I don’t know about you, but I’m completely over the mom-shaming.
Check out any comments section of any parenting article. You’ll find it rife with all kinds of moms: the know-it-all mom, the one-upper mom, the condescending “never my child” mom, and the shaming mom. Advice, wisdom, guidance, support? Those comments are encouraging. Tearing other moms down? That’s just dirty.
Since when did it become okay — or worse, encouraged — to freely intrude in others’ lives and tell them how they should make their parenting choices?
I guess I never really noticed the frequency with which this happens until I became a mom. Admittedly, I was one of those people. I mean, it was my opinion, right? Why wouldn’t someone want to hear it? But sure enough, as soon as you make public the results of that pregnancy test, an unwritten assumption takes hold of the general public: she must want help raising this child! I’m just the person for the job.
The larger my belly grew, the more comfortable perfect strangers (as well as friends and family) felt verbalizing their opinion on various topics – breastfeeding versus bottle, vaginal birth versus cesarean. In any other instance, society would deem it not only inappropriate but even offensive to discuss my breasts, my vagina, and what I do with them in the middle of Kroger. But, no. Now, the concept of personal boundaries was disappearing faster than my waistline. (Don’t even get me started about the random “belly touchers.”)
I’m not sure if it is the topic of conversation I find so intrusive as it is the entitlement with which those who freely dole out unsolicited advice possess. This could not be more evident than in the conversations about breastfeeding. I was a proud formula-feeding mother. I’m well-aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. I just don’t want to do it. Nevermind that I felt like a walking milk factory — I enjoyed the convenience of formula.
God forbid I advertise this. The barrage of criticism this camp draws is absurd. You’d think it was arsenic. Normally, I would have to preface it with a caveat, like, “Oh, well, Jackson just had a tough time latching on,” or, “I didn’t think I was producing enough milk.” Those of us who choose to formula feed feel the need to make excuses for it. Because if we shared that we simply want to? Because it makes a crazy life a tad easier? Then we would be judged harshly. My breastfeeding counterparts face similar struggles — just on the other end of the spectrum. They constantly face judgment about where they feed, what they wear, or the age of their kid.
The same judgment is passed pertaining to birth plans. I have never had so many opinions offered about my vagina before in my life. When I opted not to turn my breech son and opted for a C-section? I got a few questions and raised eyebrows. What I didn’t tell anyone was that I secretly wanted a C-section. That breech position was one of the biggest reliefs I’ve ever had. I was scared to death to push a kid out naturally. Clearly, the VBAC wasn’t even an option on the table for my second child. That, however, didn’t stop scores of inquisitive minds from asking my reasons why.
Why? Well, for one, because it’s my own choice — one that I shouldn’t have to justify to anyone. Not the nurse who tried to talk me out of it, not the lactation consultant to fought me when I asked for Similac Sensitive after Lucy was born, not my friends, and definitely not random strangers in the store.
When did it become acceptable to tell people how to parent? I may have been one of those people in my younger years. But I can safely say that was a result of immaturity. Having had my most intimate choices scrutinized and judged makes me hesitant to insert my opinion into someone else’s life — especially regarding their child rearing. What’s even worse? The majority of the judgment comes from our own sex. As if women need someone else to add to the objectification and degradation we face on a regular basis from the rest of society. We’ve turned on our own kind. We feel better about our own parenting flaws when we criticize someone else’s. Because, at the end of the day, we lay on our pillows and wonder, “Was it enough? Did I do enough for my kids today? Am I a good mom?”
Tearing apart others will not help us as enlightened individuals. It certainly won’t further our place as women in society. It is bare-bones, junior-high, Mean Girls stuff. And just because it happens in a noble arena doesn’t make it noble. If I want to feed my kid formula, that’s my choice. Respect it. If you want to give your kids soft drinks? Okay. That’s none of my business. Neither is your breastfeeding your three-year old, or your drug-free water birth, or your serving Kraft Mac-n-Cheese and chicken nuggets six nights of the week. Being a mom is hard enough. Heck, being a woman is hard enough. Let’s stop making it harder with our judgments and need to prove our worth to others.