“You look like you have your hands full.”
“You should really (insert unsolicited advice here).”
“When my kids were little, I did (the exact opposite of what you are doing.)”
“Back in my day we didn’t let our children talk to their mother’s like that.”
I swear, as soon as you become a mom (or are growing a human) people think it’s perfectly ok to comment on your state of affairs. Strangers need to tell you how they did things when their kids were little, how their parenting differs from yours, or how their kids could do no wrong. It can be infuriating. Let me tell you…there are days that I’m not emotionally equipped to hear anything that could be construed as negative or judgemental. It took me years to not get up in arms when people would say things about how close in age my boys were (19 months) – did you plan that? (yes, we did.) Two rough and tumble boys, huh? Good luck with that. (Believe me, we are good..and don’t need luck, just love).
It still affects me! I get up in a tizzy when people undercut me (indirectly or directly). My logic tells me they have their own issues they are working through and are directing it towards me, but man…in the moment I’m don’t want to be their dumping ground for whatever guilt they have from their parenting (or childhood) journey.
The other day someone I overheard someone say something about my ability to watch my own children in a public place. My kids were being great, being kids, but being appropriate for the setting we were in (a party). This comment caused me to leave the party early and lose sleep. How come one tiny little comment (from someone I’ve never met nor will see again) causes so much distress? I hear (and know) I’m a good mom (I mean..I definitely have some days that are better than others), but the negative comments are the ones that stick. What’s up with that?
So how do you get past it? Our initial reactions are to usually to leave, cry, lash out, dwell on it…but then what? In some ways, time is as good a healer as we can manage. Who has time to think it through, analyze all the nuances and spit out a psychologically sound explanation and strategy for future negative encounters? I know I sure don’t…most of the time! When the situation is big and scary enough, we do take the time to overanalyze and dissect it until we can come to peace with it.
Yet, when the situations are small and seemingly inconsequential…we allow them throw us into a tizzy (alla Kate) and wreak havoc on our brains for a few hours or days and never really address the real problems. Have you made any time to do the work and find the root of it for you?
I have some ideas of what the root of it is for me…I think the mere fact of being a woman definitely plays into it. But, the state of womanhood in our culture right now aside, it also changes depending on the situation. Almost always my reaction is because I feel like a failure in the mom-ing aspect for whatever reason (i.e. I forgot the latest event at school because I was working, or I forgot a deadline at work because my mind was on mom-ing). The time I make to address it is during the aftermath of the comment. If a negative comment profoundly affects me (causing sleeplessness, etc), that’s when I’m dissecting why it makes me feel the way it does. Most often, I’m able to chalk it up to a ill-timed comment on a bad day for me. And, after a bit of pondering (or a night of lost sleep), I don’t have time to think about it much more. I mean….there are three small humans relying on me for their survival & well-being.
How do we stop this pattern? How does our initial reaction put the “failure” on the commenter, not ourselves? Do we reframe OUR minds…or do we ask the world to reframe how they talk to (or about) moms? I think it’s a little of both.
Liz: You sent me a podcast to listen to the other day and I finally got around to listening. The ladies over at Unladylike delved into a related topic, which I think is super profound here. They had an amazing episode on being a bad mom, but the heart of it was really about being ok with being ambivalent about mothering…at least parts of it. Motherhood isn’t amazing for everyone, in fact…it probably isn’t to anyone. There are really great pieces of it, the snuggles, the smiles, the fun adventures, seeing the world through innocent eyes, the list goes on. But there are other parts that really suck, the endless piles of laundry, the judgy people, the daily grind of feeding everyone, the monotony of establishing manners and basic human decency…I could go on. And on.
The moral of the story? It’s OK to not LOVE being a Mom all the time. We should stop feeling guilty about the things we don’t like doing, don’t have control over and don’t feel are at the top of our family priority list right now (even when society tries to tell us differently). I mean, what is Mom guilt anyway? It’s feeling bad about things OTHER people think are important for us. I may be an introvert, but I also know people. What you see on the outside is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on within a family’s daily lives. Why the heck do other people’s judgements have any bearing on our lives when they’ve barely scratched the surface of the complex and miraculous dance that is our reality?!
We are doing an impossible job and redefining the role of Mom, Woman, Wife, Partner, Friend, Daughter and Sister…every freaking day. It is HARD! You will always meet resistance when you push boundaries, but that is all the more reason to keep pushing. Be the best Mom you can be and define success in YOUR language. It is a an impossible task, and likely the most difficult one in your life…so let’s make it count.