Way before I even became a mother, I heard about the "mommy wars." I was warned that every decision I made would be questioned and every choice I believed was right for me and my family would be judged. Yes, those thing did happen, but I've also had some wonderful conversations, important discussions and even eye-opening experiences because someone voiced their concern or opinion. In fact, there are times when I was actually thankful that someone questioned my parenting choices, because (when done respectfully, correctly and genuinely) those questions made me reevaluate my decisions, weigh other options and either feel more confident in the way I was parenting, or helped me alter my parenting style so that it was even more beneficial for myself and my son.
We all like to wax poetically about how it "takes a village" to raise a child, yet when that village speaks up and says that hey, maybe you should try this tactic or maybe what you're doing isn't the safest, we all get defensive. Honestly, I get it. I've been there, and it's hard not to take it personal when someone is commenting on something so personally important to you. I want to feel like I am the best mother my son could have, which means that when I realize that I'm doing something wrong or making a mistake, it hurts. However, personal growth is rarely pain-free, and if I really want to buy into the idea that communities should be part of raising children, I need to listen to my community. Even if I end up embarrassed. Even if I get a little mad. Even if it makes me feel uncomfortable.
While I am not about people shaming mothers intentionally, or even bringing up a valid point in an inappropriate or very public, essentially hurtful way, I am for mothers speaking up and helping other mothers out. After all, I remember how I felt directly after my son was born: lost. I wanted and needed any and all guidance I could get my exhausted hands on, and that hasn't changed now that my son is a boisterous two-year-old toddler. So, while it might not always feel the greatest, here are just a few moments when someone questinoing my parenting, actually paid off:
When I Continually Refused An Epidural
I had a pretty solid birth plan and followed it for 10 hours of excrutiating labor. My partner, while completely supportive and helpful in every way, started to ask me if this was what I really wanted. I had been awake for over 24 hours, I was only able to tolerate the pain of my contractions if I was standing, and I was exhausted. I was throwing up because the pain was so severe, my body was shaking and every two minutes I ended up crying uncontrollably.
My partner knew me well enough to know that I was refusing an epidural not because it's what I really wanted, but because it's what I thought I had to do. He was able to assure me that, in the end, I needed to do what was best for me and my body and, as a result, my baby. After 10 hours of drug-free labor I had that blessed epidural and was able to rest, regain my strength and push my son into the world. If my partner hadn't of stopped and politely, respectfully questioned my decision to forgo drugs, I very well could have ended up having an emergency c-section.
When I Was Buckling My Kid Into His Carseat
This one is a shot to the ole ego, I will admit. I try my hardest to make sure I keep my son safe, so having someone stop me and essentially question whether or not I am strapping my son in correctly is, you know, hard. However, I think that a few minutes of feeling mildly embarrassed are worth my son's safety, so I'll take someone questioning my ability to buckle my son in any day.
Yes, there is a right and wrong way to point out that someone might be buckling in their kid the incorrect way. I'm not a fan of shaming mothers on social media or pointing something out in front of people, because it is hard to hear from someone that you're doing something wrong. But when someone politely pulls you aside or messages you in private, I think the benefits outweigh the discomfort.
When I Refused To Use Give My Kid A Pacifier
I was dead set on breastfeeding my baby, and he latched immediately after he was born so I considered myself extremely lucky. Therefore, I was terrified of anything that may alter our somewhat effortless breastfeeding relationship. That meant, under no circumstances, was I going to give my kid a pacifier. I had read about "nipple confusion" and convinced myself that if I gave my kid anything else to suck on, he would stop breastfeeding immediately.
Thankfully, my mother told me that was ridiculous and asked me to trust her. It was a few days after my son was born and I was horribly exhausted and my mother insisted I let her hold the baby so I could get some rest. She gave him a pacifier and, yeah, we were still able to breastfeed without any complications. That pacifier ended up being a life-saver on more than one occasion, and if it wasn't for my mo questioning my decision not to use one, I very well could have ended up pulling out all of my hair.
