About a year ago, I was at a business dinner in Minneapolis. I was with a group of about 15 people, a mix of men and women. Some people I knew better than others, but there was no one there I knew very well on a personal level. During our salad course, I was asked by almost a complete stranger how long I breast-fed my children when they were babies. Ummmmmm, say what? I was taken aback and shocked by this question. Why would anyone think it is ever appropriate to ask something like that to someone they don’t know well? I try not to counter rudeness with rudeness, so I answered honestly that I had not breast-fed my children, I had bottle fed. The person then said, loudly, “Well, I just am here to let you know that I am SO TOTALLY judging you right now! I can’t BELIEVE YOU!” Ummmmmmm, again, say what????????? This person had NO knowledge of why I had made the very personal choice of what was the best way for me to feed my babies. What if I had had breast cancer and had lost my breasts, making me unable to breast feed? What if I had another medical concern? What if my children were adopted? This was extremely embarrassing for me, as it was absolutely not the place to have a discussion about my breasts and my babies and I really didn’t think my male colleagues needed to be reminded that I have breasts.
A few years ago, I was at a social gathering at a restaurant. A friend of mine brought someone they had just started dating. My friend introduced me and mentioned that I had two sons. My friend’s date asked me immediately if I had had my sons circumcised when they were born. Again, caught off guard and having had a glass or two of wine, I ignored the rudeness and honestly answered that yes, I had. This person then informed me that I had abused my children and that he, himself was still experiencing trauma from being circumcised as an infant. WOW. My sons are now ages 18 and 20 and don’t seem any worse for wear from their “trauma”.
Why on Earth is it anyone’s business to pry into how I raise and feed and medicate my children, as long as my children were and are safe, fed well, and healthy? Mom shaming is alive and well and rampant in this country. I see celebrities crucified on social media for being HUMAN while parenting their children. Kissing your baby? You’re sexualizing the child. Breast feeding in public? Too natural, you exhibitionist! Bottle feeding? You’ll never bond with your baby — NEVER. Using disposable diapers? You are personally responsible for all environmental problems. Using cloth diapers? You are a granola mom who probably doesn’t bathe their children.
Being a mom is a rewarding, but tough, gig. The very people that moms should be able to count on for support — other moms — are often the voices that are the most judgmental and harsh. No one is 100% confident when they become a parent, and there is no BEST way to parent. In my experience, most moms are doing the very best they can to juggle the challenges of raising a child, working in and outside their homes, and dealing with financial and other family responsibilities, all while sleep deprived and without the benefit of an instruction manual.
This week, I had to reassure a close friend of mine that she wasn’t a “bad mom” because she had failed to post a photo of her and her baby on Facebook for Mother’s Day. I, for one, am THRILLED that Facebook wasn’t around when I was a new mommy. I had my hands full just being with my baby and taking care of him and would have failed miserably at posting an obligatory photo every time society put pressure on me to do so. I carried my youngest on my hip until he was in at least first grade. Guess what? He can walk, he graduated from high school, and he is not emotionally stunted. My oldest wasn’t fully potty-trained until he was three. OMG, how am I not in jail???? Newsflash: my mother was right — he did not go to kindergarten wearing a diaper. Not even close.
So, the moral of my story? LIGHTEN THE HELL UP! BACK OFF! Unless you’re specifically asked for your opinion, don’t offer one. And for the love of GOD, don’t mention other people’s breasts and other private areas in mixed company, ever. Instead — keep your mouth shut, and if you must talk, try offering words of love and support, not condemnation. In short, be kind. Just always be kind.