Since becoming a mom, I’ve encountered a lot of super-supportive, incredible people who have helped me along this crazy journey. I’ve also encountered a lot of people who are triggered by my parenting. I’ve been called everything from lazy to selfish, mainly by strangers who read this blog or, recently, an article published on Motherly. And I get it! I write a blog about parenting – I’m asking for it. And in all honesty, being called lazy and selfish doesn’t ruffle my feathers because I know I’m not those things and I’m rubber and you’re glue, so there. But I’d be lying if I said that certain comments don’t linger under my skin until I can extract a reason why they’re sitting there in the first place. And each and every time, the reason is the same.
“Are you sure that it wouldn’t be better for your kids if you didn’t travel for work so much?”
“How do you handle being away from your kids so much, I would never be able to do that?”
“I decided that my family was more important than any career, so I quit and I’ve never regretted it.”
Each one of these things has been said over the last few years and each one instantly puts me on the defensive. Why? Fear. (editor’s note: NOBODY has asked my husband these questions.)
But let’s get real, they’re tapping into my own underlying fear that maybe, just maybe, choosing a career that requires big chunks of travel throughout the year makes me a little lesser than as a fully committed mama. Why didn’t I decide that my family was more important than my career and step back? Am I a good enough mom?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve rumbled with these fears for years and I’ve come to answers that feel right for me. But I’d be lying if I said that some moments aren’t harder than others, and doubts will creep in here and there. I mean, it’s unavoidable, I think. Right?
And yet, I choose to write a blog that makes me vulnerable to critiques by writing about what I don’t know, or how I choose to parent, or the mistakes I’m making along the way, and I stand by that. The fear and vulnerability of being a parent is exactly why I write this blog. We all feel it, whether we talk about it or not. Parenting is inherently scary. Scary and wonderful and boring and exciting. But the current parenting climate is not doing us any favors – so let’s help to change that, shall we?
At the moment, it seems like shame rules the roost – shame over our own insecurities and imperfections so that we turn around and outwardly shame others who run up against what we deem right. If I shame that mom who is doing something that ultimately flies in the face of how I’ve chosen to parent, then I’m superior and my shame is minimized. Except, is it? Does your fear go away because you’ve called a stranger lazy for bottle-feeding formula to her child? Or shamed her for sending her kids to daycare? Do you feel better now that you’re better than her and so now you don’t have to feel so much shame around the fill-in-the-blank where you fear you may be lacking?
It’s impossible to find one parenting technique that cannot be turned around and used against that mom. And while normal, rational people would never come up to me at the park and tell me that I’m selfish while feeding my baby a bottle of formula, literally hundreds of people on the internet will do exactly that. And frankly, all of the questions about my work/life balance have been said to my face, so our boundaries are hazy, at best.
Our parenting is now being lived out online, as well as in real life, and some people have curated what that looks like to fit some mold. So, I suppose watching someone else question their own parenting and admit to their own shortcomings is sometimes too much to witness. Which is exactly why I do it. And I’ll keep doing it so that I can read mean comments out loud to Ian over wine and he can then remind me that “you haven’t arrived until people are trolling you on the internet.”
Well, then, HELLO, EVERYBODY. I’ve arrived.
Remember mama: Everyone just wants to know that they’re not the only one; they’re not alone in this; they’re seen. So before putting up your defense shield next time someone parents differently than you, stop and find that common ground. Help a sister out and say, “I know, I feel nervous about whether I’m doing it right, too. I get it."