There’s a hashtag floating around the photography world, #communityNOTcompetition. Every time I see this on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter I immediately think about how relevant it is to motherhood.
It disheartens me when I see articles, posts, or comments full of judgment and pitting mother against mother. And I know, for every item that poses a judgment there is another making the same plea I’m about to make. But that doesn’t make my point any less valid. So please, let’s stop judging each other as mothers. Let’s stop the competition and work to build a community.
The saying, it takes a village to raise a child, is true. Even though we are the ones on the ground (figuratively and literally) actually raising our children, we need support from others around us to enable our efforts and encourage our spirits. The working mother needs support to find childcare, not judgment that she is heartless and abandoning her child. The stay-at-home mother needs support to avoid isolation from other adults, not judgment that she is uneducated or wealthy.
There are a million different parenting styles. There is no one right way to parent. And honestly, until you have lived the need to make some of these choices, you just can’t know what your choice will be. I never in a million years thought I would co-sleep with my infant, it just wasn’t something I saw myself doing. But, when it came down to both my baby and myself needing to sleep, it just turned out to be the right choice. This only lasted a few months for us, but it opened my eyes a lot. I do not judge the mother that co-sleeps with her child into toddlerhood. If that’s what is needed for her and her family, then I say “go forth and sleep!” I don’t judge the mother that lets her child eat lucky charms for breakfast, and I don’t judge the mother that only lets her child eat natural and organic unprocessed foods. I don’t judge the mother that let’s her child wear whatever he or she wants even when they go out in public, or the mother that ensures her child is immaculately and stylishly dressed everyday. Basically, I just don’t judge mothers for the parenting choices they make. Ok, I admit there is one decision I will judge, but that is only because it is a decision that can directly impact my child and all other children, but that is a discussion I am not going to go into here.
I get it though. I understand where the judgment comes from. There is no manual for motherhood. There is no clear and objective way to really measure our success. Comparing ourselves to other mothers is frequently the only yardstick we can find by which to measure. And this is when the judgments start. We either see a mother doing, gasp, something we would never do! Or we see a mother who seems to be excelling far above and beyond anything we think we could ever do. In either situation we make a judgment about that other mother in order to make ourselves feel better. We say to ourself, “well at least I’m not doing that,” or “well that’s easy for her because she doesn’t have to work and can afford to do X, Y, and Z with her child, oh and it’s easier for her because she only has one child while I have three.” But these judgments don’t really make us feel better, at best they simply mask our insecurities. Also, they simply aren’t accurate. Maybe you saw that “bad” mother on an off day, and maybe you saw that “perfect” mother on a particularly good day.
So instead of judging each other, let’s help each other. If you see a mother struggling maybe offer a hand – and to the mother that is struggling don’t automatically assume this offer is intended as a judgment. If you see a mother doing something awesome, tell her, I’m sure the compliment will be much appreciated. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how she does that awesome thing – and awesome mom, don’t hold back that advice if asked for it. Seriously, let’s make this a community, not a competition.
We are mothers. Some of use managed to grow an entire person with our bodies. Some of us opened our hearts amazingly wide to offer love and care for a child we have no previous connection with. We are rock stars! We are super stars! We’re stars! And that’s a fact. Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson both say so.
We are all made of star stuff.
– Carl Sagan