If there is one thing mothers have a surplus of, it's unsolicited advice. You know, the "advice" that never ceases to pour in from every angle….the masked (or not-so-masked) criticism and judgment. Backseat parenting—that's what I like to call it. It goes a little something like….
Your child isn't eating solid food yet? Why don't you bottle feed her? She really needs to get used to strangers. She shouldn't cry like that. You need to let her cry it out! Toughen her up! Why is she always in that sling? You need to put her down. Why are you still breastfeeding? She doesn't want breast milk. She doesn't like being carried. She isn't tired right now. She wants to stay up later. She's too dependent on you. You're too overprotective. You're doing. it. all. wrong!
I've spent the better portion of the past year wondering why this happens. Why we aren't being encouraged, complimented, and supported. Why mothers are the constant receivers of inappropriate comments and critiques. Why so many people are trying to predict the (possibly doomed) future our kids are headed for if we don't heed all this advice.
Here's the thing—children unite us. They are the glue to a family. For instance, I automatically feel more related and bonded to my husband now that we have a child. And I feel more related to all of my in-laws knowing that my baby shares a chunk of DNA with each of them. And my own family. Etc. Etc. But, all of that oneness can lead to….dun dun dun….unsolicited advice. Because, your whole family feels invested in your child. This is just the beginning, though. This oneness stretches past your family, out into the world, in a way that causes masses of people to feel invested in your child. I'm only assuming this is what fuels a complete stranger's confidence in approaching you to comment on your parenting….and of course, also touch your baby.
Oneness is great. Don't get me wrong. I'm a 'one love' kind of gal. But, what all of us mothers don't need is more advice. More comments. More criticisms. What we don't need is everyone around us insisting they have the answers we need. This doesn't feel like love or help. It feels like an invasion of the intimate relationship between mother and child.
Here is what we do need: to be nurtured. Supported. Encouraged. Appreciated. Loved. So...
To all the mothers,
You are doing a great job. It is awe-inspiring to watch you give and sacrifice until you are empty and exhausted. Only a mother could do that. And what a mother you are! Your transformation from individual to mama bear has been so beautiful to watch. You've been so selfless, so inspiring, so strong. I don't know how you do it! But, it's quite evident that you would do anything for your offspring...that everything you do is for them. I know you have spent so very many hours and days and years devoted to making well-thought-out decisions on how to best care for your child. I know you always do what you believe is best and right for your child. And, I also know that you have all the answers you need...because you are your child's mother.
Listen to your own voice, your own intuition, your own heart. No one else has the wisdom that you do. No book or relative or friend or baby expert can ever replace that. Did I mention you are doing a great job? Because, you are doing a great job! It's beautiful to watch, really. And, by the way, your struggles and emotions and experience….those are all completely normal. And to be expected. You are not alone in them. Being a mother is HARD. It is never-ending, sometimes thankless, exhausting, and even a little scary. You are a beautiful solider. Your experience is valid.
And your child—idiosyncrasies and challenges included—is perfectly normal. So, if someone else is leading you to believe that your child is the only one who isn't sleeping or cries in the car, they are either lying or just don't know what they are talking about. And if you think you are a bad mother because that same (normal) child makes you want to cry, scream or hide at times….you are not. No. Also normal. You are a wonderful mother and your child is lucky to have you.
Keep going! Drown out all the other voices that claim to "know." They don't know. Nobody knows your child like you do. Nobody knows how to love them like you do. Feel confident that you are doing your best and your best is amazing. Yes, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! Congratulate yourself for giving and surviving, and feel good about all you've done.
Light and love, sisters!