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…
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.