Before I fell pregnant with Finn, I had no concept of the world of unparalleled opinion and judgement I was about to enter. As a mother you will be judged. And it begins pretty much the minute you announce that you are pregnant.
Because when you become pregnant, you suddenly realize that about 10% of the people you know are actually experts in parenting. And if parenting was ophthalmology or civil litigation or macroeconomics, you’d be lucky to have those experts in your circle of friends and family. But parenting is about as subjective a subject as you will ever encounter and the biggest lesson I’ve learned about unsolicited parenting advice is that the more you listen to it, the less you listen to your own instincts.
The parenting experts have two messages for you. The first – there is only one way to do this. The second – you are doing it wrong. When you’re pregnant, it’s the family member who needs to tell you about the mercury levels in the sliver of smoked mackerel you ate on a cracker at a party, or the woman in the grocery line who raises an eyebrow because you have wine in your cart (hey lady, it’s not for me, it’s for my 4-year-old).
Once you actually have the kid, it gets worse. That one little french fry you give your toddler at the ball game may as well be the healthiest thing you’ve fed him all year. And that one little tantrum that you weren’t prepared for at Trader Joe’s must mean that your child melts down every day, all day. Basically, you are the worst human ever. And you should never buy groceries again.
By the time I had two kids, people were less likely to be openly judgmental. Once you’ve been around the block, the confused, deer in headlights look seems to wear off, replaced by indifference and a look that says, “I dare you to say something”. They’ll still judge you, they’ll just do it more discretely.
But when I think back to my first pregnancy and the first few weeks and months (years really) of Finn’s life, I wish I knew then what I know now (and I don’t mean which stroller to buy).
By number three it really doesn’t hurt like it used to. I know there’s only so much a person can do to get it right, and if I could talk to my former self, I would tell me this.
You will be judged. By family, by friends, by people you know and by complete strangers. You will be judged by other mothers and by women who don’t even have children. Not one of these people will have a complete picture of what is going on in your life, and not one of their snarky comments matters.
You will be judged for your choices about assisted vs natural delivery, the length of time you breastfed, circumcision, vaccinations, baby carriers, sleep training vs attachment parenting, feeding, putting your kids in daycare or being a stay at home mother… People will gossip about the age at which your baby reaches certain milestones and you will find out that your friends who once seemed like rational, calm, level headed women are actually moments away from burning effigies on your lawn when you decide, at 20 weeks pregnant, to wear heels to dinner.
People will talk about your parenting choices regardless of what they are, as long as they differ from their own. Listen to advice and take what you need and want from it. Try to ignore the judgement. Be content that by the power vested in mother nature, you will know what’s best for your baby. You are your child’s mother – it’s your instinct that you need to trust.