Can we all just talk about the fear perpetuating elephant in the room? No I’m not talking about Donald Trump. When it comes to parenting and well, life, can we all just admit we have no idea what the hell we’re doing (and that’s OK) while also acknowledging that each one of us is doing the best we can. And oh dear god, stop the shaming.
You hear it all the time, the “mommy wars,” the constant judging for how we feed (breast or bottle, and you’d be damned if that food isn’t non-GMO, free-range and organic), diaper (cloth, or disposable), carry (stroller vs. mommy wearing), stay at home mom, nanny, or daycare. UGH.
You know those times in your life you do something you really regret and wish you could turn back time and rectify it? As a new mom, I am hyper-aware of the judging simply because I was once a judger and fully admit it. I judged others as an outsider those people actually doing the work as insiders. I was a naive, overly-critical, “I will do/not do XYZ when I’m a parent” NON-parent. Also known as an ass.
I think about this one time that my husband and I were meeting family out for dinner at a fancier restaurant and there was a dad there with his three young girls and who I imagine was their extended family. The youngest, maybe 3 years old was getting antsy in her chair and since they were only on the first course, the dad pulled out an iPad and it quickly settled her without disturbing fellow restaurant goers.
I sat there, the next table over, and in a much louder than necessary matter of fact way, said to my husband: “our kid will NEVER have an iPad especially at such a young age.” Plaaaeeese.
I literally want to go back in time and shove my foot in my mouth (sarcastic sigh)—then give that dad a beer and embrace him in a bear-hug and say how much I admire him. He took his three kids out solo, making sure they they were happy and weren’t interrupting his extended family or fellow restaurant goers’ dinners, while he appeared anxious about the whole situation and probably didn’t get one bite of that $30 lobster ravioli getting cold in front of him while he made sure everyone else was all set. To-go box please.
I think about that one moment all the time. At that time I was about 28, newly married, stressed out from school, and the idea of kids was just a desire always in the back of my mind until I felt ready, until I felt good enough; but somehow I found it OK to judge another person, a parent, and a dad who was probably an all-around rock-star dad.
Fast forward 4 years, I only have one child and at 16-months old, I’ve already given her my iPad, oh, and I keep an old iPhone on hand for those moments of desperation when out in public and I just need 5 extra uninterrupted seconds to pay for our meal, find my keys, you name it. That thing is GOLD.
I-am-SO-that-dad and oh how my 28-year old self would judge me like no other because I wasn’t measuring up to an unsustainable standard set by whom?
In today’s society of scarcity that feeds on fear + shame triggers, the “never enough” philosophy that has all of us hustling (and judging), can we all just acknowledge that no matter how we parent, we’re doing the best we can? Our barely-there energies as new parents are so much better spent loving ourselves and our children, than appeasing others or defending ourselves for simply being human.
I was once a fear-operator. I was living in fear of not measuring up, not being enough, not doing enough—judging others may have made me temporarily feel better, but in its wake, made me feel so guilty and ashamed, and worse, these actions may have hurt others.
If only you knew that we don’t need more critics from afar, we’re already our own biggest critics here in the arena.
These days I have to laugh at all the craziness. Instead of feeling upset that my house isn’t clean, guilt for using screen time so I can shower, shame for not doing something perfectly like Betty Sue’s mom, or fear of oh-my-god what are you climbing NOW—I choose to let it all go so I can embrace this time, enjoy it, love every second of it. So, if you come knocking on my door anytime from now until 2030, know my house will definitely be a mess, my kid may be half dressed with a trail of cheerios and happy dogs trailing after her before she attempts to sky dive from the couch, and I’m OK with that. I’m doing the best I can and the best I can is loving myself and my beautiful, crazy wild child with all my heart.
Former, judgey non-parent, turned parent and recovering ass who really just needs another coffee.
[Thank you to the works of Brene Brown, David Richo and Glennon Melton for allowing me to see the light]