As parents, we put an extreme amount of pressure on ourselves to make the “best” choices, do the “right” thing, to be perfect. It often begins as unwarranted internal pressure. Add to it both the implied and spoken pressures we feel from other moms, friends, family, society – and new moms or moms experiencing a first of any kind, can easily be overwhelmed.
We have all met (or sometimes been), the Mom Who Knows Best. She knows best for her, for you, and for everyone else that ever existed. I will not hesitate to admit that I have been this mom. I had to learn the difference between being supportive and being judgmental. And in the midst of a new parenting game of any kind, that know-it-all, seen-it-all, solved-it-all kind of mom hovering over your Facebook posts is THE WORST. EVER.
Before we judge, interject, suppose, suggest, advise – ask ourselves: Do I really know best? Or do I just know what worked for me? Is it the only possible answer, or simply what I found to be successful? Could there be another way?
We see it all over. ‘Shoulding’ on each other. We ‘should’ on ourselves. On life. We ‘should’ be better. We ‘should’ have this down. This ‘should’ be easier. We ‘should’ be able to make this work.
No. More. Shoulding!!!!
There is a keen and clear difference between offering up our story, experience, and trials, versus offering THE solution. Take, for instance, the ever present and ever evolving “breast vs bottle” debate. Ugh, I know. For many of us, this was a struggle. Sure, we all know the mom who breastfed four kids without a single trace of thrush, mastitis or latching issues (all four of whom never got lice, either). But most of us experienced some issue with breastfeeding. We are human. We struggled through, learned, failed, and succeeded, then faced new challenges and setbacks.
Most of us also faced judgement.
From within, from without. From our own mothers, whose decades and generations of experience led each down her own path. But they aren’t US. Neither are our friends, relatives, co-workers, social network “friends,” or strangers. . . We all had some sense in our minds of what it would be like to feed our babies. And then reality struck, and boy, does that change fast! Expectations? Pffft. Plans? Ha. Your child has other plans. To eat. Whether our body, mind or soul likes it, they force us to adapt and evolve.
Science has created numerous choices for baby and mother pairs who suffer through the days of latching, sore nipples and painful pumping sessions. And as glorious as those advances are, we are darned if we don’t discourage ourselves from utilizing the tools at hand. Those of us who perceive it as a failure, must convince ourselves that it is necessary. Which is frankly absurd.
Some moms never try breastfeeding to begin with. Glorious. Because guess what? Their babies are still fed. Some moms, try as they may, cannot succeed in solely breastfeeding, and they supplement. Their babies are still fed. Some moms struggle through tears and make do, literally latched to their child at the breast for months or years. Their babies are still fed. And the luckiest of moms breeze through breastfeeding like some women can run a marathon, exhausted but they managed and even enjoyed the experience (oh, how I envy both sides of that analogy). And yep, their babies are still fed!!!
So why all the pressure?
Is it the extreme and often unrealistic pressures of social media perfection? Matching that 72% of the good and perfect that people allow to show through on their profiles? Is it pressure from within, forcing ourselves to be like the ideal concept we had in our heads long before we ever became parents? Maybe the first child was easier, your sister did better, your mom managed on her own, so do more, do what they did! Whatever it is. . . .
No matter what others may say or do, don’t be afraid to decline advice and request support. If that can’t be given in place of judgement, should’s, or should not’s, don’t be afraid to ignore it altogether. After all, this is your story. Your family. And everyone else can have theirs. When you find your means to feed, clothe, love and teach your children, guess what? Even in the moments where you flail or fail, feel like you could not possibly do or be any worse, you are the best. You’re doing it RIGHT. You’re being a mom.