Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hey, you, leave that mom alone

I try really hard not to get on a soap box very often, especially here at Consider Me Krysten (I usually save it for Jeremy) but, there is something that is weighing on my heart so heavily today that I can’t help but write about it.

While I’ve spent countless hours nursing and cuddling Baby E the last few weeks, I’ve also spent countless hours on my iPhone reading about different things baby related. It is awesome that every time I have a thought or a question about just about anything, I can take to the hundreds of thousands of Facebook pages and forums that exist on the internet and get advice, opinions and find research upon research about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, swaddling, post-partum issues, sibling concerns, etc. You name it, there’s a page for it. I’ve learned about things I didn’t know the first two times around. I’ve found resources and facts that have helped me get through those first few really rough weeks of breastfeeding that I didn’t handle so well with the boys. I’ve had my questions answered by women who have been there and done it and I’ve been encouraged and validated in more than one area. It’s been wonderful to have so much information and so many people right at my finger tips while I nurse away and stay awake at all hours of the night.

I have noticed something else, however, and here’s where the soapbox comes in:

Women are mean to each other.

Okay, not all of them and not all the time but, women are mean.

I am lucky enough to have been raised by a woman who taught me the value of, “take what you want and leave the rest” when it comes to people’s opinions and advice. I don’t take stuff too personally and I don’t often let other people talk me into second guessing myself when it comes to the way I parent. I do what works for me and my children and I pretty much always have. I’ve made it this far and I figure if it ain’t broke, leave it the hell alone, right?

But, I know some women who are not built like I am. Some women, especially those with new babies, don’t have the same thick skin I do and they take stuff really, really personally.

When a woman goes to a forum online to ask a simple question, she wants you to answer that question with your experience, strength and hope. She wants you to be kind and tactful and answer the question, just the question, without offering anything else. When a woman posts a picture of the first time she feeds her baby rice cereal, she wants you to notice how cute her little bug is. She wants you to tell her that the bib is cute, the spoon is cool and comment how big and beautiful her baby is. She DOES NOT want you to tell her that she is causing her child to have type 1 diabetes by giving him rice cereal too early. She DOES NOT want you to tell her that she is making a mistake by doing A, B, C or D with her child. When you see a picture of a kid with a pacifier in his or her mouth or a child wearing pull-ups or, God Forbid, a diaper, later than you think they should, the mother who posted the picture DOES NOT need you to comment that it’s time to lose the Bink or use the ‘Big Potty’. I promise you, that kid is not going to go to high school still sucking on a Dummy (that’s the UK word, I like it) or wearing a Nappy (Also UK terminology. I want to be British, didn’t you know?)

The human race has survived for hundreds of thousands of years because women are pretty good at trusting their guts when it comes to raising their children. That is, unless, they have a head full of other women telling them that they are severely effing stuff up.

Yes, I know we’ve now decided that Rice Cereal is the Devil. Yes, I know that having a pacifier too long will give you jacked up teeth. Yes, I know that potty training is important. Yes, I know that you believe breastfeeding is the ONE AND ONLY WAY. Period. But, please, for the sake of mothers everywhere…


I’m serious. Unless you are specifically asked for your opinion or have something encouraging to say, shut up. Motherhood is a hard gig. The last thing that new mommy on that message board needs is your unsolicited advice, opinion or two cents (or three or four) about how she’s doing something wrong.

Is she shaking her baby? Did she confess to leaving her baby locked in a car for an hour? Did she put her baby outside with the dog and take off to Vegas for three days? No? Then leave. her. alone.

The sad part is, it’s not just online that I see this. I’ve been witness to it in real life since I started having children almost seven years ago. Women thinking that they have the right, or hell, the obligation, to give other moms advice about what to do with their kids. I’ve seen it rip apart decade long friendships, sibling relationships, mother/daughter bonds. It’s sad.

And I’m fed up with it.

If you see a mommy doing something that you’re just absolutely positive is not working and you really, really, really think you have a better way, try something like this:

You know, I went through that with my kid. It was really tough. _______ worked really well for us. You could try it. What’s the worse that could happen? If it doesn’t work, I’m sure you’ll figure something else out. You’re the mom, after all. You know what’s best for your kid.

You see what I did there? I shared experience, strength and hope without straight out calling that mom a dumbass or playing on her already unstable insecurities. It’s not rocket science, ladies.

Motherhood is something that needs to be owned, and owned outright, bold and courageously but, everyone has to own their own brand. My way will not work for you and your way will not work for me. We have different kids. You have different kids than that mom in your play group or your sister-in-law or your co-worker. What works for one is NOT going to work for all of them.

They are different people.

Different little people with their own quirks and comfort levels. There is no one-size-fits-all for motherhood any more than there is for anything else.

Do you fall asleep with the television on? Sleep with a fan? Blankets on? Blankets off? Wear pajamas? Sleep naked? Start your day with a cup of coffee? A cup of tea? A jog? Some orange juice? Do you do better with a big breakfast or a small one? Keep your AC on all the time or your windows open? Do you like the taste of peas? Carrots? Brussels Sprouts?

Could you imagine harping on a woman in your life because she had different answers to these questions than you do? (If you answered yes, we probably wouldn’t be friends anyway. Please go away)
Probably not. So, why oh why do you care so much how she does them with her baby, her toddler or her school aged child?

Contrary to what I see, read or hear on a daily basis, we’re all supposed to be on the same side. We’re mothers. We really are doing the most important job there is. We are bringing up the next generation of people. The people who are going to take care of us when we’re old. The people who are going to take care of our world when we are no longer in it. This is important work. Doing what works best for our own little people is going to matter in the long run. The way we raise our own little people is going to matter.

It. Does. Matter.

But it also matters that we’re doing it our own ways and with our own rhythm. It matters that we’re owning our brand of motherhood and letting other women own theirs. Sure, we’re supposed to be making sure they grow up to be good people, good citizens, good husbands and wives and friends but, I’m pretty sure when you introduce solids, how long your kid has a Dummy (Huh, huh? British. Bam) or whether or not your kid slept in the living room floor 6 out of 7 nights a week for seven years has little to do with that.

I’ve read more than one letter on the internet written to moms who do things differently. They are all a little different but they have the same general message:

Everyone has their own way of raising their children. You worry about yours, I’ll worry about mine and everyone will be just fine. If another mom asks for your opinion, please, by all means, share. If she doesn’t, just be quiet. Or, here's a thought: Point out the stuff she's doing right (according to you) and give her a high five for it. She needs one, I'm sure. She's a mom, just like you, just like me...  

and we’re all doing it just right.

Happy Wednesday, Friends.
go. do. be.