The last few days, it seems like everywhere I look, I’m being hit with another Mother’s Day gift guide. Jewelry, bags, sunglasses, a day at the spa… This year for Mother’s Day, though, I want something else.
I’d like an end to the judgment of mothers. Let’s throw out the neverending litany of dos and don’ts of parenthood, the patronizing and unasked for advice from strangers, the nasty looks in the supermarket and restaurants and parks.
We can start by not commenting on how mothers feed their children: breastmilk or formula, organic or processed. Instead of assuming a position of superiority, let’s assume mothers are just doing their best. Instead of making disparaging comments about how they feed their children or what they feed their children or where they feed their children, why don’t we try giving some support? Getting small children to eat how and when and where and what we want them to is no small feat. What that mother breastfeeding her baby in the middle of the restaurant or trying to appease her screaming toddler with a bag of potato chips in the grocery store probably wants more than anything is to get through one meal or grocery run or trip to the zoo without anything going wrong. No one wants a relaxing outing more than she does. The least you can do is cut her some slack, maybe even muster a little sympathy.
Let’s leave off with criticisms of a family’s lifestyle. You don’t need to insert yourself in a family’s sleeping arrangements, work schedules, childcare decisions, schooling choices, or their discipline. Every child is different. Every family is different. What works for one child, one family may not work for another, and different styles and solutions doesn’t have to mean worse. It just means different. Unless there is serious abuse or neglect, we should at the very least keep our opinions to ourselves…and at our very best, understand that what might not work for our family could work very well for others (and vice versa) and support their decisions to do the best they can for their families.
I’d be happy if I never heard or read another person shaming a pregnant person’s body because she had the audacity not to be rail thin with the perfect basketball bump. Pregnancy completely and permanently transforms a person’s body. That’s what happens when you grow a person inside you. Not only do you get 8-ish lbs. of baby, but you grow a 1.5-lb. organ to support that baby and another 1.5 lbs. of amniotic fluid to grow that baby in. Your uterus grows so large that it alone gains 2 lbs. You produce an extra 2 lbs. of blood and an extra 2 lbs. of other fluids. Your breasts grow and your body stores fat, all so that you are able to feed your baby when it is born. You’re not really supposed to stay thin when you’re pregnant. Some very genetically gifted people do, but most of us do put on weight…and that’s okay. If there is anything unhealthy going on, why not leave that between the pregnant person and their doctor or midwife? If you want to be really helpful in this scenario, snide comments about fat aren’t the way to go. Why not offer to help a pregnant girl out when she’s slowed or hindered by her new body? (Do you have any idea how hard it is to bend over with a 10 lb. bowling ball attached to your mid-section?) If you can’t help her out, at least you can appreciate that what is happening to her body is a completely natural process and there’s nothing wrong–and in fact, something pretty amazing–about those changes.
Finally, let’s stop making motherhood a competition. Let’s stop trying to make mothers feel inadequate and incompetent. No more hyperbolic fear-mongering where “experts” turn routine and utterly benign parenting choices into traumatic events, usually to sell books or other products marketed to help parents be better at parenting. No more “experts” or other moms saying to or of mothers, “If you don’t want to *insert parenting choice here*, you shouldn’t have children” or otherwise insinuating that by making a choice different than the one they advocate, the mother is selfish, doesn’t love her children, or is intentionally inflicting harm upon her children rather than simply making the choice that works best for her and her family physically, emotionally, and financially.
We should support mothers and the choices they make. We should try to help them out–and no, not in that patronizing way where you make a mother feel guilty or give her unasked for advice that clearly conflicts with her parenting choices because she needed help. We should be understanding of our differences and try to help mothers be the parents they want to be and not the parents we want to be ourselves.
For Mother’s Day this year, let’s give mothers a break.