I have lost count of the number of articles I have read about people (often mothers) judging mothers. The judgement can be about almost anything. Do you breast or bottle feed? How long for? Do you feed in public? How do you discipline your child? Private or public school? Blah, blah, blah.
Then there are the myriad articles pointing out how bad it is to judge and that mothers should not be judging mothers. Oh, I nearly forgot all the articles talking about how hard it is to be a mother…with the obligatory last minute throwaway comment that these mothers do in fact love their children. You don’t get to sleep, eat, ablute, etc all thanks to those rotten little creatures we’ve spawned.
In addition to all the mummy blog posts about all the things I’ve mentioned so far and more, there are the online mothers’ fora. Here you will find post after post and comment after comment about how some stranger (usually an old lady) came up to the author of the comment or post and wanted to talk to or <gasp> touch their baby. How horrible! How utterly dreadful that complete strangers want to say hello to a gorgeous new little person!
Anyway, I’m so completely over the negativity. I should add that I might just get a bit judgemental here. It’s certainly not my intention but it might creep in. My motherhood story is so very different to most of the experiences that others blog about. It hasn’t all been unicorns pooping rainbows and piddling perfume but it has been pretty bloody good. I may just be a rare case.
I did suffer from perinatal mental health issues. I had prenatal anxiety and postnatal depression. I sought treatment and I followed the advice I was given. (Shock! Horror!) When things got a little worse, I asked for more intensive help…and it was given. The nurses at the facility that provided the support commented on how well I improved and they were impressed that I took on board everything they told me. This surprised me. Don’t people normally do this? Was I so strange in this regard? I trust the people who are better qualified than I am in their own respective fields. Doesn’t everyone?
Sorry. I digress. Back to the story.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to jump up and down and share it with the world. I didn’t want to wait the customary 12 weeks to share the news. Why wait? If, heaven forbid, I had lost my little Snugglepot would I be any less bereft at 8 weeks (when I nearly did lose her)? No. That pain would have been just as unbearable. Perhaps even more painful as it would have been a mystery to the people around me. So, my advice to pregnant women is to share that news! If something goes wrong then you have a network of people who are clued in and can support you.
I would have been happy to let people touch my belly and feel my little bub move. The mothers of the group I was in online went on and on about random strangers accosting them and pawing at their bellies. I never had such a thing happen to me but I wouldn’t have had a problem if it did. Something wonderful is happening inside you. Who wouldn’t want to be part of something special even if only for a fleeting moment?
I have breastfed my baby for a full 12 months. We had hurdles to overcome early on (poor latch, tongue-tie) but we got help and persevered. I had a drop in supply at around 4 or 5 months but we got help and persevered. I have never had a problem asking for help from the medical and nursing professionals and heeding their advice. I am not saying this to make a point about breast versus bottle but rather to say that many hurdles that arise can be overcome when you seek help and persevere.
My breasts are parts of my body which I consider private. I don’t walk around with them on display (lol…cleavage excepted). So, when I have had to breastfeed Snugglepot while out and about I have sought out parents rooms to do so. The lactivists would say that breastfeeding is normal and natural and you should do it wherever you need to. So is urinating but I go to a private room to do that. So it is that I prefer to have a private space to breastfeed. There isn’t always a parents room nearby so I have been known to feed in public because babies work to their own time. I have found a discreet place and, if possible, tried to drape a scarf or something to cover myself. That’s my choice. I have never had anyone look at me oddly for feeding in public and I most certainly have not been asked to leave a venue or moved on for feeding my baby. Seriously! Who does that?!
Actually, I have had the opposite experience. One time when looking for a parents room and finding none in the vicinity, I went to a very nice restaurant while they were between their lunch and dinner sittings. They were empty apart from the staff. We asked if they had a parents room but they didn’t. They did say I was welcome to feed in their lounge area. I wasn’t even a customer. They were just kind and accommodating. I have never received anything but kindness and helpfulness when I have asked where I could feed my baby.
Some mothers blog about disapproving looks or comments from passers-by for their parenting choices. Again, who does that?! My experience has been very different. I don’t think I’ve ever been out of the house with my baby without some stranger coming up to us and striking up a conversation. These conversations are usually about how pretty Snugglepot is or something to that effect. She really is. I’m her mother and I think she’s the most beautiful creature on the planet! She waves and smiles at everyone and, mostly, they wave back. Actually, she gets a little upset and looks at me mournfully when people don’t return the wave. I love her friendly nature.
Recently, she’s been teething and her constant happiness has been interrupted with moments of pain and discomfort. Today was one of those days. She was hungry and impatient to be fed her solid food. We were at the local shopping centre and I had her lunch with me but needed to get a high-chair for her. She began making her opinions known. I gently remonstrated with her and told her that she would be fed soon enough. She listened and calmed down. The high-chair was a couple of metres away so I told her I would just leave her for a second to get the chair and I’d be right back. I kissed her on the forehead and walked to get the chair. She was still slightly upset but happy upon my return seconds later. Then I put her food in front of her. She had never used a fork before but I felt today was the day to start. I coached her through it and she ate her entire lunch with only a little bit of help from me at the start. Earlier, I had noticed an older lady sitting a few tables away. She had probably observed all of these little interactions. We were still eating our lunch when she came over to us. I was expecting the usual comment about how pretty Snugglepot is or what lovely blue eyes she has. I was bowled over when she said to her, “You have a good mum.” I was speechless! It took me a moment before I had the presence of mind to say, “Thank you.”
I think that is the only time a stranger has made an unsolicited comment about my parenting. And it was positive! I don’t know who these people are who are going around being all nasty to mums but maybe, just maybe, some mums are expecting to be victimised.
People are essentially good. Don’t look for the negative – you’ll find it. Look for the positive – you’ll find it too but it’s way nicer.