Monday, October 3, 2011

In the (Mother) Hood

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was scared sh*tless. And it’s funny how I had never really paid attention to pregnant people before, but when I became one, I started seeing preggos everywhere I went. It was strange, but I felt a silent kinship with all those women I came across. Sometimes we’d stop to trade pregnancy details but sometimes it was just a small smile that we shared and that was enough to make me feel like I was part of something. There were other women who knew exactly what I was going through, even if Dawson or my size 0 friends didn’t.

At first, motherhood felt the same. I’d pass by another mom with her kids and we’d share a knowing smile. It felt really nice to be a part of something that was so much bigger than anything I’d ever been in before. It was just this automatic connection that I suddenly shared with every woman who’d ever been a mother.

But like any relationship, after awhile, the cracks began to show. And in this case, the cracks came in the form of other moms who narrowed their eyes or turned up their noses when the following topics came up: breastfeeding, TV time, pacifiers, sleeping habits, junk food, going back to work and discipline. Or pretty much any topic where their opinion differed from mine. Because obviously they were right and I was wrong. Any mother who gives her children non-organic food is obviously a monster.

Wait. What?

I don’t know why or how it happened, but it seems there is a sub-sect group of mommies sent to Earth to try and ruin our merry band of mothers by beating the rest of us over the heads with their I’m better than you sticks. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you soon will. These moms are the ones who will snottily tell you that “breast is best” when you casually mention that you bottle feed your child, or who loudly and rudely balk when you bring up the fact that you let your daughter watch Cinderella.

Before I continue, let me get one thing straight. If you’re the kind of person who believes that your baby should be breastfed for X amount of time, that’s cool. If you believe that your kid should never own a Barbie or watch a Disney movie, that’s cool too. There’s a saying that in the mom world that I whole heartedly believe – you have to do what works for your family. So if that means your kids will be breastfed until they’re six months, or five years old, well then go on with your bad self. It may not be a choice I’d make, but who cares? You have to do what works for you.

What pisses me off is when moms use their parenting styles as a weapon to make other women feel bad about theirs. I breastfed Thumper for about .05 seconds before I realized it was not going to work out. She watches an hour or two of TV most days. Up until her second birthday, she had a soother. We eat processed foods. Am I going to hell for all of this? No. Maybe I will go to hell for some drunken shenanigans I got into in college, but certainly not because I fed my baby through a bottle. Do I worry that I’m ruining my daughter with every choice I make? Of course I do. But worry and guilt are as much part of motherhood as dirty diapers and scraped knees. So I’d worry about screwing up my kid no matter what choices I make.

And I have enough mom friends to know that I’m not the only worrier out there. Which is why I try to make sure my tone isn’t condescending when discussing parenting strategies with other moms. I don’t want to be made to feel bad about how much TV I let my daughter watch, so in turn, I’m not going to make anyone else feel bad about not letting their kids watch any TV just because I do. There’s no need for us moms to perpetuate each other’s guilt. That’s what scientific studies are for.

My general rule of thumb is this: if kids aren’t being beaten and there is food and water on the table, it’s all good in the hood. One mother shouldn’t get to be better than another just because her child doesn’t use a soother. Or because she chose to stay home fulltime. Or because her family eats all organic food and wears clothes made from recycled garbage.

So let’s all agree to be nice to each other from now on, okay? I know sometimes it’s hard to keep our mouths shut when we run into an Octo-mom type, but let’s just call a spade a spade, and be glad we’re not the ones with seventy-two kids running around, mmmmkay?


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