Remember the feeling of peer pressure and judgement growing up? I remember when I first noticed how what you look like, how you dress, what you carry with you started to define who I was to everyone else. I was in 5th grade and those Esprit canvas tote bags were THEE bag to carry. And you knew you were going to be in the Cool Crowd if you got a new set of Multiples to wear on the first day of school. I also remember thinking a few years later, "I can hardly wait until I'm grown-up and I won't have to care about what other people think."
Ha. Yeah right.
Cue parenthood. I could say "Cue adulthood" but it's worse in parenthood, specifically motherhood. What is it about seeing another woman being the mom she knows how to be that puts so much judgement on them and second guessing on ourselves?
The pressure to be This kind of mom who only does This thing or who would never do That thing all the while trying to navigate the foreign world of a newborn is enough to send anyone to the nuthouse. The Beatles had it right "Live and let live." Why is that so hard? I mean, we all know what's best, right? And our own mothers know the most, right? So why not tell it to anyone that will ask, right?
Uh no. A BIG FAT NO. No no no.
Commiserating is one thing. Bonding, listening, sympathizing. But it's that unwelcomed-didn't-ask-for-mind-your-own-beezwax talk that really gets my goat. I blame social media. Our parents didn't have the world at their fingertips and we turned out just fine. And just as important, so did they. They didn't have Google and Facebook and Mommy Groups, they had a phone and pen and paper. Ahhhh, simpler times. But truly, without the immediate reaction from someone else or the yahoo answers from some fool who claims to know all, our parents managed not to kill us and raised pretty rad humans.
I left all the breastfeeding groups I was a part of on facebook because of the amount of backlash I got when I said I fed my son formula. I didn't make enough milk, I didn't use the resources at hand to solve the problem and I HATED pumping. So when I went back to work I sent formula with my son to daycare, he was fed and cared for, that was all I wanted. But I had women who didn't know anything of my situation saying "You're poisoning your child." "I can't believe you don't think breast is best." "You clearly haven't done your research on the benefits and risks of what you are doing." Thanks for nothing, ladies. So, Deuces. I'm out. And the relief I felt once I no longer saw those posts pop up on my page.... it was the same sort of relief in my head and heart as it was physically when I finally got to stretch my legs out straight after giving birth. You know that feeling, the best, most relieving, so damn tight stretch of your life.
The pressure of social media to do what everyone else thinks is right for you and your babe is ridiculous. It's like someone is going to come take away your Mom Card if you let baby sleep in a rock and play longer than so many hours a day. Friends, I'm here to tell you, that ain't going to happen. You are going to be a mother forever. No matter if you breastfeed for a month or 3 years, if you co-sleep from day one until kindergarten or if babe is in their crib at month 2, if you follow baby led weaning or if those pouches of fruit/veggies have been your saving grace multiple times (Ahem. Me.) I did breast, formula, side-sleeper, co-sleep (that 4 month sleep regression is a real B), only 2 hours of PBS in the morning to watching Finding Dory 3 times in 1 day, from as many Goldfish crackers he wants to a real balanced healthy meal. I did what works for us and my kid is pretty fabulous. Funny, articulate, healthy, huge, lovable, empathetic, curious.
My mom told me once that when I was still an infant she told the pediatrician that she was unsure how to be a good mom. And he said "You've never been a mom before. But baby has never been a baby before. They don't know when you screw up." Fact. Love your baby, feed them so they grow and are healthy, keep them safe, and do all you can to hold onto your sanity. If mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. The rest all falls in line.
*Author's note: If you feel like you are struggling in motherhood, are unsure of who you are or how to parent. Or if you just need some extra support, please reach out. This website is a good place to start www.ppsupportmn.org/postpartumsupport You can also check out my Resources page. We are here for you.
Sarah: Birth doula, wife, mother, coffee and wine drinker, lover of beer, books and tattoos.