By Ruby Roberts
Let’s talk about judgement, Mamas.
Ouch. Yes, I know.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all been judged. We’ve all struggled to watch someone else doing things we consider reprehensible. All of us have. We all do it.
It only seems to get worse once you get knocked up, doesn’t it? Suddenly, everyone has an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, wearing, doing. Everyone seems to want to tell you their opinion about the ‘right’ way and place to give birth, who should be there, whether you should have an epidural or squat and make primal screaming noises as the unmitigated pain of labour courses through your body. One book I read said that giving birth could be an orgasmic experience – this particular tome was full of men with lots of facial hair, doing rather intimate things to ‘open up’ their wives. No, my labour wasn’t like that, but horses for courses, right?
That’s before you’ve even had the baby. Then, everyone wants to tell you, the baby has too many layers, not enough, swaddle, don’t swaddle, sling, pram, heel prick, no intervention, sleep with bub, don’t you dare sleep with bub, your baby is not getting enough milk, better supplement, better not supplement… blah blah blah, and on and on and on it goes.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of it, too. I remember one time when my son was about six months old, I went out one day with him in a sling and in my haze of new parenthood, I forgot to pack a jumper for him. What can I say? He’d been sleeping badly. I’d been sleeping badly. I’m forgetful at the best of times. I’m imperfect. I was exhausted from putting so much into being a good parent that my brain farted. All that stuff that probably explains many of our cock-ups as parents. Predictably, enough, a cold change set in, and a woman came up to me, eyeing at my babe’s bare arms pointedly. “Poor little thing,” she said. “Can’t you see he’s cold?” I felt hot with anger and guilt and being put on the spot. “Oh, yes, you’re right, I’m sorry,” eager to beat a hasty retreat. I already knew I’d messed up, like most parents, I feel stuff-ups acutely as a matter of course. It was horrible, horrible! It certainly didn’t help matters.
I guess judgement has its place – we all need to have a sense of right and wrong, and to believe we know what is best for ourselves and our families. We need that passionately, because let’s face it, we all love our kids to the moon and back. Every one of us. We’re all imperfect. All of us have probably snapped at our kids, or given in and let them watch too much TV because we’re tired. We’ve all given them cereal for dinner (I can’t be the only one, surely?) Despite our flaws and stuff ups, I believe most of us can probably see that fundamentally, we all absolutely ADORE our kids. Bottom line.
Part of MamaBake’s MamaFesto is that we approach one another as mothers with ‘Curiosity not Judgement’, and with that in mind, I will be writing a series of interviews. My (possibly rather optimistic) premise is that if we hear one another out, maybe we can see that all of us love our kids. We all need support, first and foremost, and to be understood before anyone jumps in with what might well be completely inappropriate advice and judgment. I hope to achieve some understanding, and show that whatever values and beliefs a mother might have, she loves her child, just like you do.
I plan to interview all kinds of mothers – extended breastfeeders, bottlefeeders, strict and radical parents, homeschoolers, parents who follow strict routines, parents who let their kids graze and follow their own rhythms. Mothers who let their kids have toy guns, mums who buy their kids every buzz lightyear figurine under the sun, and parents who believe children should be playing with wooden toys. Mothers who have the difficult job of parenting with an illness or disability. Teen single mothers. Older mothers. Parents surrounded by extended family, and folks doing it in isolation. Stay at Home mums. Working mums. Welfare mums. Crafty mums. Soccer mums. Yummy mummies and tracksuit wearing mums. Everyone has a set of beliefs. Let’s see what comes of a gentle curiosity. Let’s see what we can observe when we stop applying our rules to other mothers, and instead see a person who loves her kids every bit as much as we do. Is it even possible?
I’d like to think it is. There is a phrase that I have always liked: a good parent is a supported parent. When you feel supported instead of criticised, doesn’t it bring out the best in you? It does in me.
And if you are a mum who has felt judged in any way and you want to talk about it, come to me. I will do my best to be a compassionate interviewer. I will try to help people see you as you really are – a GREAT mum, no doubt. I think we can learn a lot by understanding the shades of grey. Wonderful as online discussion can be, it can push people into ‘ghettos’ of like-minded folk, who mirror their beliefs and don’t challenge them. It is easy to see how this environment could lead people to become more sheltered and entrenched in their beliefs, and hence, more judgmental of others. I think we can do better than that, mums. I hope I can really help a dialogue to occur, and reinforce the fact that there are as many ways to be a great parent as there are mums and dads.
If you would like to be interviewed by Ruby, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org