Dear Moms, stop feeling bad. The more Moms I hear from, the more I realize that we all have one thing in common: We all feel bad. “Like a pile of shit,” as one Mom put it. Now, I’m not talking about postpartum depression. That is a serious crisis of mental health that should not be ignored. What I’m talking about is the daily feeling shitty that we experience. It’s time. The brow bashing we receive and give ourselves need to go.
Where does feeling bad come from? What have you said to yourself today, or had someone else say to you, regarding your parenting choices, about the cleanliness of your home, the clothing (possibly yoga pants and PJs) you wear, your weight, how quickly you lost/are losing weight, how quickly you gained weight, how you delivered your baby, how you feed you baby and just about everything you can imagine. Not only is feeling bad impacting all of us, but it’s poisoning our family’s ecosystem and it needs to stop now.
Recently, I was researching the fed is best slogan and talking with other Moms suddenly, it hit me. Many of us are struggling just to feel good about ourselves. We are fighting a constant battle against a single message: We’re doing a bad job. You. Yes, I’m talking to you. The Mom who’s feeling bad. I know what you’re going through and we need to get our shit together (figuratively speaking). Get it together!
You see, something happened when I decided to have children. Up until my first pregnancy, I glided through life without really interacting with strangers unless I wanted to or, to my knowledge, being judged. I shopped at the supermarket, talked to others online and had regular conversations with people about normal, everyday things like movies. If they were judging me, they did it silently, and I was unaware. No one ever approached me at the store with suggestions for how I could improve my performance or asked questions about my uterus, vagina and breasts.
When I became pregnant something changed. It seemed to hand every Tom, Dick and Harry (that’s a common saying where I’m from) a permission slip to judge me. To look at me, even approach me in public, and ask inappropriate and personal questions. To give me unsolicited advice about how to be a good Mom. How to feed my baby, deal with tantrums, lose my baby weight, how to work, how to “get rid” of my children so I can go and have fun. It goes on and on…
What stranger wouldn’t give out the best parenting advice after observing my family for 30 seconds?
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No matter what others think, we should feel good about ourselves. We need to stop this negative train of “I’m a bad Mom” mantras that we repeat in our minds and maybe even out loud. The things we think in the back of our minds, some ideas that we may be totally unaware of but nevertheless impact our well-being. The worst things that have ever been said to me have happened since becoming pregnant with my first child until now. It needs to stop.
Here’s what I have learned:
When we gain weight during pregnancy we feel bad for being fat. We are even warned by others, sometimes strangers, about how hard it will be to lose!
When we don’t gain weight during pregnancy we are warned about how unhealthy it is to be skinny and pregnant.
When we have a c-section we feel bad because we didn’t have a ‘natural’ delivery. Even if we tried, really, really, fucking hard.
When we have a natural delivery we feel bad because our vaginas have passed a baby.
If we choose to have a c-section, and not try a vaginal delivery, we feel like crap for not trying. Even if Mom and baby are both healthy.
When we breastfeed, we feel bad because we are ‘stuck’ nursing a newborn, who nurses constantly, and watch our houses become uncharacteristically messy.
Then, We’re a bad Mom for having a messy house. Good Moms have spotless houses.
If we breastfeed, we feel pressure to try to hide while breastfeeding in public. Maybe even when we have visitors in our own homes. Even though we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing…we’re shamed because “no one wants to see it” and receive criticism for showing a bit of a breast. Most states have a law allowing a woman to totally expose one breast to breastfeed, but somehow our society can’t get over a nursing baby.
Feed your babies ladies.
When we can not produce enough breast milk, and literally do everything under the sun to provide breast milk, and give a few ounces of formula, we beat ourselves up because we are not 100% breastfeeding. Even if it’s not our milk, but hard to find donor milk we’ve sought out in what seems like black market enterprise.
When we give formula because we choose not to breastfeed, no matter the reason…even if for sanity, we feel like horrible Moms because we are not providing the ‘best’ to our children. Even if baby is happy, healthy and nourished.
When we cosleep, we feel terrible for going against what’s considered ‘normal’ and receive criticism for not making our kids more independent. “Don’t let him into the bed, you’ll never get him out!”
When our children sleep in the next room, we feel badly for not practicing attachment parenting.
When we stay home with our kids and don’t contribute to the family’s income, we feel terrible for not working and receive criticism for staying home. We “get” to stay home, how dare we not be overjoyed all of the time and need to vent.
When we work, outside of the home, we feel terrible for not being a stay at home Mom and baking cookies, making crochet doilies and living the Pinterest life we think SAHMs have.
When our kids cry in the supermarket, feel like terrible Moms for having the misbehaving child, ruining everyone’s shopping experience. Chances are, the people giving disapproving glances were once that screaming child but don’t remember…
When we have the ‘well behaved’ child in the supermarket we are praised for being a “good Mom” and then feel that much crappier when our child is having a rough time.
When we need time for ourselves, even if it’s just to shower, we feel badly for not giving that time to the children. Even if we smell like an armpit from a mile away and need to bathe!
When we go too long without bathing, because we’re busy with our kids, we feel like terrible women for not being well groomed and attractive for others. Good Moms are pretty and take care of the kids.
Bottom line ladies. We can’t win. Someone will always have negative criticism about our parenting. As if society, our families and even our own thoughts feel obligated to whip us into being better Moms…with criticism. This is a terrible practice. As if somehow, repeatedly telling us how awful we’re doing…will turn us into good Moms. If enough people make us feel shitty, even if we make ourselves feel shitty, maybe even bring us to tears, we will be molded into being more like (insert your ideal Mom here).
This is terribly wrong.
It has been proven over and over again that criticism does not build good mental health. In fact, it doesn’t work (2). It’s my belief that this is wearing us all down and impacting out entire family. How can we be good Moms if we don’t feel like good Moms? How can we be our child’s everything when we’re under constant attack about our parenting? It’s time to ditch our negative thoughts, tune out the cranks and work on freeing ourselves from judgment, even if it’s our own. Our kids deserve that.
Ask yourself this, what would your children think if they knew how badly you felt about being their Mom? I don’t know about you, but my kids think I’m pretty awesome. I’m an awesome, hair legged woman who hasn’t showered in 3 days, or cooked anything that couldn’t be heated in the microwave because the baby is having a growth spurt and nursing like crazy. See the criticism I throw on at the end there? It needs to go. Yours does too.
According to Wikipedia, a mantra is a statement or slogan repeated frequently. (1) It’s time to develop your own. It’s time to develop my own. Say it with me ladies.
I am a good Mom.
My children are nourished.
My children are happy.
I am doing what’s best for my children.
I am my child’s everything.
I am a good Mom.
Repeat as often as needed. Use a mirror. Get someone else to repeat it to you, feel free to use my words or create your own. Say it to yourself in your head when someone is critical of you. Say it when you’re critical of yourself. As my son’s karate teacher says, remove negativity from your life. Try to avoid negative people (might be hard for relatives) and smile. Be kind to yourself, you may be the only one who will. Be kind to your child’s Mom, yes it’s you, Someone deserves to treat her lovingly and even though your baby may not be able to tell you how much you’re appreciated…know that you are.