You will never care what others think more than when you’ve had a child. The tendency to let other people influence you is usually kept in check for most other aspects of our life. But when it comes to parenting it does not let up. You’re lucky if it becomes background music and not a blaring noise. This is one instance when you hope for the Kenny G. You know those mothers who pretend that they have it all together? They are in even more trouble than the rest of us.
So why it is that we let those opinions impact the way we behave? I have a colleague named C whose son is a similar age to mine. Entering the twos I was describing all of these strategies that I’m using to counter the potential for emotional melt downs. I explained that I have a low threshold for humiliation. She laughed and said, she doesn’t, that she’d probably be rolling around on the floor with him. I loved it. She realized that I was more afraid of the people’s stares and judgements than the actual act of picking my son off of the grocery store floor. I was afraid to be deemed a terrible mother.
But you know what, I’m not a terrible mother and neither are you. Of course there are times when we are not at our finest, when we’re tired, grumpy or slightly bored. But most of us are trying our very best with the lot that we’ve been given. As mothers you’re programmed and pressured to internalize all of the advice and criticisms thrown at you. But the bearers of this enlightenment are not the ones raising your kid so try to turn them into elevator music and choose which suggestions are constructive. I hope by the time my son is ten the racket will barely be a whisper.
It all begins in the delivery room. Birth announcements cheerfully advertise the birth weight and apparently larger numbers are the goal. That one’s worth as a parent begins with an eight pound baby. When I first saw my son’s crying face I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. I could not stop crying. It was only when people started to visit and worried that he was too “small” that the doubts began. He was a healthy weight considering that he was born two weeks early and the tests all demonstrated that he was in great condition. But see, you lose sight of all that as soon as society enters your hospital room. Then the doctor’s visits every three days begin and you start counting the ounces like everything depends on it. All of these measures exist to ensure the safety and well-being of the child but we’re conditioned to attribute the emotional toll as part of motherhood. That you just have to buck up. And of course supplementing your child is frowned upon. Nursing is not easy but you know what’s harder? The guilt they lay on you when you want other options to support the breastfeeding. My mother tried to reassure me and I pretended not to worry. I said that babies become men so I was fine. If only I actually believed my words. He is now a solid two year old and I feel silly for tying myself into knots before. But for any mother currently in those first few months, I just want to say, you are doing a great job. You are beautiful. Keep on keepin’ on.