Don’t Let Them Steal Your Joy

Motherhood is full of Joy, and Doubt…

One thing no one ever tells you, when becoming a first time mother, is the amount of criticism you will undoubtedly face on a day to day basis.

Like every new mom, I thought by doing my research, and making careful decisions on how I decided to raise my child, I would find the answers for every choice I decided upon. And I did-from breastfeeding, to diapering, to which rash cream to use, whether or not to make my own baby food or buy it from the store…but then once my little bundle of joy came into the world, I encountered something surprisingly more annoying than morning sickness and labor pains combined…

The Sanctimommy.

Much like the fabled “Dementors” of Harry Potter, only much harder to detect, they are everywhere. Sucking the pure joy from any mother’s soul with snide comments on how they are such the better parent than you are…on any topic!

You can’t ever win…

I decided to breastfeed because I thought it was the healthiest choice for my child; on a bonding level, nutritional level, and even developmental. I bought a few bottles, just in case something were to happen and Daddy needed to feed him, or maybe something happened with my supply. But we actually didn’t have any trouble with nursing-I have a very strong milk supply, my son was a natural breast-feeder, and when we attempted the bottle he flat out refused.
Enter the Sanctimommy; “Well, why don’t you give him formula so you don’t have to feed him as much?” or, “If you gave him formula you wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night as much, because it’s thicker…” and, “You SHOULD give him formula, he will sleep through the night.”

Now, I’m not shaming formula feeding my any means – and if you feel that’s the best choice for your child, go for it! But I sometimes can’t help but feel when comments like such are made, it’s more challenging of my decisions as a parent, than helpful advice. Especially after I explain my reasoning…and the comments are just repeated.

I experienced the same when it came to deciding whether or not to use cloth diapers- I chose to use them for economical reasons, possible sensitivity issues, and for the environment (you can find my top 5 reasons for choosing cloth here). But the backlash I received from some of my mommy friends…
“Disposables are so much easier, don’t bother, you won’t have time.”
“Do you really want to be washing sh*t?”
Now, these are personal opinion, not that’s there’s anything wrong with it-and for us, not entirely true. I do one extra load of laundry every few days, depending on how much I want to stretch time between washes. And when you properly dispose of baby poo (which you’re supposed to do with disposables anyway), it’s not like you have turds floating around your washing machine. In the end, it’s my choice which diapers I use for my baby, just as it’s anyone else’s for their child. Among my personal friends, I received no support for my decision on this.

And that’s probably the hardest thing for a first time mom; you’re going to have other parents ask you how you do things, and even question it, all the while “trying” to give you advice on how they managed with their kids. But these comments, be it with good intentions or just plain smugness, can really upset someone who honestly just wants the best for their child-and can make them question everything. Parent’s question themselves enough…I really doubt anyone needs help with that part.

Now, if it’s something potentially dangerous, that’s one thing-but if it’s something as silly as whether to use store bought baby food, or homemade, is the challenge really that necessary? Is even any more necessary to argue that one mother’s opinion on certain ways of doing things, is any better than another?

No one is safe…

And that’s what I’ve noticed, not just within our first year as a family, but everywhere! Someone can’t hardly post a picture on Instagram without smug comments on how they should be parenting better. “You should try this…you need to be doing that…”
And maybe it is only out of trying to offer “helpful” advice-but where’s the line between “helpful”, and “sanctimonious shaming?”

One thing I’ve learned this past year? It literally doesn’t matter what you do. Someone, somewhere, is going to think they are a better parent than you are. Another thing I learned? Only you know what’s best for your child. Everyone’s parenting style is different. You use the Cry it Out method? You babywear? You let your kids watch tv? I honestly have nothing to say about how you “should,” or “need” to do anything different!

You can make your own organic baby food, and someone is going to ask you why you don’t just buy what’s in the store. You can buy what’s available, and someone will tell you homemade is better. It’s a no-win situation.

Sanctimommies are everywhere, and some people just get off on being “better than” someone else. As long as your child is taken care of, nothing else matters.

If anyone wants to share pearls of wisdom from their experiences, I’m all ears-until they use the phrase “____ is better.” Or, “…you need to do _____ instead.”
Then it’s all taken with big grains of salt….with my margaritas.

