Motherhood and Judgy-ness

Motherhood and Judgy-ness

I’ve been trying to write this post all week, about how being a mother has taught me not to be judgmental. About how I used to have all sorts of opinions about other mothers, but now I’ve realized that it’s so hard and everyone’s just doing the best they can and who am I to tell them otherwise. And so I never judge them.

But something about the post just wasn’t sitting quite right. I wrote and rewrote, moved paragraphs around, thought of a cute intro. Nothing was working. And then I realized.

It’s because it’s total bullshit.

I haven’t stopped being judgmental at all – I’ve just learned to be maybe a little less judgmental of people who are basically the same as me. Oops.

Here’s the real deal.

Before I was a mother, I had it all sorted out. I knew exactly how I wanted the birth to go, along with everything after that.

Same goes for how other people birthed and raised their babies. I knew exactly why things were going wrong and what they should have been doing differently. How unnecessary stress was creating pregnancy symptoms, that babies cried because their mothers weren’t emotionally connected, how all nursing problems could be solved if you believed in your boobs hard enough, and of course – that toddler tantrums were always the result of poor planning on the parents part and could be avoided by being totally in tune with your kid.

I knew everything.

What I’ve learned with the benefit of a few years of experience now is that shit doesn’t go to plan most of the time. So even if you planned to give birth floating in a pool of flowers wearing a tie dye bikini top, it doesn’t necessarily turn out that way. And so I learned not to judge women who planned a natural birth and ended up with something different.

But what about my cousin who didn’t have any interest in planning a natural birth in the first place? I wouldn’t say it to her face but the truth – the real, ugly truth deep down – is that a lot of the time, I’m totally judging her for taking an epidural. Hours and hours of very entertaining phone conversations with my girlfriends, judging our respectful-parenting-natural-birthing-baby-wearing-extended-breastfeeding-organic-cotton hearts out. Because there’s an arrogance in me that still thinks that I know better. That choices that don’t fit into my ideology are somehow less than.

A like-minded new friend tells me about her struggles breastfeeding her baby in the early months. How she had her best-laid plans to breastfeed into toddler-hood but the baby wasn’t putting on weight and crying all the time and everyone was freaking out. So she supplemented with formula and pumped round the clock for months and months, trying her utmost to make it work. Ultimately she stopped breastfeeding earlier than she wanted to, and she was devastated. Her story is fraught with regrets, doubt and sadness. Of course I don’t judge her – why would I? It’s so clear that she’s a mother like me, doing a great job, just trying to do the best she can for her son.

So what’s the difference between the two scenarios?

I guess it comes down to understanding. When I can easily put myself in the shoes of the other, understanding and compassion flow. And it’s just more natural to put myself in those other shoes if they look more or less the same as mine. The challenge comes when the world view is different – it takes more of an effort to garner the same level of understanding.

But it’s not impossible. I have close friends who are very different mothers to me, and I manage not to judge them at least most of the time. Because I know and understand them, and so it makes sense to me why my style of parenting wouldn’t work for them. I don’t have to work to comprehend the motivation behind every choice.

The ironic part of all this is that I know how shitty it feels to be judged for your parenting. That sinking feeling of being completely misunderstood, of knowing that someone close to you thinks you’re doing a bad job. I often feel like I’m being judged by family and friends and it’s so horrible. And yet as we just established, I’m guilty of it just like everyone else.

So, here’s the plan. I’m gonna try to do this less. It won’t happen overnight, but I hope I can use skilled compassion and understanding to judge other mamas (and papas) less. To notice judgement as it arises in my mind, and to consciously remind myself that everyone is fucking exhausted, emotional, and trying to do the best they can for their little people. Even if it looks ridiculous and misguided to me. Even if I know just the Janet Lansbury article that would sort them out once and for all.

There’s this sign on the fridge at my Dad and Stepmom’s place, it says, “TEENAGERS! Tired of being harassed by your parents? ACT NOW! Move out, get a job, pay your own bills while you still know everything!” It’s a dad joke, for sure, but there’s truth in it. As a teenager I really did think I knew everything. And while I’ve learned a lot since, the real wisdom I’ve gained is that I don’t know anything. Well, hardly anything.

So – more understanding, more compassion, less judging.

Who’s with me?

A Motherhood Manifesto

A Motherhood Manifesto

The phrase “the type of mother I want to be” comes up for me a lot – in my writing as well as day-to-day conversations. But what does it mean? What type of mother do I want to be? In no particular order, stream-of-consciousness style, this:

I want to be the type of mother who laughs with her kids. Always. 

The type of mother who listens. Even if she doesn’t like what she’s hearing. Or doesn’t understand. Who keeps listening until something makes sense. Until her child feels heard. 

A mother who stops for hugs. If her kids want a hug, she’s all arms. 

I want to be the type of mother who models a healthy, positive relationship. Naturally but also consciously. The type of mother who goes on dates with her husband, regularly and voluntarily. 

The type of mother who lets her kids be who they are, right now – not who she thought they would be. Or who they were.  

I want to be the type of mother who teaches her children to meditate, to express their emotions and to love reading. By modeling, first and foremost.  

A mother who has a career, along with other interests outside the family. And prioritizes them, too. 

I want to be the type of mother who tells her kids the truth, through a filter of healthy boundaries. 

The type of mother who writes. 

I want to be the type of mother who doesn’t sweat the small things. 

The type of mother who holds herself to all of these values and goals and parenting ideals… and knows when to say “bugger it” and break her own rules.

And not beat herself up about it. 

I want to be the type of mother who thinks about what type of mother she wants to be. 

Wish me luck 🙂

My Cinderella Sleep Realization

My Cinderella Sleep Realization

After a few weeks of some pretty dodgy sleep on the part of our five-month-old baby, and a week of getting back on track (more on that soon), I’ve been mulling the significant effect slumber can have on our waking lives.

I know most of you are probably thinking, “duh,” but sleep has never been a massive priority for me. For better or for worse I’m one of those people that can function well and get by on minimal amounts of sleep – and even enjoy the buzz of feeling overtired and a little loopy. I’ve worked night shifts and long hours and pulled countless all-nighters for reasons ranging from warehouse raves to university essays to long chats with good friends and West Wing marathons. It’s taken years of conscious work on the “value” of sleep (and lots of pressure – ahem, encouragement – on my husband’s part) to get to a point where I prioritize it at all. By now I’m convinced that the amount and the quality of the sleep we get is crucial to emotional stability.

But delving into some of the (completely circumstantial, non-scientific) data, it’s become clear to me that the time I go to sleep – rather than how long I sleep for or how many times I’m woken to feed – is actually the strongest indicator of my mood. Find a date that I feel like everything sucks, that my husband and I fight, that I demolish an entire block of cooking chocolate – and I can almost guarantee you that we went to sleep later than usual the previous night.

Going to bed past midnight (read: 10pm) is taking the zzz out of my zen – just like Cinderella. There’s something about those hours of uninterrupted sleep before midnight (Gadi usually sleeps from at least 8pm-2am straight) that make my glass slippers (read: yoga pants) extra sparkly, boosting a positive outlook and strength of conviction that I’m finding crucial right now.

So that’s my big realization. As a result I’m making a concerted effort to cheer on my inner Sleeping Beauty – so as not to turn into a pumpkin (or worse – the Evil Stepmother!) right when I most need the magic.