We all have people in our lives that maybe we know well or just met on the street or happen to work with or we are related to by blood (for better or worse) that just don’t know when to stop talking or to keep their opinions to themselves. For some reason, this compulsive need to share opinions intensifies when you’re a mom or about to become one (i.e. pregnant or waiting to adopt). That is to say, you seem to be more susceptible to the commentary. And the commentary, I hate to say it, often comes from other women who are moms. (I hate to perpetuate that stereotype that women are petty or catty or pass judgment easily and I don’t want to be hating on my ‘sisters;’ I need them.) So, when unsolicited commentary leaves their mouths, you’re just looking at them like,
Seriously? I don’t need your mom judgment.
Momming is really really hard.
Not one mom needs the added difficulty of feeling judged or shamed for our parenting choices by other moms who should know how hard it is. And if you are a mom and you don’t think parenting is hard, you’re lying to yourself. If it’s not hard because your children are perfect, you’re still lying to yourself. Or you’re a miracle. You can bet which scenario I actually believe though.
A lot of moms have mom guilt. Whether we know we shouldn’t or not. Whether our self-esteems are healthy or not. We still doubt ourselves, question ourselves, self-evaluate about the raising of our children and wonder how we are perceived by others. It’s just something that we do. We are our own worst critics so when others pass mom judgment, the mom guilt intensifies and so does the shame. I should have done it differently. Maybe she’s right. How come I didn’t… I should have… What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I think of that? I’m so stupid.
We already feel enough self-judgment and mom guilt, we don’t need help from others. Thank you. So, please stop talking. Seriously. Stop the mom judgment.
No matter how much you might want to, please don’t say the following to pregnant women:
- You’re really not going to share the name with anyone?
- Not finding out the sex of the baby is going to make it so difficult for people to shop for them.
- I was way more excited not knowing what I was having than finding out.
- You know, all my kids were bottle fed and they turned out just fine.
- Breastfeeding is really far better for them. Will you breastfeed?
- Are you sure you’re not further along? You look like you could pop any day.
- Disposable diapers are terrible for the environment.
- Cloth diapers are such a pain to clean. And what about when someone else watches them?
You know what all of those things above imply? You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.
Of course, everyone has their own opinion and somewhere along the line, these opinions will contradict each other from one person to the other. There is no way to win- if winning is important to you. There’s certainly no right way because if there was, everyone would do the exact same thing. If everyone did the exact same thing, then everyone’s babies would be the exact same. If everyone’s babies were the exact same, what kind of terrible, boring place would we live in?
Let’s continue. Here are other phrases that should not be said because they promote mom judgment and amp up the mom guilt.
Please don’t say the following to women shortly after they’ve given birth:
- So, when do you think you’ll get back into an exercise routine?
- Looks like you’ve done a great job shedding some of that baby weight.
- You’re holding the baby too much/you’re spoiling the baby.
- Pacifiers are going to damage their teeth once they come in.
- If breastfeeding is so painful, why don’t you just switch to formula?
- They seem underweight, are you sure they’re drinking enough?
- You look exhausted. Make sure you’re sleeping when they do.
- Isn’t that cloth from the swaddle too close to their face?
- Isn’t that swaddle wrapped too tightly? Most babies want their arms free.
- Why don’t you try swaddling them if they won’t sleep?
What do all these imply? Get back in shape. You’re wrong. Your baby isn’t developing the way they should be. You look like crap. You’re not doing it right. (And the incessant comments and questions make you want to swaddle the naysayer tightly around their neck… you know where I’m going here.) You can see how a momma’s gone from being wrong to also not looking great and either providing too much or too little for their child. The list of things that shouldn’t be said to moms grows as their child does. The mom judgment grows. The mom guilt grows. The shame grows.
We hear the criticism. We retain the judgment. All of a sudden, without thinking, we say the same words to someone else even though we hated hearing them. It’s like passing judgment has become a part of mom culture.
We’ve got to be nicer to each other. Nicer to ourselves. More understanding of each other and ourselves, and the different backgrounds and perspectives we contain. On the occasion that someone passes mom judgment, intensifies our mom guilt, or piques our shame, we need to be able to hold our heads up, walk away and still know that what they say doesn’t matter. We need to be able to tell ourselves:
I am doing the best I can. I love my child. There is no right way to be a mom. (And I can sleep now and go to the gym later.)
Where is all of this coming from you might ask? Why am I ranting and carrying on and scolding you all? Well…
Here is a quick anecdote because who doesn’t love a good story? At the time I sat down to write this post, I was remembering when I was at a wake (yes, as in someone died) and a distant relative came up to me to ask me how I liked being a mom. I responded favorably, beaming while talking about my son. Though I know this woman to be opinionated (and usually tactless) and therefore nothing she could say should have surprised me, she said,
I’m so happy to hear that you’re thriving. I never saw you becoming a mom. Or liking it.
I know what you’re all thinking: Seriously?
Now, I could go into a whole other post about what the heck that was all about, but that is not for now. The point is, that comment offered nothing to me that was beneficial. It was mom judgment. It promoted shame. I felt guilty and wrong. I don’t have time for those feelings. And I don’t need guilt or shame in my life. Neither do any of you.
Moms are doing the best we can. We love our children. There is no right way to be a mom.
So, you be you. Don’t let the haters in. Don’t become a hater either. Don’t judge other moms. Don’t shame them. Don’t add to their mom guilt.
And if you are a hater and you just can’t help yourself, then this is what I have to say to you:
Please stop talking, seriously.
What’s the implication? I didn’t ask for your opinion and I don’t care what it is. Be gone with you. I am doing just fine without you and your mom judgment.