Confession: I used to judge other parents. I considered myself the sole authority on baby raising. I judged my own mother for finally, after a month of hell, breaking down and formula-feeding me. I judged other 1980s moms for slopping their baby boys full of soy formula, which I feared created all sorts of strange medical conditions. I blamed my mom for embracing disposable diapers as soon as they came on the market.
That’s how judgy I was — my judgment wasn’t reserved for my own peers; it went back through the generations.
I was insufferable.
Clearly, I had not been harmed by formula — that I could tell. I hadn’t overly damaged the environment with my ‘sposies, at least not much. But it was enough. I was judgy, judgy, judgy because I was a pregnant mom, and I thought I knew all the things.
Then I popped out a baby, and somehow I thought I knew even more about all the things. You, with the ubiquitous infant carrier? I side-eyed you for not using a baby wrap. After all, his carrier left him under-stimulated and sad. I would parade by you, hands conspicuously free, kissing my baby’s head, enjoying every second of closeness while you just had one more thing to drag around the store.
And god forbid you stuck the carrier on top of the cart. Danger! Danger! We’ve all seen those things go over. I might feel compelled to approach you and (gently) tell you that your car seat isn’t meant to fit there and (gently) recommend a baby wrap, all while I nursed my angelic spawn in my carrier. You probably saw my boob while I lectured you.
Like I said, insufferable. I know.
Speaking of nursing, I knew why you should be doing it. I could recite the benefits of breast milk. I could tell you how to nurse in a variety of holds, including on your side. Baby won’t latch? He’s got a tongue tie, and you have to drop 500 bucks, out of pocket, to get it clipped. Or you would if you cared about your baby’s health and well-being and future dating possibilities and stuff. Have to pump? Well, pumping’s easy. I know this because I was able to pump. I had an overflowing supply of milk, so I assumed everyone should be able to produce adequate milk. They just needed a different pump. A better routine. More privacy. Some essential oils and an amber necklace. Yep, that’s right — essential oils and amber necklaces were the answer to everything.
You want to reach through the computer and smack me. I get it. I wanna go back and smack me.
I was also a firm believer in cloth diapers. This was not up for negotiation. Cloth diapers saved the environment (a dubious claim, but they do produce less trash). They were cute. They did not smell like death and did not shove horrible death-chemicals against your baby’s reproductive organs. I rested confident in the belief that my kids would thank me later when their “boys” would swim faster and more efficiently than those kids whose testicles were trapped in toxic plastic.
After all this sanctimony, I had two more kids. And you know what? I got the hell over myself.
Because when your horse is that fucking high, it’s really hard not to fall off. And I fell hard.
I met women who couldn’t use a carrier because of their back issues. I became friends with a mama who literally couldn’t produce milk. My darling doctor had medical issues pumping, and it was a long, hard, brutal slog for her that I watched happen in real time. I stopped being able to pump at all as my sons got older. My husband insisted we use disposable Pull-Ups for one of our sons, so they didn’t seem like a diaper and took less effort on our part. I learned to love disposable wipes too. Like, really love them. So much so that I would sing rhapsodies for their efficiency at removing both poop and peanut butter and jelly.
Somewhere along the way, the judgment slipped away. Reality, empathy, and understanding took its place. I no longer side-eye moms in Target. Because why the hell would I? It just adds more negativity in the world. I smile instead. I teach my sons to smile and be kind too.
That mom with her baby on the top of the cart doesn’t need some random fucking stranger barreling up to her with a lecture.
As I’ve grown, I’ve come to learn that I don’t know everything. I don’t know any other mother’s struggles. I only know my own, and this parenting gig is rough sometimes. So all I can give her is the best of myself: a wave. A kind smile that says, “I’ve been there.” A joke that, hey, at least we don’t have poop on our hands at this exact minute, right? And she’ll laugh because poop is universal. Unlike, say, mommy judgment.
I’m better now. Thank god.