I read a blog post this week about a woman who suffered from post-partum depression. She wrote about how difficult it is to speak up. She wrote about the importance of getting help. Here was a perfect little new life and this mom was filled with despair. New moms are SUPPOSED to be overjoyed and grateful! So she suffered in silence because what will people think?
I recently read a dear friend’s blog post where she announced she is moving closer to family and friends. She and her husband foster and have adopted kids in need. They have moved a good bit in the past few years. They have five kids and a sixth on the way. She needs help. I need help with one child so I can’t even imagine… In her post she said she worried about what people would think about them moving again. Would it be viewed as failure? She has been told she brought this on herself. She has been told she SHOULD have known better! This friend is the hands and feet of Jesus to her kids. What she does each day is unimaginable to some. And yet she hesitated to move closer to home- closer to help- because what will people think?
I am a nursing mother. Exclusively breastfeeding is hard work- I admit I had no idea how hard. I have been reprimanded for allowing him to nurse to sleep because newborns MUST self soothe! I have been shamed for letting him nurse for more than fifteen minutes at a time because everyone’s milk shuts down RIGHT AT fifteen minutes! AND every baby suckles at the same pace! (Ummm… no.) Now that he is fourteen months I am embarrassed to tell you I am still a nursing mother. I am embarrassed to say that my 14 month old is still getting the highest form of nutrition daily. This milk that is made just for him. Even creating antibodies for when he gets sick. I keep thinking I need to wean him before he ready because I worry what people will think. I have yet to find one research article saying that breastfeeding past a year is harmful to the child. In fact, I have only found articles saying the opposite is true. And yet I worry. What will people think?
I’m writing about mommas because that’s my world right now. But the judgement is not reserved for the moms – unfortunately, no one is spared. We judge each other for everything. Judged if you look old but heckled if you attempt to look younger. You’re lazy if you’re overweight but heaven forbid you lose too much weight. You’re selfish if you choose not to breastfeed your child but definitely do not breastfeed past twelve months. Judged if you co-sleep or if you choose to let him cry. You’re too rigid if you choose to sleep train yet you’re a bad mom if your child doesn’t sleep. Never let your kids play with your iPhone, yet they better be quiet and still at the restaurant. Buy all organic and goodness knows you should never give them sugar. Judged for being a helicopter parent and then ripped to shreds if something happens to your child because you SHOULD HAVE BEEN HELICOPTERING. Does your head hurt yet? It’s enough to leave a momma isolated, confused, and afraid to ask for help. We were created for community, yet we work tirelessly to divide and conquer instead of to commune.
Why all the judgement? Why can’t we mommas join together and support each other instead of tearing each other down? What if we connect over mom-woes and fears instead of creating division? What if we love each others’ kids instead of rolling our eyes about the tantrum at playgroup? What if we offer a hand or a hug to the distraught mom at the grocery? What if we speak a word of encouragement to the mom whose kid is running around the restaurant? What if we hold a foster mother up in prayer instead of telling her she should have known it would be hard? What if we cling to her traumatized children in love instead of shaking our heads? What if we simply say “me too” when another mom says how tired she is? What if we show compassion and mercy to the mom who unknowingly let her child play too close to danger? What if we all stop judging one another and start connecting and loving instead?
But wait…. there is a caveat to this sort of behavior: it will not make you feel “better than” the mom next to you. Because that’s what it all comes down to, right? We are all so afraid we are failing that we need to think we are at least doing it better than that mom. But what if we all stop judging one another and start supporting each other instead? I wonder what kind of change we would see in our children if we as parents join together? Children tend to follow in our footsteps. Would we see more empathy? More compassion? More connection? Stronger relationships? The ability to talk about the hard stuff? Possibly less shame? Less self hatred? Less loneliness? And in turn less depression, anxiety, and addiction? I don’t know. But it’s sure worth a shot.