4 Tips for Supporting Moms of Varying Views in Motherhood
If you’ve been a mom for more than 5 minutes, I guarantee that you have felt judged by another mom for some kind of parenting practice you have chosen. I know I have. “Wow, he still breastfeeds? How old is he?!?!” Or “You let him drink juice at 18 months? Aren’t they supposed to drink just water and milk?”
And honestly, despite my best efforts, I know there have been times that I have questioned moms for some of their parenting choices too. “So you know what it feels like to have a baby naturally and you’re going to intentionally do it again?!” or “So how do you make it through life without ever letting them hear the word no?”
When I was pregnant with my first son, I truly believed there was ONE right way to do things. (It’s weird how we “know” how to be the perfect parent before we actually become a parent. Isn’t it? 😉 ) But along the way, I have come to believe that parenting is more of an art than a science. It is more about discovering what works for each mom and child versus getting stuck in rigid ways of thinking that leave no room for the varying needs and demands of different children.
Over my last 7 years as a mom, my goal of keeping my children healthy and happy has remained the same, and so have some of my parenting practices. But some have also changed based on the different personalities of my sons. And this has been a blessing in disguise because it has helped me support moms who are choosing a different parenting method than myself.
For instance, it is incredibly accurate to say I am a proponent of breastfeeding because I breastfed my three sons until 21 months or older. But it is entirely inaccurate to say I judge women who choose not to breastfeed. And here’s why.
I’ll never forget going to visit my cousin after the birth of her second daughter when she was learning how to breastfeed her daughter after exclusively bottle-feeding her first. As I sat by her side while breastfeeding my own 11-month-old, I watched how uncomfortable the whole experience was making her, not just physically but emotionally. She felt uncomfortable breastfeeding while others were around, she felt worried about not knowing the quantity of milk her daughter was getting and she felt tense holding her daughter and breastfeeding.
In general it seemed to make her unhappy and unable to enjoy her new baby. It was easy to see. So when she told me she had switched to formula a few weeks later, I was relieved for her. She felt happier being more in control of her baby’s feedings and feeling more flexible feeding her on the go. The next time I saw her, she seemed like herself—happy.
For myself, I never planned to breastfed more than a year, but I did it because it worked well for me. REALLY well in fact. This is why I loved breastfeeding. It was not stressful. I was not worried about my baby getting enough. I liked having the portability of my baby’s food on me. And it made me feel so in love with my baby!
My cousin is now on baby number three and exclusively pumping. She loves the idea of being able to give her baby breastmilk while still being able to use bottles. Once again, this shows how we are different. Pumping without breastfeeding seems like all of the stress and none of the sweet to me. But she loves it!
Isn’t that ironic? What I enjoyed the most is what brought her the most stress? And what she finds to be the least stressful is what would make me feel sad? And she’s one of the people I love most in this world.
I find this reality both ironic and beautiful all at once. Because it’s the perfect example as to why we should all support one another instead of judging one another in motherhood. We are all just trying to do our best to keep our child healthy and happy. (And ourselves.) And we are different women and here’s 4 facts to help you remember that.
1. Her body is different than yours.
I think we sometimes forget that just because another mother does something just like we do, her body may have a different experience. I constantly hear mothers who chose natural childbirth promote why it is better. Their body recovered well from it and it was a positive experience. My body was just the opposite. I had the hardest delivery when having my first son naturally and had easier and more joyful birth experiences when getting epidurals. I am the only one who knows the experience of my body and I support women who choose and promote natural childbirth. But I know that I did not like it for my body.
2. Her baby is different than yours.
Babies are NOT the same. I know this sounds obvious, but I think we sometimes forget just how different they are when we begin questioning another mom. “Why does she never sit that baby down?” Or “Why does she feed that baby all of the time?”
I have had a fussy baby that cried every time he was sat down and never slept and I have had a baby that was naturally content and slept so much I thought there was a sleep problem. My first baby made it very difficult to try and focus on anything more than getting him to nap (regardless of when or where that was!) My other son allowed me to focus on a schedule and getting baby to self soothe on his own. His personality naturally made it easy to do this. Some babies do not. So unless you are working with her baby, judge not.
3. Her lifestyle is different than yours.
Do you work and your friend stays at home? Do you stay at home and she works? Does she have family in town to help? Does she have a supportive partner? So many factors affect the decisions that go into parenting. It’s easy for us to look at another women and assume we understand her lifestyle, but unless you are her, you probably do not.
She may seem like she has a supportive partner when in fact, her partner may refuse to help her with the baby in the middle of the night. So she chooses to switch from breastfeeding to formula in order to get him to help. Or a mom may work all day and prefer her kids to sleep in bed with her because that is the only time she sees them. You may not understand why she is okay with this, but that’s okay. Because you don’t have to. It works for her. And that is what matters! 😉
4. Her personality is different than yours.
What makes one mom stressed may make another mom happy. Some moms are more stressed from knowing they are not getting sleep and can tolerate their child crying themselves to sleep each night. Other moms are more stressed from hearing the crying and would rather just get up and soothe the baby and sacrifice the sleep. Some moms are more worried about laundry than saving money on cloth diapers and some moms are far more worried about keeping to their budget than a few extra loads of laundry. Are you seeing a theme here? We are all different! And that’s wonderful.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to question another mother for her parenting choice, take a moment to get to know her instead. To each her own! See what you might learn from her. You might be surprised. But don’t be surprised when she finds herself learning something from YOU. 🙂
Cheers to Ending Mommy Wars and Switching to Support!