I just got a note from an old friend who’s just had her first baby. She was lamenting how the most surprising thing about motherhood hasn’t been the painful labour, nor the sleepless nights. It’s been the judgement — other moms who judge everything from how she feeds her baby to how she raises her baby. It’s been shocking to her and it made me remember that anxious time when everyone had an opinion about my babies and very few of those were nice.
As a mother, and a friend, my rule of thumb is to try not to give advice. Why? Because, who am I to give advice? I don’t know anything! I’m just grappling around this motherhood thing, and no matter how many books I read, articles I write or experts I interview, none of it matters when I’m staring down my son in a battle of the wills or soothing the broken spirit of a little girl who’s having trouble fitting in.
Co-sleep or not? Breast or bottle? Our culture demands that we CHOOSE A SIDE! So much of parenting seems to be black and white to everyone else. But I live in the grey zone, I co-slept sometimes and sometimes I didn’t. I gave my babies a bottle once a day and the rest of the time I nursed. I know, I’m Satan, right?
I might be fifty shades of grey (ha!), but harsh black and rash white are the order of the day in my friend’s world and as much as I’d like to tell her it ends once your kids can start talking and prove that they’re doing just fine, thank you very much — the truth is it goes on and on. I have three kids and take two divine anti-depressants, my skin has gotten thicker over time. But I still remember the particularly shitty things people say, like the relative who told me I’m a lazy parent, or the friend who asked me: “What do you do all day besides order your nanny around?”
The thing is, I’m not one of those lucky women who always knew she was born to breed. Motherhood only became a viable idea for me when I met my husband and actually wanted to reproduce. I’m afraid of being a mother, afraid of wrecking my kids. I mean, I was a teenage girl once, I know everything is a mother’s fault!!!
Maybe I missed something by not loving the idea of motherhood in my teen years because it seems like now, not only does unsolicited parenting advice and judgment rarely help me, it almost always hurts my feelings and my confidence. I hope my friend is made of stronger stuff.
So I guess my only advice is this; if you see my friend around, just smile and tell her how cute her baby is.