Society doesn’t know what the hell it wants from mothers.
Everywhere we go, there is somebody with a very strong opinion on how we should parent our children. And if we change what we are doing, two seconds later another somebody will come along with a different opinion. It’s the damnedest thing, y’all. Everyone disagrees, and everyone is convinced they are right.
I figured this out about one month into parenthood, while suffering from a pretty significant case of PPD. I hadn’t slept in several days and breastfeeding was an utter failure (pun intended). So I wasn’t in a great place, to say the least.
I found myself at my OBGYN checkup, where the nurse asked me how things were going. Since my face was practically a billboard for misery, I assumed her question was rhetorical.
“Things are…bad,” I said. “I can’t breastfeed anymore, I’m pumping non-stop, and feel like I’m gonna lose my mind any minute.”
Her face softened.
“Oh, honey,” she responded. “Your mental health matters, too. Perhaps you should consider moving to formula.”
Wait, what? That’s an actual option? You mean to tell me I can stop pumping forever and nobody will hate me? The very idea made me sob from relief. Alrighty then! Decision made.
Before I headed out the door, though, the lactation consultant popped her head in to also say hello. We’d become quick friends post-delivery, so I told her how relieved I was with my final decision. How I was going to honor my mental health by stepping away from breastfeeding, altogether. I was feeling pretty confident.
But then I realized she was looking at me like I’d grown a second head.
“Are you sure you want to give up now?” she asked. “You already know that breast is best. Nobody said this would be easy, MK.”
In case you are wondering, I did not punch her in the throat. (Even though I really wanted to.) I did what any new mother would do: I doubted myself, felt super guilty, and ugly cried with a few mom friends. Lucky for me, those friends were pretty freaking amazing. They were quick to point out that — news flash! — there is literally no way to please everyone on the planet, especially when it comes to parenting.
By the end of the talk, we were laughing our butts off, sharing stories of the most contradictory parenting criticisms we ever received. It was as hysterical as it was ridiculous, because how on earth could one human ever please these Busy Betties?
They’re all over the damn place!
Women need to put their boobs away in public. Nobody wants to see that. Go find yourself a bathroom somewhere, gross.
Is that woman feeding her baby a bottle? Ugh, moms these days. Nobody bothers to breastfeed anymore. What a shame.
And speaking of breasts, should that woman really be wearing a low-cut shirt now now that she’s a mother?
Oh, those girls in yoga pants and sweatshirts kill me. Parenthood isn’t a good excuse to let yourself go. You should at least try to be sexy, occasionally.
GOOD GOD, too sexy. Put the titties away, Amber.
And while you are all dressed up, maybe go on a date with your partner. Because really, you don’t want to give up on that relationship just because you had kids, amiright? Prioritize your marriage.
But, wait. Are you seriously about to leave your baby at home so you can go to dinner and a movie? Why bother having children in the first place, if you didn’t want to spend time with them?
But, oh — you actually spend time with your kid? Well ,maybe you should stop hovering over them all the damn time.
Wait. Is that ten-year-old walking down the street by themselves? Somebody call CPS.
And on and on and on it goes. From Facebook articles to nosy relatives to strangers in the diaper aisle at Target, there is no shortage of opinions in this world on what parents should be doing—and there is no consensus, either.
But there’s a good lesson to glean from this onslaught of mixed messages. Because mamas, if we take the time to realize that it’s literally impossible to please everyone, perhaps we will finally allow ourselves to say “screw it” and do things our own way.
After all, who has to live your life? Who is responsible for the little people growing up in your home? Who feeds them, wipes their butts, and raises them up to be the amazing grown people you want them to be?
That’s right: you.
And here’s the beautiful thing: Nobody knows your kids better than you. So parents, if you take one final bit of parenting advice from a stranger, consider taking it from me. Don’t spend another second spinning your wheels and trying to please the Peanut Gallery. Because spoiler alert: They. Can’t. Be. Pleased.
Screw the mixed messages and the Petty Betties who deliver them. Shut out all that outside noise. Shut it out, and trust your instincts.
You might just find that it’s pretty damn liberating.