I see this daily. An ever present judgement; sometimes unspoken, between one mother to the next. No area is off limits! Clothing, food, tv-time, bed-time, potty training, vaccinations, toys, electronics, home vs. public school, sports vs. arts, bottle-feeding vs. breast feeding. It goes on, and on, and on, and on.
Let me share with you something I’ve learned in my journey through motherhood: being a mom is the hardest fucking job in the world. (Sorry, to my grandmother, for the profanity. But I needed to get this point across). There is no manual. There are no sick days. You can’t just quit and decide to become something else. The hours are long. The pay is non-existent. Sometimes your children grow up loving you and sometimes they put you in a nursing home and forget to visit. Some days it sucks (the life right out of you). Other days, it’s the most rewarding thing you could ever imagine. Why then, I ask, are all these moms wasting what energy they have beating each other down?
Let me tell you something. Prior to becoming pregnant, and even during that magical, fattening journey, I had a lot of preconceived notions of what parenthood would be like. MY son will never throw fits in the middle of the store. MY son will never be snacking on unpaid items while sitting in the cart at the grocery store all in an attempt to keep him quiet. MY son won’t watch any TV until he’s at least two. MY son won’t eat any fast food until he reaches at least the age of 5. MY son won’t talk back. MY son will listen and mind when given a time out. MY son won’t be bottle-fed. MY son will never go to a facility-run day care center. MY son..MY son..MY son. Oh, young, naïve Natasha. I had no idea. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Motherhood made me get over myself REAL quick. You see, MY son is absolutely perfect in every way. In my eyes. But the reality is, none of us are perfect. Especially me. As a mom. I feel like most days the only thing I accomplish is failing. There are a lot of situations I could have handled better. I’m learning, just like my son is learning. I hate to break it to the next mom, but I feel the same way about her. She’s not perfect. We are all just trying to survive. Trying to keep our kids healthy, and safe. Trying to provide for them so they can grow up and change the world. Or at least be happy and comfortable and self-sufficient.
There are two subjects related to parenting that especially get me heated. Vaccinations and breast feeding. I made a vow to never post about either one of those things because I figured nothing good would come of it; and I don’t particularly like getting into long, drawn out “discussions” about something that people can never seem to agree on (unless I’m drinking, which right now I’m not because I’m still trying to lose the 10 holiday pounds I’ve gained). I’ve changed my mind. I remember when I was pregnant I spent a LOT of time researching vaccinations. Even after all the time spent trying to figure out what to do, I’ll admit I still sometimes find myself wondering, “what if?” Having said that, we’ve chosen to get Cooper vaccinated. Deep down, I don’t really believe that vaccinations cause Autism. Am I sure about that? Of course not. I worked for a couple of years with children with special needs. I remember their parents’ stories. I remember their daily struggles. I also remember the sliver of fear I felt each time one of Cooper’s doctors’ appointments came around. Would I be causing my child harm by giving him something meant to keep him healthy? I remember reading an article around this time and the author stated that American women have forgotten what it looks like to watch their child die of polio. That stuck with me and I remember sharing that statement with my best friend (a night very similar to tonight where a bunch of people who know everything were doing what they do best; arguing). So, when all was said and done, we did it. We chose to vaccinate. We felt the benefits outweighed the risks. That was our choice. I still pray like crazy each year when he gets the flu shot, but I know we’re doing our part to give our son a chance.
It’s the same with breast feeding. Why am I seeing this so often? What the hell does it matter if your child was breast fed or bottle fed? Is anyone really in the spot to spew off at the mouth about either option? I’m a healthcare professional. I get there are a ton of nutritional benefits to receiving breast milk vs. formula. I understand all of that and I’m not disputing it. I also understand that breast feeding is not an option for everyone. Take me, for example. I tried with all my might to breast feed Cooper. It didn’t work. I had a little thing called Lactation Failure. I don’t think that requires much explanation. So.. Cooper had to be supplemented with formula and then after two very long, grueling weeks, switched over completely to formula. Does this make me less of a mother? Some would very heatedly argue YES. There are a lot of choice words I would like to use with those individuals, but instead I’m going to challenge them and all of you to try something different. The next time you see a mom struggling with her child throwing a tantrum in the middle of public, give her an encouraging smile. Tell her it happened to you just last weekend. Buy the mom at Starbucks who looks like she hasn’t washed her hair or had an adult conversation in over a week a coffee. Let her know she’s doing a good job. Stop shaming those moms breastfeeding their babies in public. YOU eat in public. It’s just a boob. Get over it. While you’re at it, stop shaming those moms bottle feeding in public. You don’t know their story or their reason, and frankly, it’s none of your business.
Let’s recap on what we’ve learned:
- No two pregnancies are alike. Keep your advice and opinions to yourself!
- Until you’ve actually given birth to a little person, (or adopted a little person) keep your parenting opinions zipped up. You DON’T know what it’s like. You’ll end up doing the things you swore you wouldn’t do. Mark my words.
- An iPad and gold fish can sometimes be your best friends.
- Even once you’re a parent – be kind. Unless someone is actually putting their child in danger, stay out of it. We’re all just trying to do the best we can.