This is an interesting period of time to be a mom, especially a young one. I feel like I live in a world where there's constant criticism over every decision I make as a parent. I'm constantly bombarded with articles that highlight how rampant shaming is with everything from breastfeeding, to sleep training, to attachment parenting, even to "lazy" parenting. I can’t help but feel like I just can’t win at parenting, no matter what decision I make. And even though I'm trying to do what's best for my son and me, when people disagree with me, it's hard standing up for myself as new mom. Sticking up for my parenting choices is something I really, really struggle with. And the constant criticism doesn't help.
No matter where you go or who you're with, ever since I gave birth to my son I've noticed that people are completely unafraid to comment on my parenting, regardless of whether they do it to my face, from across the park to other parents, behind my back, or from the safety of their computer screens on social media. I have no problem being open about the circumstances of my emotionally abusive relationship with my son’s father or being a single mom, but sometimes I feel like that invites unwarranted criticism on every single facet of my parenting. And I'll be honest, the worst part of enduring all these criticisms is the fact that I don’t stick up for myself when it occurs. I have a really tough time standing up for myself as a new mom.
I think I have the hardest time standing up for myself when it comes to criticisms from my parents. My mom and dad are my co-parents, and my main childcare providers. They've done the most in helping me raise my son. Sometimes I believe that because they've taken on such a huge role in my son’s life, they feel they're entitled to not only constructive criticism towards me, but harsh unnecessary criticisms as well. On more than one occasion, my mom has unnecessarily reprimanded me for not changing my son out of the clothing he’d worn the day before. It happened more often when he was younger (I change him at least twice a day now that he’s older and a whole lot messier), but instead of asking me why I hadn't changed his clothes yet, she'd yell, "What’s wrong with you? You haven’t changed his clothes in days!"
Parenthood — motherhood — is so damn difficult. Yet even when I do feel the urge to speak up and defend myself and my choices, I already feel exhausted trying to defend myself against every person who feels entitled to speak about my life. I don't know how to tell everyone to back off because I've got it figured out. The truth is, I'm still figuring it out.
The judgments don't stop there, unfortunately. In the past, she's taken to reminding me again and again that I shouldn't be rocking my son to sleep. I also feel that my parents micro-manage my parenting a lot. I couldn’t tell you how many times they’ve told me how to prepare my son's bottles, or how to change His diapers. They treat me as if I don’t know how to do these very basic things by now, and I get the urge to snap at them about the way they treat me, but stop myself simply because I don’t feel like it’s my place to shut them down. They took me and my son in and have provided so much for us that I simply cannot bring myself to tell them to back off.
Like I said before, I'm very open about my life. I’ve been candid about my emotionally abusive relationship with my son’s father, how I choose to handle his visitation schedule, and how much I make him a part of our son's life. Once my stories are out there, I know there's way of stopping how people react to them, and I know I'm not immune to what others have to say about what I’ve lived through. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt when people vehemently disagree with my choices.
I know everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I can’t help but take it personally when people pass judgments on my parenting, my relationships, and my life. Parenthood — motherhood — is so damn difficult. Yet even when I do feel the urge to speak up and defend myself and my choices, I already feel exhausted trying to defend myself against every person who feels entitled to speak about my life. I don't know how to tell everyone to back off because I've got it figured out. The truth is, I'm still figuring it out.
I pretended not to hear her and proceeded to fill his bottle with filtered water, but I couldn't help but think that even if I did have to fill his bottle with sink water, what was it to her? Why did she care so much? The baby was OK. So was I. Wasn't that enough?
Beyond my parents and people on the internet, I never thought that speaking up for myself amongst my friends would be an issue. But when I brought my almost-11 month old with me to dinner with friends, I realized it was. I usually always hold his bottle when I feed him, and did so that night, but one of my friends freaked out, asking me why I wasn't letting him hold his own bottle. "He's so old, you can't feed him like that anymore," she cried out. "You're spoiling him!" I was so confused. First off, who cares if I’m holding his bottle? and two, as my friend, why are you calling me out in front of other people? The commentary didn’t stop there.
Later on that night as I was fixing him his bedtime bottle, I was running it under hot water when my friend yelled from across the room: “You’re not using sink water are you? That’s so gross!” I pretended not to hear her and proceeded to fill his bottle with filtered water, but I couldn't help but think that even if I did have to fill his bottle with sink water, what was it to her? Why did she care so much? The baby was OK. So was I. Wasn't that enough? And this isn't the first time friends without kids have commented on my parenting. I hear them say all the time that then they're parenting they're not going to do this or they're definitely going to feed their baby that; I just want to grab them and tell them that parenting isn't all that easy. It's so, so hard. Amazing, sure, but it's not easy. I think people often forget that sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do to make it through the day.
I've been a mom for nearly 11 months now, and I know I should have no problem standing up for myself and my parenting, but it's really difficult. I get so frustrated with myself for never saying anything when I feel people putting in their two cents is totally inappropriate. It isn’t their job to raise my son. It’s mine, and mine alone. I have a really hard time verbally expressing that feeling to people because I don’t want to come off as confrontational or overly sensitive. But I really wish I could tell people, even the ones I love, to just back the f*ck off.