When We Chose To Co-Sleep
Admittedly, this one will get old fast. I guess it truly depends on how a person asks a question, and whether or not they actually curious or just being condescending and rude. However, when I had people ask me why my son and I co-slept, I was more than happy to explain why. The open dialogue between parents who are trying different things, for me, was so interesting and really helpful. I was able to explain that my body regulated my son's body temperature directly after he was born (and when he was having problems) and from that first night in a hospital bed, we slept next to one another. I was able to hear other mothers talk about sleep training and get some insight into what my partner and I might be in for when the time came to transition our son to his own bed.
It was helpful and informative and I really appreciated those conversations. Sure, I also had people tell me that I was probably going to kill my kid (because the myths about co-sleeping are still prevalent) but all-in-all, I didn't mind people asking me about co-sleeping, because I didn't mind informing people about co-sleeping.
When I Wanted To Make Organic Baby Food
Before my son was born, I swore that I would be making his baby food myself. I would exclusively breastfeed, then use the brand new blender I purchased when I was six months pregnant to make him whatever food we slowly introduced him to. I bought organic fruit and vegetables, covered my kitchen with little glass jars I hoped to fill up and went at it. What. A. Mess.
I was a working mother so I, honestly, didn't have the time, and stressing myself out only made my days more exhausting. When a friend asked me if I really felt like this was necessary (especially because you can buy organic baby food, and all baby food is regulated by the FDA so it's not like it isn't safe) I realized that, no, it really wasn't. Not for me and my family. It was much easier to just purchase baby food and spend time with my son, instead of anxiously running around my kitchen trying to blend things and tend to a baby and answer work emails.
When I Breastfed In Public
Again, this definitely depends on the people and the situation. When I breastfed in public, without a cover, I had plenty of people come up to me and "ask questions," except they weren't questions they were judgmental accusations that no one should have to sit and listen to.
However, I did have some well-meaning, genuinely curious people ask me what it was like to breastfeed in public; if I was uncomfortable; what I wished people would do or say, and I loved having those conversations. In fact, I think those conversations are vital if we are going to normalize breastfeeding and make it safer for women to breastfeed in public whenever and wherever they need to.
When I Used A Stroller
My partner and I bought this top-of-the-line, lightweight stroller because we were new parents and thought that was exactly what we needed. While it did come in handy on occasion, I was really thankful to have some friends ask me why we used a stroller instead of babywearing.
Turns out, babywearing is much easier (and less expensive, in my case) and to this day, I still put my two-year-old son on my back if we are going to be walking a substantial amount. I don't have to drag a stroller around or worry about it getting in the way, and I get to feel closer to my son when I am wearing him. If my friends didn't question my decision to use a stroller, I may never have realized that babywearing (for us) works much, much better.
When I Didn't Want To Leave My Kid. Not Even For A Second.
I have my mother to thank for this one, and I am convinced that it was exactly what I needed a week or two after I gave birth. I was stuck in the haze that is new motherhood; sleep-deprived, sore and still pretty scared that I was now responsible for another human being. I didn't even like my partner holding or taking care of our son, so I was constantly tending to our newborn and choosing to stare at my kid instead of going to sleep when I needed to.
My mother finally told me that I needed to get the hell out of the house and away from my baby. He would be OK, but I wouldn't if I continued to obsess. It was somewhat hard to hear and it took a little more convincing, but getting out of the house and spending a few hours by myself, taking care of myself, was vital. I felt rejuvenated; I felt like a human being again; I felt like I really did have this motherhood thing down, because sometimes distance is a catalyst for necessary perspective. If my mother hadn't of questioned what I thought I was doing right (obsessing over my baby, to the point that my self-care no longer mattered) I am sure I would have crashed or caught some horrific cold or lost my damn mind or all of the above.