My social media feeds are always filled with moms or things about parenting. Mom friends, mom blogs, parenting sites, parenting products…I’m bombarded with motherhood all day every day, even when I’m taking a ‘break’ from my own children. Most days, this is what I enjoy. I was born wanting to be a mother. I nurtured baby dolls from a young age and was overjoyed to finally get a baby cousin when I was older. I even pursued a degree in Early Childhood Education. I would say for many years, I was a bit obsessed with children.
Then I had my own. And yes, they are snuggly, often sweet, and always irreplaceable. I still love hearing about other people’s children and I still find pregnancy and infancy fascinating. Yet, as I sit here in my third pregnancy, I can say that after this baby, I think I am ready to close the chapter on ‘baby obsession’. I feel like I have fulfilled all the wants of motherhood, babydom, and ‘pregnancy euphoria’ that I could handle.
I am by far not the same person who gave birth to my oldest son almost four years ago. While some of me has remained the same, much of what I have experienced and learned has changed me. There is no more wild-eyed curiosity at all things baby. I no longer wish to stroll through baby stores and baby departments for hours. Almost every baby thing I need is packed away downstairs in my basement. Yes, I am excited to see my new little bean on the ultrasound screen. I am excited to feel s/he kick and move. To find out the sex, nail down a name. I’m more scared of delivery now than I ever was. After hemorrhaging on the delivery table twice, I’m left a bit scared of what’s to come. Granted, my doctors and nurses were amazing. The bleeding was stopped, I did not get dizzy until I stood up afterwards to pee, and I required no transfusion. So things went really well for me. But, hemorrhaging is still scary. Especially when you have two little ones already and tend to be the type of person who reads up on every potential bad outcome… It’s scary.
I spent yesterday in a horribly melancholy mood. As I scrolled through my social media feeds, I saw moms doing fun things with their kids. I saw birth announcements, newborn cloth diapers. I saw moms praising their children, some lamenting. Normally when I feel like I’m not being the best mother, those posts about what crafts, perfect outfits, or nutritious meals other mother’s children are having make me feel bad. Yet somehow, yesterday, they didn’t.
My children weren’t doing anything fancy. They played with scented stickers, watched some shows about letters and learning to read. They built forts, played mailmen, and chased our cat. We had peanut butter crackers and graham crackers for lunch. Yes, I let them drink juice and no, nothing was organic. We even had super, not healthy pizza for dinner and boy did we gobble it up! I wasn’t ‘exceeding’ any expectations yesterday, but I didn’t let myself feel the mom guilt I so often do. Why? Four years of parenting has taught me this…
What you don’t see in those photos of moms with manicured nails, perfect hair, and NOT in their pajamas, is that they have dirty piles of laundry too. There’s a room in their house where toys likely cover the floor. They have days they aren’t taking photos where they get stuck in their yoga pants and ill-fitting t-shirts just like me. While we love to take pictures of craft time, learning time, and ‘good’ days, we’re not taking photos of tantrums. We’re not taking photos of us crying in the bathroom because it’s Thursday afternoon and we’re lonely, tired, and need a break. There are rarely photos of poop explosions, crayon walls, and food covered kitchen floors. Yet these things make up parenting just as much, if not more so, than the other things.
My transition from idealistic motherhood to the real life thing was not easy. Find a mom who says it is, and I’ll bet she has a full-time nanny. The more I let my children guide me and let go of the expectations to be ‘perfect’ – the more we thrive. I don’t measure my worth as a mother by what other people, or other mothers, think of me. I don’t care if you bottle feed, breast feed, cloth diaper, baby wear, work, stay home, eat organic, vaccinate, or live off easy meals. What I care about is that you love your children. That you provide for them. That you teach them what it means to have love, respect, and compassion for our world and the people in it. I don’t devalue you if you need help from SNAP or WIC, we’ve all needed help at some point and it does not determine your worth as a parent or a human. I don’t care if you home school, public school, or send your kids to private school. Just teach them, in whatever way you can.
The point is, all these little things that others choose to judge us for – they don’t matter. What matters is that our children grow up loved, educated, and nourished. There won’t always be good days and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If every day were filled with rainbows and lollipops, we wouldn’t learn. If we received everything we ever wanted, we’d know nothing of value, respect, and hard work.
Motherhood took off my blinders. The world isn’t always nice and pretty and there are certainly people in it who are out to destroy any piece of happiness and contentment you offer yourself. However, you don’t have to let others judgment change you. You don’t have to take it to heart. In turn, you don’t have to be the one who judges.
If you see a mom who looks like she needs a hug, offer her one. Offer the mom with two kids just trying to do her grocery shopping a hand, not judgment. Play peek-a-boo and make her kid laugh, it doesn’t take much effort. Stop rolling your eyes at the whining toddler, the crying baby. It’s stressful enough without a stranger’s judgment. Don’t sigh and make a scene when you get behind a mom or dad using WIC in the checkout line. Think about how you would feel if you had to humble yourself to ask for help to feed your baby. I guarantee you, it isn’t easy and they are doing what they need to do to make sure their child has what they need. Don’t turn your nose up at the kids munching happily on nuggets and fries. You don’t know their daily eating habits or how long of a day their parent(s) may have had.
Stop judging and start respecting your fellow human-beings… Stop judging yourself and embrace the world through the eyes of your child. They’re too young to care about those things that we place our value in. They see your value in its truest terms – how you treat yourself and how you treat others. As parents, that’s a lesson we would do well to learn.