That’s my helpful advice to the first time mom questioning herself after the battle with the Dementors. Don’t let them steal your joy. Just listen, and make your own decision for what’s best for your child.

How to deal with criticism and shaming comments towards your parenting decisions

Ohana: Pet’s Are Family Too

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Family comes in many forms. I have one human son. In reality, I really have two children.
When my husband and I first began our “serious relationship”, our first major stepping stone together as a couple, aside from co-habitation, was adopting our cat. I originally wanted a cat, and saw a mother and two kittens lingering around the fire escape. Logically, I couldn’t just rescue one; it needed it’s sibling. And they couldn’t be without Mum. Luckily for Ryan, a neighbor took them in during this conversation in which I was trying to convince him that we needed them more than they needed us. He wanted absolutely no pets – so he compromised and we got Dimitri.
I searched Craigslist for local rescues and found the cutest Russian Blue – a phone call and short trip to PetSmart and an hour later, we brought our little “fur baby” home. He was rescued by a couple in Jacksonville (Florida) who not only take in animals, but perform “Native American Weddings and Paranormal Investigations.” (I thought it an odd mix, but I don’t ask questions) They adopted Dimitri the day before he would have been put down at the animal shelter, being there too long. They put the animals, mostly cats, back online to find forever homes. We donated a bag of kitten food in exchange for our kitty, and as much as I really wanted ALL of the other kittens in the crate he was hanging out with, I knew Ryan wouldn’t allow it. It literally took weeks to convince him of one, after three already didn’t work, so best not to push my luck.
Since the first night at home, Dima (his shorter name) has slept in our bed, forcing one of us to share a pillow. Yes, he needs a pillow for his head. He also requires the milk from your cereal, his cat-nip stuffed sea turtle must be object of a game at least once a night, and he ‘helps’ you in the bathroom by keeping one company while you’re…doing whatever in there.  He has his own ways and personality. Ryan and I have both commented on how fitting it was that we ended up with him, and how he filled our home with so much more love.
Then when I became pregnant, we excitedly told Dima he was going to be a “big brother” and made promises to always give him enough attention. “Nothing will be any different.” I even joked that a day would come that I would find myself holding either the fur or human child as my husband held the other, and we would have to “switch off”, so they didn’t grow jealous. I wasn’t prepared for the cynicism towards my beloved cat that soon followed. Too many times I heard, “You gotta get rid of that cat. They’re bad for pregnant women. They’re bad for babies.”
The thing is: you wouldn’t “get rid” of your first child, for absolutely no reason, when you’re expecting another. Why would you do the same to a pet? Especially one you raised since a baby (er..kitten)! Your animals depend on you for everything: love, security, sustenance, connection…why would you just abandon them? Sometimes, in unfortunate circumstances, pets need to be rehomed, but for just no reason other than, “Well, you’re going to have a real baby now…”the whole notion just strikes me as absurd.
Toxoplasmosis is very real, and can lead to a lot of harmful complications with the developing fetus, including blindness. BUT, as my midwife put it, “You don’t have to get rid of your cat. Just don’t play with it’s poop.” I avoided the litterbox and either my husband or Mom cleaned it. Other than that, Dimitri posed no risk to my growing baby, and I didn’t have to give him away.
I eventually came to the conclusion that some people are just that heartless – they could adopt a pet and love it, and give it a good life. And then just turn their back, at the drop of a hat. Sure, most will make sure they find it a good home, but that doesn’t mean the poor animal is going to adjust easily or forget quickly.  If you aren’t willing to make a lifelong commitment to an animal, then don’t adopt. Because they don’t deserve to have the only home they know taken away, for no other reason than disinterest. Especially when they pose no real threat that can’t be contained.

 

When we adopted Dima, we made that promise-that we would be there for his entire life. Dima is no different than my other child. I’m his Mom-and he needs me. Writing this has reminded of the Disney movie ‘Lilo & Stitch’ and it’s true… “Ohana means family”. No one is left behind or forgotten. Your pets are family too. He’s now two (human) years old, and absolutely loves his “little brother”…most of the time. We are working on not chasing our kitty around the house.

dima
The real Dimitri Hewitt