Hey Mama, This News Will be Both Devastating and Liberating

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Whether you have a week-old baby or you’ve been parenting for a while, you know two things are true: parenting is hard and children don’t come with an instruction manual. I’ll add two more things to that list. Everyone has an opinion about your child and nobody knows them as well as you do.

I once was on a plane with my three hooligans (1 – 3- 5). Despite having my boob out nearly the entire trip and offering all the snacks and cartoons, my 1-year-old was having none of it. The ladies behind my husband (across the aisle) determined my child was “hungry.” You got me, ladies. It definitely isn’t anything to do with being naptime and she’s accustomed to a different sleeping arrangement.

I’ve been doing parenting differently for a long time. And I’ve come to understand this one truth that stands above all others.

You will be judged on every parenting decision you make, no matter what that decision is or how well-informed you are.

Read that again.

Also: you absolutely aren’t alone in that experience.

Recently, I was hiking with another mama. During our discussion, she confided in me that the day before she had been lambasted by an older woman for planning her days around her young toddler’s naptime. Immediately I was transported back to a similar situation when my husband’s aunt planned her mother’s 90th birthday party smack dab in the middle of my oldest’s afternoon nap. She was nine months old at the time. Trying to be a good sport and knowing how disappointed the grandmother would be that her only great-grandchild wasn’t at her party, we sucked it up and rearranged our nap schedule, full well knowing the week ahead would be obscene in doing so.

I scheduled an early morning swim class, put her in the car, and said a silent prayer she’d sleep the majority of the 3 hours to the destination. I had it planned just right so that we could participate in the festivities in between naps. But then the party didn’t start on time and we were on the verge of her second nap of the day. This particular kiddo would get so worked up in the car that she would hyperventilate. I had a decision to make: leave the late-starting party to capitalize on the next nap, or let her sleep somewhere (?) in the middle of a loud restaurant, leave at bedtime, and risk her being up until 3 AM.

The latter didn’t sound fun to me, so we said our goodbyes and left. I went out of my way to accommodate everyone involved and you know what? My brother-in-law didn’t speak to us for 8 months about how selfish we were for leaving early.

But you know what? No matter what decision I made, someone was going to be pissed.

Had I not shown up altogether, I likely would’ve been judged for being difficult and not thinking of “grandma.” If I had shown up and let the nap chips fall where they may, I would’ve been judged for having a screaming baby ruining everyone’s fun. If I had gone back to the grandparents’ home after the party, someone would’ve judged me for keeping the baby out “past her bedtime.” Whatever “bedtime” means with a baby. I’m sure everyone has an opinion about that, too.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve been on the receiving end of judgment for everything from how I had my miscarriages (both medical management and D&C), to giving birth at home with a midwife a few times, to co-sleeping and breastfeeding in public. I’ve been accused of making a monster of my 10-day-old baby because I picked her up when she cried. My husband and I were blacklisted from his family for not forcing our children to hug and kiss great-grandparents (despite what all the experts say on the matter). I’ve even had someone judge me for thoughts they thought I thought. Let that roll around in your brain sideways for a minute.

You cannot win the Olympic sport that is mom judgment, I promise you.

There are too many decisions to make and far too many critics on the planet. Vaccinate? Judgment. Don’t? Judgment. Vaccinate on an alternative schedule? You get the idea. No matter what you decide, or how well-educated you are on the topic, you will not be able to win this war. On ANY decision you need to make.

So if I’m going to be judged for everything I do, what should I do?

Photo by Yan Krukau

Simple. Be informed and choose kindness. Read great parenting books, listen to podcasts, and do the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your child in the moment. And give everyone else the middle finger. They don’t live your life. They don’t live with your little people for longer than a moment at a time. It’s okay to do things differently than everyone else, especially if you’re prioritizing kindness and compassion in your parenting decisions. All the critics don’t have to deal with the fallout of your parenting decisions – you do. So make your decisions knowing what you’re comfortable sending your kid to therapy over and do your best to minimize your regrets.

Happy parenting!

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