Thursday, March 15, 2012

Judgment Day

My sister and I have been discussing lately just how judgmental we ladies can be.  And there's something about raising children that makes us think that we can pretty much say anything to anyone.  Politically correct or not, it's the one topic where, apparently, anything goes.

Everyone preaches that you need to learn to listen to your own inner voice, do what's right for you, and not listen to or care about what others think about you.  And then in the next breath, you're being told that you should just let your child scream it out to get them to sleep.  Or shouldn't let them scream it out.  Or both.  
I think that the vast majority of moms, as confident as they might be, have, at least at times, let these voices shift what they think.  You can read about my sister's recent struggle with this here.

I remember all too well this whole process myself, back from when Logan was a baby.  Logan was a wee bit of a fussy baby, needing to be held, bounced, jiggled and downright almost shaken at times to calm him or put him to sleep.  To the extent that when we were in France, many, many people warned that I was going to cause shaken baby syndrome. (and NO! I was not jiggling him THAT hard... come on!).

I was constantly warned by well-meaning strangers that letting him spend his day in the mama kangaroo would lead to a baby who would never be able to sleep on his own.  That co-sleeping with him meant that he would be in our bed until he was 18 and moving into some other girl's bed ;)  That lying down with him for a nap would cause him to be a bad sleeper.  

What these people didn't understand was that Logan had pretty bad reflux and was already a bad sleeper.  And that I was responding to his needs rather than creating his difficulties.  I realized over my first few months as a new mom that I could either fight him on these needs and listen to him cry all day or I could meet them (or give into them, as others would say) and have a happy baby, which meant a happy mommy.  And I wasn't willing to choose to make myself miserable.  So I did what worked, and, miracle of miracles, he is now 22 months and hasn't been sleeping in either the mama kanagaroo or in my bed for well over a year already (though Chloé has taken his place!).

I was at the chiropractor's the other morning with my almost 5 month old daughter.  His receptionist began asking me about my knitting and I was telling her all about the wonderful courses offered at the West Island Women's Centre.  Including the free (and excellent quality) daycare, included in the very marginal course fees.  She responded, "I'm not judging what you're doing, but I don't know how anyone can leave such a young baby in daycare like that.  It's just not good for them."  

Not judging??? Really...?? 'Cause that sounded an awful lot like judgment coming out of your mouth just there...

I attempted to explain the benefits.  Such as the fact that it makes me a much happier and sane person to be able to get some time away, to myself.  That it gives me more patience with the kids.  With my husband.  More energy to get things done around the house.  Just a better state of mind altogether.  That I think it's good for Chloé to learn to be with people other than myself.  That I think the social interaction with other kids will be great for her as she gets older. 

When I defiantly (though politely) told her that I've just signed up for 3 courses, she looked horrified (though again, without judgment).  As if it is the end of the world that Chloé will spend a grand total of 5 hours a week without me by her side (note that leaves 163 hours a week that I will be with her).  The message being sent is that I am a bad mother, who chooses to put my needs before the needs of my kids. Even if she prefaces it by saying "no judgment".

And ya know what?? I do sometimes put my needs before the needs of my kids.  Like when I need to pee, even if Logan really, really wants milk.  Like if I have to answer the phone, even if he needs help digging his block out from under the couch.  Like when I go to the WIWC for some time for myself.  Does that mean that I'm not taking care of my kids' needs 99% of the time?? Absolutely not!  Is it bad for my kids to learn that they are not the absolute centre of the universe and that sometimes, they just have to wait a moment??? I'd think that's also a definite no.

I'm appalled that the message that is so frequently being sent to moms is that if you do anything for yourself, you are a bad mom.  And even more so, that this message tends to be sent by other women.  Women who should be supporting other women through the difficult task of becoming a mom and raising children.

As I left my chiropractor's office, I remembered that the receptionist has mentioned to me in past that she is divorced.  And that she suffered a burnout when her children were young.  And I couldn't help but wonder if maybe she had allowed herself some of the things that she was criticizing me for... like an hour to herself... if maybe, just maybe, this might have influenced the course of her life down a different path. 

I've come to the conclusion that this woman-on-woman aggression is perhaps a product of the insecurity that many women feel.  That women criticize others' decisions, when they are different from their own, in an effort to reassure themselves that the decisions they have made are "right".

I think that as women, we need to support whatever choices other women make.  We need to understand that every woman's life is different and that what works for one mom may not work for another.  I have personally discovered that to be happy as a mom, I need to keep myself somewhat busy with my own activities, in addition to taking care of my children.  I've discovered that, for me, being home every day as a stay-at-home mom makes me miserable.  I do want to eventually get back to work.  

Do I criticize those who choose to stay at home? Absolutely not!! If anything, I admire them, as I think it's the most difficult job in the world.  But I think that we need to start making an effort to truly put ourselves into others' shoes.  Or to at least accept that just because a mom chooses to work full-time, or go to zumba a couple of evenings a week, or do her nails while her kids play at her feet, this does not make her a bad mom. In fact, these things may just make that woman an even better mom!

I'm very lucky that I have a very supportive group of non-judgmental friends.  I've learned to not let these types of comments influence how I raise my children or what I do with my time.  But I have to admit that it still really irritates me how society provides a constant commentary on how what you are doing as a parent is wrong.  Frankly, no matter what you are doing, someone disagrees with it and is happy to share their opinion.  I'm glad that I'm at a place of relative peace where I don't let these comments sit in my head for very long.  Which is probably the happiest place a woman can be.

And on that note, I am off to take a bubble bath, all by myself, selfish mom that I am ;)

1 comment:

Ashley said...

Amen!!