It’s not easy being a new mom. Sadly, the most stressful challenge is overcoming everyone else’s criticism.
We love our babies, and we want them to be healthy and happy. It’s hard to focus on that goal when so many people are voicing their opinions about the way we should mother.
When my son was 4 months old, I took him on an extended family vacation, on a cruise. It was probably the most eye-opening experience, and it let me know how much people feel it’s acceptable to tell you how to be a parent. I heard all kinds of comments.
Some of them were given directly to me, and some of them were whispered loudly enough for me to hear (on purpose, I’m quite certain). Some people told me to hold him more, instead of putting him in the stroller. Some said that if I held him too much, I would spoil him.
This was just the beginning. It was eye-opening and frustrating.
I spoke to friends because I was disheartened. Did everyone get this type of treatment? Why hadn’t I noticed it before? Turns out, it’s everywhere.
Every mom experiences it. Here are five touchy topics new moms get bullied about:
1. Should I stay or should I go?
Staying home or going back to work is one of the hardest decisions to make, and it's one of the biggest judgments women hear. If we stay home, we are judged for not working hard enough and showing our girls we can do it all.
If we go to work, then surely our child is not going to get the proper nurturing he or she needs. There’s enough mom guilt about this regardless of the decision, so another person's opinion only creates that much more angst. It’s a lose-lose situation.
2. Should I breastfeed or use formula?
We hear that breastfeeding is the best option for our babies. The problem is, it’s not all that easy for some moms. Sometimes, our milk doesn’t come in properly.
Some moms have issues with pain, and others just don’t feel like it's as natural as it’s supposed to be. The most ironic thing is we are told to breastfeed: just not in public.
Women have two choices here, so that they aren’t judged for this public display. They can let their children go hungry, or they can lock themselves in their homes until their babies have outgrown breast milk. The only important thing here is making sure our babies are healthy, which they can be whether they have breast milk or not.
3. Should I hold the baby or not?
I laugh at this one because I was told in equal amounts during that week on the cruise that I should hold my baby more and that I shouldn’t. It just goes to prove that people make snap judgments based on what you're doing at the moment, not on how you actually interact with your kids every day.
I think that, as moms, we intuitively know when to hold our babies and when not to. But don’t tell that to the hundreds of "experts" on that cruise.
4. Should I let the baby cry or not?
There’s even judgment based on our baby’s cries. If we coddle the baby every time he or she cries, we’re helicopter moms. We're not allowing our child to handle his or her emotions.
If we allow him or her to cry -- especially in public -- we’re judged for our "cold" parenting. But then, we are told we have a lack of respect for the others who have to hear our baby’s screams.
5. Should I have more kids?
I was often told -- when my son was a baby -- that I had to have another child. I was told that if he was the only child, he would grow up spoiled, selfish and antisocial.
I had another friend who was judged for having two babies within a year of each other. There’s also the question of how many babies are too many.
This is another lose-lose situation. Everyone has an opinion.
It’s interesting to me that people feel so comfortable judging moms. It’s not an easy job, and it doesn’t come with an instruction booklet.
Parenting is hard, and the judgments make it that much more difficult. We’re all doing what we think is best.
So, the next time you feel the need to judge a new mom, perhaps you could consider the fact that your judgment is creating self-doubt and self-criticism. When those doubts and negative thoughts take up space in our heads, we’re not focused on our children.
We’re focused on our failures. We can't be good parents if we see ourselves as failures.
The next time you want to judge, have compassion instead. Take a breath, and maybe even give that mom a high-five. She’s doing the best she can, and the greatest gift for a child is a happy mom.