All moms have faced scrutiny for their child-rearing choices: Moms who work or moms who stay at home. Moms who breastfeed, moms who bottle feed. Moms who choose to vaccinate, moms who don’t. Moms who co-sleep, moms who put their babies in cribs from day one. Moms who conceive the “old-fashioned” way, moms who use fertility treatments or opt to adopt. Moms who homeschool, moms who opt for public or private school. Moms who baby wear, moms who cannot live without their high-tech $500 jogging stroller.
The mom judging is out of control. There’s name-calling, passive-aggressive comments and questions, unsolicited advice, posting biased (and completely unreliable) articles in an attempt to “educate” others. There’s the social media shaming: posting photos of moms doing things that are just completely and absolutely terrible (according to the hypocritical original poster).
Here’s the deal: Motherhood isn’t a war. There is not a right side. There is no one way. The sooner you accept this, the happier you will be. I truly believe that we are each doing the best job we can with what we know and what we have in this moment. Period.
I frankly do not care what another mom does or doesn’t do with her children as long as the children are safe. I don’t care if you are breastfeeding your kindergartner. I don’t care if your baby was formula fed right out of the womb. I don’t care if your baby is vaccinated on schedule or if you don’t vaccinate your child at all. I don’t care if you co-sleep with your little one or if the thought of sharing a bed with your child makes you as upset as if someone told you wine is going extinct.
I don’t care how your child came to be yours. I certainly don’t care if you chose to name your child Catherine Charlotte like she’s British royalty, or if you went with Sunshine Clementine because you thought it was simply wonderful. I don’t care if you use essential oils and take your kid to the chiropractor or if your child sees a top-notch pediatrician who is well-versed in the Western medicine.
I don’t care if your child spends her days in a sling tied to your body or your child loves her baby swing and stroller. I don’t care if you un-school your kids, send them to a Montessori or Catholic school, or opt for your local public school. I don’t care if you have one child and you feel that is absolutely all you can handle, or if you’ve chosen to have so many kids that people ask you if you run a daycare.
Because no matter what, you are feeding your baby. You are educating your child. You are ensuring he or she gets rest and medical attention. You are being a mommy. And no matter how you parent, being a mommy is hard—like the hardest job ever.
Every mom questions her choices. Every mom changes over time. And every mom knows what it feels like to have someone question her abilities, her decisions, her sanity. This, in turn, makes every mom question herself. Doubt, disappointment, confusion—these creep into every mom’s heart and mind at some time or another, and often more frequently than we would like.
Dear Mom whom I meet, whether I’ve known you for a decade or we’ve just met while sitting side-by-side at story time, I don’t care if your son’s penis is intact or not. I don’t care if when you birthed your child it was unmedicated with the assistance of a doula and a bath of warm water, or if you had a C-section, a ton of medication, and put your baby in the nursery so you could get an extra four hours of rest in order to recover.
I don’t care if your son’s favorite toy is a doll or your daughter carries a sword. I don’t care if you insist on cutting your 4-year-old’s food into the tiniest chunks so that she won’t choke, or if you hand your 2-year-old an entire apple, unwashed and certainly not organic.
The thing is, this mommy thing is so hard, so exhausting, and so overwhelming. I really just want you on my team, and I want to be on yours. I want my village to be a bunch of women who absolutely don’t have it together but are in this together nevertheless. I want to offer you high-fives, venti coffees and laughter, and I want you to offer me the same.
We can talk about our differences in parenting, but we sure don’t have to elect to jump into a junior high competition over who has the best wardrobe (which, by the way, I will lose at, because I currently own just one bra, two pairs of yoga pants, some ill-fitting T-shirts I got on clearance at Target, and some old tennis shoes). Better yet, let’s not talk about the kids at all. Instead, what are your interests? What are you good at? What do you want to do in five years when all your kids are in school all day (if you go that route; if you don’t, no judgement), besides take a really long nap?
I’m not befriending anyone who sends me articles, tries to sell me supplements that will miraculously cure my children’s bad moods, or offers to educate me on cloth diapering. I’m a mess. You are a mess. Let’s just be messy, together, and agree that no matter what, all of us, each of us is doing the very best we can, with what we have, right now.
The next time a fellow mom badgers you, and you know the conversation is on the edge of disaster, consider offering the mom a bit of encouragement via a compliment or consider walking away. There will be a me somewhere in the vicinity who doesn’t have it all together and wants to meet someone else who is equally as willing to drop the charade and simply be who who they are: messy, imperfect and happy.