Maybe it's the fact that so many people are judgmental of other moms, or maybe it's because new moms have a tendency to judge the heck out of themselves. Either way and regardless of the reasons, so many innocent or well-meaning phrases can sound really judgmental to new moms, but actually aren't.
Being a mom is freaking hard, and when you are a new mom who is tired, overwhelmed, and constantly second guessing herself, it's easy to hear judgment in other people's advice or comments.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes other people are judging you. In our culture of perfect parenthood and the ever-present, sarcastic sanctimommy, people can say really unkind things to new parents out of pure judgment and disapproval. Comments like, "Are you really feeding your baby formula?", "Did you forget to put socks on your baby?", "Is that apple organic?", "Did you do that on purpose?", or "Sleep training is cruel," can only be interpreted one specific way. Not cool.
Other comments, however, are actually meant to be kind or helpful, but sound shaming or like the person commenting thinks you are a crappy parent. The problem is that when you haven't had enough sleep or you are seriously doubting a parenting choice you've made (or worse, both), it's hard to hear the meaning, encouragement, and commiseration behind their words.
"Can I Help?"
The first time my daughter had a tantrum at the store, a woman asked me, "Can I help?" I was so embarrassed. I later realized that she actually wanted to help, and not judge me endlessly.
Now that I have been through hundreds of moments where I want to sink into the floor, I always offer to help other parents when they are alone and overwhelmed, because that mom life is hard.
"Are You Getting Enough Sleep?"
In most other situations comments like, "You look tired" or, "Are you getting enough sleep?" are not meant to be helpful, but instead are a clear sign that someone thinks you look like hell. When said to a new mom, however, it's more likely an attempt to commiserate. Sleep-deprivation is such a common experience among new parents that they are probably trying to empathize and let you know that we've all been there.
"Fed Is Best"
The first time I heard the phrase "fed is best," I was in the process of trying my hardest to breastfeed my baby and was not succeeding at all. It made me seriously question whether or not working so hard to breastfeed was important and worth the effort.
I later realized that the statement "fed is best" supports and validates all ways parents feed their babies, and is not judgmental in the slightest. Offering support for all parents to feed their babies in a way that works for their family does not have anything to do with my choice to breastfeed or the hard work I put in.
"I'm Worried About You"
Sometimes it's hard to take care of yourself when you are caring for a new baby, and sometimes you can't see how bad things are getting from the inside. There's something about someone recognizing that I am struggling and am not a perfect parent that feels judgmental. I now realize that sometimes "tough love" is necessary. If no one had said anything about signs of postpartum depression, I might not be here. I always risk saying something, even if it might hurt someone's feelings, if I think it might save their life.
"You Need To See A Doctor"
It seems like every day I see people crowdsource medical advice for themselves or their kids on social media. As a new mom, I totally did it, too. Most of the time what they really should do is call their freaking doctor.
"Your Body Might Never Be The Same"
Our culture is so obsessed with moms getting their bodies back right after delivery. I'm going to tell you a secret: for many people, it's simply not possible.
I'm not saying that you will never lose the weight you gained during pregnancy or that you don't look awesome or freaking badass, but when I say that you might not be able to "get your old body back," I'm trying to say that you might want to set some realistic expectations, so you don't get disappointed and can learn to except yourself the way you are.
"That's Not How It Works"
I clearly remember the first time someone told me that I wasn't using a piece of baby gear correctly (I was new to baby carriers and my daughter was not secure). I was humiliated, but I eventually realized that they were trying to be helpful, not hurtful.
Using some baby gear seems to require a PhD in parenthood. If I see you floundering, I might offer to give you a hand or show you how it's done.
"Don't Lose Yourself"
Being a mommy doesn't have to mean being a martyr. If I see you putting yourself last or ignoring your needs, I might speak up or offer to babysit so you can have some time to yourself. It's not an insult, I promise.
If I see someone doing something dangerous, like putting their newborn's car seat on top of a shopping cart or letting their preschooler ride in a booster, I might speak up. Not always, as I've learned to weigh the benefit of my comment against the hurt I might cause.
"You Don't Have To"
A baby's needs are actually pretty simple: to be fed, diapered, clothed, and loved. You don't have to buy expensive baby gear, organic foods, or special baby products to be a good parent. There are so many things we do as new parents that are completely unnecessary and can actually be pretty counterproductive.
If I say you don't have to do something, it's not because I am judging your choices, it's because I don't want you to get overwhelmed with all of the expectations of new parenthood. You are doing just fine, badass new mom, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.