Remember way back, before you had kids, you thought for certain you would do things better than all those parents you saw shoving their kids in shopping carts or bribing them with treats if they would just please, for the love of all things holy, stop crying in the restaurant? I remember that. I remember wondering why parents said it took so long to get out of the house. Seriously? Just put your kids’ shoes on and leave. I remember wondering why parents said cleaning the house with kids was like brushing your teeth while eating oreos. Seriously? Just have rules about making a mess with toys and keep a cleaning schedule.
But oh my, didn’t I learn quickly! I learned very quickly what all these parents were yammering on about once I had my own child. Even then, when I just had one, I was probably still quick to judge, since at the time, my one child did eat really well, and I taught him to sleep well, and…let’s be honest, having one child IS indeed simpler than having two, or three, or four.
But oh my, I’ve learned even more in the last 6 months since my daughter was born. I’m both proud and ashamed at how far my parenting has come in the past three years. The bottom line is that none of us really know the back story of what is going on. None of us can look at one glimpse, one moment, one tiny sliver of the whole picture in another mother’s life and understand why or how or what is going on with the choices being made. I’ve found myself multiple times wanting to explain to other people, ‘my son is just really shy, he’s slow to warm up, he’s so sensitive. We do swim lessons and playdates and he’s socialized, I promise. It’s just who he is! Please don’t judge me because my huge three year old is burrowed in my neck. I’m doing my best with him!’
I get it. If your kid is screaming in Target because he doesn’t want to sit in the cart, I’m not going to look at you and think about how poorly behaved he is or how you must not discipline him well enough. Because I DON’T KNOW. My son has always been content to sit in the cart near me, so I’ve never had to deal with a child who hasn’t, and that has everything to do with him, and absolutely nothing to do with what I’ve done. I don’t know why your child is screaming, or not wearing her shoes, or is out way past bedtime, and unless you’re looking at me pleading for my help, it’s really none of my concern.
The mothering experience is so fascinating because each of us, along with each of our children, is so drastically unique, and at the same time, so very similar. We can understand one another on an intimate level, because, we’re mothers. We know that love. We know that struggle. We know that frustration and overwhelming feeling of raising small kids. We know. But we also don’t. We really don’t know.
Let’s all be a little kinder, and a lot less judgmental. When women are empowered, everyone benefits. When women support and love women, the world becomes a better place. Your choice is different than my choice. That’s okay. The variation of ‘right’ and ‘normal’ is so incredibly huge. Think about all the choices we get to make; from birth, to how we feed our children, how we get them to sleep, whether we choose to homeschool or public school, all the way down to what kind of diapers we put on their cute little booties and how we potty train.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ to being a parent, and we’re all just fumbling along, doing the best we can. And that’s good enough. So let’s make a vow to be aware of the good qualities we admire in other women. I can think of so many women in my life that inspire me, that I wish I were more like, that I’m constantly learning from. Let’s tell them! It can be awkward to receive these compliments, and sometimes to give them, but lifting one another up is good for the soul. I received a message from an online friend the other day, someone I’ve never met in person, thanking me for sharing my journey in motherhood so candidly in a real and raw way, going on to say she didn’t know many women who were so open and honest in sharing the good and bad moments in parenting and how much it has helped her as she herself transitioned to two children. Wow! I felt embarrassed, telling her I didn’t think I ever said anything terribly profound but how much I appreciated her words, and that she took the time to write them to me. I thought about her words a lot throughout the day, and how what she said really gave me a boost during a time when I was feeling discouraged with my mothering. You never know how a sincere and genuine comment will effect someone.
Go now, write that message, care for that other mama, lift her up, stop the judgement.