastfeeding journeys, and my friend shares about how when she was new to town and new to motherhood, she was shamed for not breastfeeding her son “long enough” by a mom group she had joined. As she vividly described her painful experience with breastfeeding and her interactions with those mothers, it was evident how deeply she felt that judgment and how long-lasting the impact was. Instead of finding the allies she needed, they tried to make her feel unworthy. All I could think was the same thing I think every time I hear about another mother judging someone.
WHO ARE THESE MOTHERS THAT FEEL LIKE THEY CARE MORE ABOUT YOUR CHILD THAN YOU?!?!?!
Do they think that somehow you, who prayed and hoped for that child, literally gave up your body to carry that child, birthed said child, and have done things with poop you never thought you would do in this lifetime or the next, would not be prioritizing your child more than they do? I am always baffled by the audacity. Yes, I hope we all want to help the next mother and encourage them through a hard time, however, there is a stark line between being helpful and being hurtful. Far too many times, people just slip and slide right past it.
All the no judgment posts and memes are always liked and shared so rampantly. If only those likes would translate to reality. That when we say no judgment, it is actualized in the way we talk to and treat each other. Motherhood is hard enough without us tearing each other down by not trusting that the decisions mothers make are in the best interest of their own children and family. Let’s start assuming that they are not making major decisions flippantly. At the very least, can we just believe that they are giving it the best they’ve got, which, from experience, I can tell you looks different day to day — and even moment by moment? While I think we all can agree that motherhood gives us superpowers, it did not make us any less human. We all need to be able to take off our armor and know that our vulnerability is not going to be used against us.
The reality is that people can make a decision that you would not make, and still be successful. I chose to breastfeed my children. I have friends who tried different variations of “success and failure” and others who had no interest in trying. I did not try to convince my friend to breastfeed because I think it is best or guilt-trip a friend who decided to throw in the towel. I also showed no judgment because that was not the sacrifice she wanted to make. I believe that a fed baby and a happy mother is best for everyone. And you will never believe what happened! Their kids are thriving just like mine.
There is no one path to successful parenting. We are not a monolith. We can both love our kids to death and mourn our pre-mom life. We can be our child’s most fierce protector and envision ourselves giving a light chop to the throat for a brief relief from a tantrum (emphasis on envision). There should be no shame in either of those realities. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, you will find yourself humbled on this parenting journey. I urge you to not be the humbling agent, and instead, be the closet of comfort where another mom can hang up her super suit.
When you feel the urge to judge, ask yourself a few questions. Are you trying to help or hurt? Why does it matter so deeply to you? Will your statement feel uplifting? Is the other mother in the space to receive your advice? If you can answer those questions confidently and still feel the need to make your feelings known, then you are likely doing it in the spirit of true village building and not judging. If not, please mind the business that pays you. And if you feel confused, it is not another mother’s decision on what is best for her or her family.
So, when I complain about being tired even though I stayed up binge-watching the Handmaid’s Tale because nighttime is the only quiet time I get, and Aunt Lydia, the reincarnation of Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda, just keeps on living, don’t judge me for my poor decisions. Just show me some empathy and hand me a chai tea latte. Until next time… Under His Eye.