Everyone has their own idea of how to raise children and, more often than not, they're quick to make those ideas known. When you parent openly, honestly and without apology, you'll very likely meet your fair share of naysayers who will attempt to make you feel bad or at least uncomfortable about the decisions you make or have made. From how you gave birth to where your child sleeps to how you feed your kid, everyone will have an opinion about what the "best" thing to do is, and too many people will insist that you know it.
Choosing how to feed your kid seems to be one of the most hotly debated parenting decisions you'll ever make. If you're breastfeeding, you're being a ~good mom~...unless you refuse to cover up while you do so, in which case, you're downright inappropriate. Oh, but if you breastfeed with a cover, you must be ashamed of your body. And then if you feed your kid formula, you're most definitely lazy and probably don't care about your baby as much as you should. When your kid is older, may Beyoncé have mercy on your soul if you give them something that has sugar or gluten or was obtained from a place with a drive-thru window.
When your kid is older, may Beyoncé have mercy on your soul if you give them something that has sugar or gluten or was obtained from a place with a drive-thru window.
These are all assumptions and judgments you may come across when you're busy feeding and sustaining the life you've created. While the urge to jump on the defense and explain your choices might be strong when someone shames you for how you've chosen to feed your kids, it's important to remember that the underlying reason why they're attempting to take down your choices is because, well, they're looking for validation themselves.
Parenting is scary and stressful and filled with self-doubt — and that's just what we do to ourselves, before we allow ourselves to even hear all of the other voices waiting to cast the same onto us. I'm of the belief that the mommy wars and the consistent shaming and vicious judgment all mothers face, is less about people being vindictive and more about people being afraid. We all want to know that what we're doing is healthy and beneficial for our children. We all want to hear that we're doing a good job because, at the end of the day, our kids' health and happiness and future wellness depend on the choices we make and the manner in which we execute them.
Parenting is scary and stressful and filled with self-doubt — and that's just what we do to ourselves, before we allow ourselves to even hear all of the other voices waiting to cast the same onto us.
When someone attempts to put you on the defensive about the manner in which you feed your child, it's possibly because they're unsure of the feeding choice they've made themselves. Maybe they're afraid that they should have chose differently; that what you're doing could have been better for their child. Perhaps they're desperate and eager to feel validated, even if it means judging someone else for choosing differently. Is it kind? Absolutely not. But does it come from a very real, very powerful source of self-doubt and fear that we can all empathize with and understand? Absolutely.
Even a mother who exudes the most confidence and seems to be the most self-assured in her decisions has her moments of palpable doubt. When you're doing something as important as shaping another human being who will one day go out into the world and affect change, it's only normal for the weight of such a responsibility to plant seeds of uncertainty. Unfortunately, those seeds can grow and spread and provoke an individual to attack another mother who decided to parent differently. No one is perfect, so while we all attempt to put our best foot forward and do right by our children, there will come a time when the pressure — both external and self-imposted — to be perfect in our choices just gets to us, causing us to lash out, however irrationally, and make another parent feel wrong or less than.
Or maybe the parent who's shaming your kid/food choices isn't insecure at all. Maybe they just really love the choices they've made. That doesn't really make it better when their good experience creates a harmful one for you.
So when someone attempts to shame you for however you choose to feed your kid — no matter what age, from newborns to teenagers — try and remember that it's very likely not personal; their judgment is just a manifestation of their own insecurities. Of course, that doesn't mean to sit there and take it, and it most definitely doesn't mean that you should allow someone to treat you horribly. It just means that you shouldn't let their shame and judgment do to you what it has already done to them: leave you questioning every parenting decision you've ever made.
The truth is — and this is always something I try to remember — that the only person who knows what's best for your kid is you. Every kid is different, which means every kid very well might be parented differently. While no mother is above making mistakes and learning from them, no mother should be made to feel shamed just because her choices differ from someone else's.
We all are trying to figure out motherhood as best we can, so even though we do things differently — and those differences can lead to ugly interactions — we're all not actually in this together. We're ultimately parenting alone, and more often, it would be nice if other parents remembered and respected that.