Being a mother is HARD. It’s actually the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…and continue to do. Just when one challenge is resolved, another challenge soon shows it’s face. Personally, I find that one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent is the judgement that comes from all directions. To be judged, or to feel judged for the decisions you make for your children and the way you raise them, is the worst feeling in the world. I think that as a mother, the people who I find to be the most judgemental are OTHER mothers! Does that not seem completely absurd to you? If anyone can understand the struggles of raising a child and being a mother, it would be another mother…right? However, as moms we can be so quick to judge another mother whom we probably don’t even know! Some simple examples include: Did she have natural birth? Is she breastfeeding? Why would she breastfeed THERE?! Wow…she bottle feeds? She uses disposable diapers (she obviously doesn’t care about the environment)? Is she a working mom? Is she a stay at home mom? Does she make her own baby food or does she buy it canned/jarred from the store? She’s doing BABY LED WEANING?! Did she vaccinate her child? Are those organic snacks? She lets her kid watch TV?!
Seriously people, the list is endless…and I have found that it literally does not matter what you do. There will ALWAYS be someone who thinks you are doing it wrong. ALWAYS. The worst part is that sometimes these things are outside of a mother’s control (i.e. birthing experience).
I can’t even begin to tell you how many articles I have read about mothers being judged as a “bad mom” or even seen comments online and in real life that make me so sad. It makes me scared to go anywhere or do anything because who knows who will be watching …and judging me for every move I make.
For example, breastfeeding vs. bottle (formula) feeding. Moms are judged H-A-R-D on this one. There are actually mothers who have accidentally starved their babies because they were so desperate and determined to breastfeed. Why? Who knows the exact reason, but I bet it’s because breastfeeding is seen as the best and ONLY way to feed your baby. If you don’t breastfeed, you are literally shunned and frowned upon. You are seen as a bad mother. You are seen as a failure.
I personally believe that if you are physically able to, you should at least attempt breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been proven to be the most beneficial to your baby’s health. It can help develop your child’s immunity and prevent future problems such as asthma, allergies and obesity. It’s a great bonding experience for a mother and her child (for the most part when it’s not extremely painful) and its free! There are so many benefits to breastfeeding and I will always encourage mothers to at least ATTEMPT breastfeeding.
HOWEVER, I would never judge a mother if she chose not to. Why? Because I’ve done it and I know how hard it is. If you are the mother who got the perfect latch immediately and had more milk than you knew what to do with, then congratulations. You are so blessed! Not every mother has the same experience. It can be extremely painful at first, not to mention exhausting because you are the only person able to feed your child. You and ONLY YOU are the one who has to wake up at 2 a.m. to a crying, hungry baby while you watch your husband peacefully sleep in bed. There is always pumping, but kudos to the mother who has both the time and energy to do that on top of exclusively breastfeeding! So for the first 6 months to a year (or even longer), your baby is pretty much attached to you by the hip! This can be challenging for moms who have to go back to work early, or school (like I did) or want a day or night out to herself. There’s also the issue of swelling and leaking (which was so awkward and uncomfortable) and some women even suffer from mastitis! It’s a challenging part of motherhood, no doubt.
So I’m going to say something COMPLETELY radical. It is going to blow your mind and probably offend and upset a lot of people. Here we go… breastfeeding is NOT always the BEST option for your child. There I said it. Take a deep breath… I have good reasoning. First of all, some mothers are physically unable to breastfeed. Sometimes mothers are not able to produce enough milk, despite all attempts (including medication) to increase their supply. There’s also mothers who have conditions such as HIV or AIDS, mothers who had breast reduction surgery or who have inverted nipples, mothers who are nutritionally compromised, mothers who are taking certain “unsafe” medications or mothers who are emotionally compromised (anxiety, depression, psychosis). This is just a short list of examples as to why a mother may not be able to breastfeed. Like any decision we make in life, we have to weigh both the pros and the cons. Some mothers find breastfeeding so painful, exhausting and emotionally damaging that sometimes (for the mother’s sanity) it may be best to switch to formula. Postpartum depression is real and there are a lot of new mothers who have either thought about suicide or have actually done it. It is simple: sometimes the cons outweigh the pros for breastfeeding and people decide to use formula. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. NOTHING.
So whether a mother breastfeeds or chooses not to, it does not make her a bad mom. What makes a bad mom is not feeding your child at all. So as long as a baby is being fed and is thriving, then let’s just give it a rest. Because at the end of the day, it is none of our business anyway!
Breastfeeding is just one example of how mothers are judged. I’d like to say it gets better but it really doesn’t. At least it hasn’t (so far). People love to make assumptions and find the fault in others. Maybe it makes them feel better… I don’t know. The truth is that we need to stop judging other people (whether they are a mom or not). We have no idea what their story is, or what they are struggling with in their minds and at home. We don’t know what it’s like to be them. So unless you see a child who is literally in danger, you have no right to judge how another mother (or father) chooses to raise their child. No mom is perfect! I know I certainly am not! We all have made mistakes. We have all made decisions we regret. We all wish we would have done something differently. So if you are a perfect mother, I would love to meet you! Man, I could really use some tips.
So the next time you see a mother struggling out in public (i.e. meltdown in the grocery store, breastfeeding in public), instead of making any kind of assumptions or judgements, tell her she’s doing a good job. Trust me, it will make her day and she will never, ever forget it. If you had the opportunity to help another person, and bring happiness into the world instead of hatred, there is no better opportunity than to tell a mother she’s doing a good job. Especially when her toddler is having a mental breakdown in the middle of the grocery store and the mother is debating whether to deal with a kicking/screaming toddler or to slowly walk away and pretend the kid isn’t hers… (just kidding).
Thanks for reading!
The OCD Mommy