Pre Children, I distinctly remember my best friend Wendy posing the question that she sometimes felt confused by all the choices and expectations of women in today’s society…..Marriage, Babies, Mortgages and Careers. “At least in 1950 you knew what you were going to do. Finish school, maybe work a couple of years, get married, have children”, and that was your job, as wife and mother, a very important and demanding job in it’s own stand alone right!
Now I am by no means suggesting that the women of the 1950’s didn’t face any less challenge than we do as modern women today, they were just different challenges. During their challenges it seemed the families of days gone by just went about “their business” and did the best they could with what they had. Life I am sure certainly wasn’t easier, but it was simpler and there certainly seemed to be a whole lot less judgement and a whole lot more of “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all”.
Judgement is not something that I have ever understood, it’s just not in my make up (I have a bucket load of other undesirable traits) but judgement isn’t one of them. Sure it exists, I don’t like it, but I reluctantly accept it to a point.......but WHOA it is absolutely rife in mothering circles, and any acceptance has not been forthcoming as time has passed.
I was first blessed with the privilege of being a mummy 12 and half years ago so I am not new to this “Motherhood” gig, but I can tell you the exact moment I began experiencing mother judgement and the soul destroying comparisons in this space.
I was walking into my first baby health centre appointment with my one week old pride and joy in his capsule. It was the middle of Summer, I had just had an absolutely blissful pregnancy (yes I was one of those women that had the glow and lived in a bubble). I loved pregnancy and apparently it loved me. I am not vain, and I am not up myself, I just liked to swim, walk my dogs and be outdoors, it seemed I was “one of the lucky ones”.
Despite the horrendous labour (yes it was, even the bubble couldn’t save me from that), the emergency ceasarean, cracked nipples, sleepless nights, return to work (at home)….I was feeling pretty bloody happy with myself, I had a perfect baby boy, wasn’t I clever, I’d just created and grown another healthy human.........And so it began….
“You’re back at work, what are you superwoman.........”
“Why do you look so fit, fresh, tanned, relaxed...........”
Blah blah blah, it went on. It was laden with sarcasm, disbelief and judgement, I was gutted. I had come to this clinic thinking that I was going to meet some new friends, goo and gaa over each others blessings and offer a kind word of support or encouragement, we were all first time Mums and all flying a bit blind weren’t we?
What they didn’t know is that behind the baby bubble my relationship had completely fallen apart and I was under a huge amount of financial and emotional pressure all at a time that I was experiencing the greatest love of my life. What was happening internally for me was such a paradox….I had just chosen to be positive, well as positive as I could be anyway.
Not everyone in that group was like that, I did find two like minded people out of roughly 15, but let’s be honest….. they are pretty shit odds! I think I attended one more clinic after that and decided that type of environment wasn’t for me.
Fortunately for me I had a fantastic supportive group of friends so I wasn’t completely alone. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t completely lock myself away from other mothers, over the years I have met some great Mums, I just didn’t immerse myself in the schoolyard or sporting politics….I was wary. Standing on the outside I have listened to the judgement on breast feeding, bottle feeding, co-sleeping, solids, dummies, circumcisions, discipline, day care, preschool , early school start, late school start, public school, private school, annual holiday destinations, financial position, relationship status and general parenting choices.
This has been my personal experience and as I said, I chose not to be a part of it, but I’ve not escaped it entirely.
I now find myself working in the baby industry surrounded by new Mums that for the most part want the best for their precious little treasures, who reach out for support and for the most part receive it, but there seems to be an increasingly alarming rise of “Keyboard Warriors”.
On a professional level I am part of some large social media circles within the mothering and baby sector and am witness to some horrendous judgements, criticisms and outright attacks from mother to mother.
I am consistently horrified by the things that mothers can and do say to one another and am shocked by the regular requests by other equally horrified mothers for administrators of said support group, page or blog to close down discussions and threads that have gotten out of hand.
Social media is a wonderful tool of connection for new Mums who often find themselves feeling a little isolated at home with their baby. It offers an avenue to ask for advice, seek support or to simply connect. It is both equal parts powerful and damaging. Gone are the days where we were only influenced by those in our immediate circle, now we have access to the entire world, and them to us.
I don't live in a world of peace, hippy love and mung beans (while I do enjoy these things occasionally, it's not a part of my daily ritual). I'm realistic enough to know that while most of us genuinely want to be the best Mums we can be, there are some that don't or can't. Sadly these cases often involve drugs, alcohol and abuse and the protection of these children is paramount. These families, mothers and children are facing issues like addiction, depression and anxiety, poor nutrition, homelessness and severe educational disadvantage. Do we really care whether they are breast feeding or bottle feeding, circumcised, what wipes, nappies, car seat, cot, carrier or pram they use? What they drive or whether they choose public or private? I think not. We CARE that they are clean, fed, housed, educated, cared for and supported to continue doing so. The plight of those disadvantaged makes all this judgement on parenting choices sound trivial doesn't it? Because it is.
I am making a plea to ALL mothers to raise their awareness and remember,
“The word wields more power than the sword”. Social media is not a place to slander, judge and slam another mother because she doesn’t or hasn’t made the same parenting choices as you.
Be careful what and how you say it. Your words and how they are received can crush her or uplift her…….you have a choice, choose wisely.
As mothers we are all doing the most important job in the world…..raising another human being, future husband or wife, mother or father, aunt or uncle, teacher or leader..…it’s amazing and it’s hard, it requires support, lots of it, loaded with compassion, understanding, empathy and kindness…..be gentle.
Sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes we get it oh so right. Ladies if you are a Mama, you are a part of the largest tribe in the world, now that is powerful…..stand united ♥
P.S Wendy went on the be the most amazing mother AND career woman........almost single handedly, I'm not sure what she was ever worried about,,,,handled it like a boss!