Mommy’s Worst Critic

Yesterday I read an article in  Parenting Magazine called Judgment Day.  I’d give you the link, but alas, it was in a *gasp* printed magazine, and their website seems to have no direct link to the articles that they print.

I wish I could quote the article for you verbatim, but when I left my son playing safely in his room for 15 seconds while I dashed down the stairs yo grab the magazine from the place where I definitely left it in the dining room table yesterday, I found an empty space where said periodical should be.   Then I did the  go-into-the-kitchen-and-toss-papers-around-frantically dance, while terrified that my child was upstairs gnawing on the humidifier plug instead of the 47 squishy blocks I piled in his lap.

So here I am. It’s 5:37 AM and I’ve already had a solid 45 minute feeding/diaper change/play session with my little boy, and now he is exploring the depths of his toy box while I catch up on a bit of blogging.

Don’t judge.

That’s what I loved about the article. It made me feel better about being uncomfortable discussing my parenting tactics with other mommies of same-aged kids.  One woman noted that talking about parenting – especially mothering choices like breastfeeding, and working versus staying home – is nearly as taboo as religion and politics. We just don’t talk about them they way our mothers or grandmothers may have.

I have friends and relatives who each have babies very close in age to my son.  I almost never talk about my parenting choices with any of them, unless I am 98.6% sure that the woman I am taking to will have the same view that I do. For example, Mommy A also gives her baby formula, so feeding is a totally safe arena with her.  Mommy B went back to work like I did, so talking about my seeming lack of time to make dinner or clean the bathroom is totally acceptable.  She gets me.  And she gets that I like the fact that I can wear dangly earrings all day long without fear of losing an ear lobe.

Mommy C is a different story. She makes me feel inadequate in every way possible, and although she does not mean to, every conversation I have with her has a polarizing effect on me.  She left her job to become a stay-at-home mom, and she and her husband ask questions like, But what do they do all day at daycare? Or, Isn’t it so hard to leave him every morning? (For the record my son does the same stuff that he does with me on the weekends – he eats, he sleeps and he plays.  He is not sitting in a corner, all by his lonesome, at daycare.)

Mommy C also breastfeeds. She doesn’t even pump. She’s committed, and lets me know every time we talk how difficult it can be.  She doesn’t mean to, but it makes me feel totally inadequate as a mother.  It’s gotten to the point where I dread talking to her, because her struggles with breastfeeding – not knowing how much the baby is getting, waking up in the middle of the night since she doesn’t use bottles that her husband can use, dealing with lots of spit up – make it seem as though I may have taken the easy way out by choosing formula.  Obviously she is not judging my parenting, but rather, trying to make conversation, but the first two steps into The Mommy Crash Course taught me very quickly that we mommies are our own worst critics.

In the very beginning she’d tell me how tired she was.  In fact, it seemed that everyone was worried about how tired she was.  Um, no shit.  I had a baby too, remember.  Nobody cared how tired I was.  And now I hear Mommy C say, “I just can’t find the time to __________,” and my thoughts immediately go to, “Yes, it must be difficult to find the time to __________, especially when your baby is napping.  When my baby is napping, you know where I am?  Working.” 

I’m such a B, right?   My husband lets me know on a daily basis that I am crazy.  When other people say things like, “Baby So-And-So is eating (insert trendy snack food here),” or “Baby This-And-That is wearing sneakers and they seem to keep his socks on,” my brain immediately goes into defense mode and I feel as though I am being personally attacked for not making those same choices.  Although I may be a little crazy, some of these comments seem to be spoken in a tone that is trying to fish out whether it is okay for that same snack to be put in my baby’s mouth, or whether I intend on ever having him wear shoes in this lifetime.  I have taken a firm – albeit maybe a teeeeeny tiiiiiny bit rude – stance on what my baby eats, when my baby sleeps and what he plays with.  And yes, I know that his socks fall off a lot.  Buying new ones in a different size is something I have also done.  I’m new at this, but I’m not stupid.

So I don’t really talk about parenting with other people, because (A) I don’t want to offend, and more importantly (B) I don’t want to open myself up to criticism.  I learned this even before having my baby.  I was sick of being compared to the afore-mentioned Mommies who were also pregnant when I was.  Everything was compared – weight gain, contractions, ultrasounds, blood tests, whooping couch vaccines.  It made me crazy at a time when I was already a nervous wreck.  Now, I don’t ask questions about other babies who are the same age.  I go almost solely based on what my doctor tells me.  I read books and articles, and I listen to  some of my mother’s advice, but ultimately, I stick to my guns when I make a decision.

Now excuse me, while I go take a shower at 7AM on a Sunday, because this may be the only time all day I can!

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