As mothers, our choices are judged from the moment our children are conceived. There’s the ‘well meaning advice’, daft things like a wine glass not being set for you at the dinner table because you are pregnant, to your choice of birth and perhaps even where you might like to have your baby.
If you fancy a home birth, are you endangering your child by not being close to medical care? If you need – scrap that, WANT – a c-section, are you too posh to push?
Everyone from your midwife to the person you sit next to on the bus has a piece of so-called ‘advice’ about how you might feed your baby, or what nappies to use, or whether you will wean them at 6 months or before or later, or whether you will carry a child on your body or push them in a pram. Every decision, it seems, can be open to the opinion of others.
I remember explaining to an NCT friend that my first baby slept through the night from 8 weeks (before you sweat, the second didn’t sleep for two years, so you know, swings and roundabouts) and she asked me what I did that might help her own son, as she was exhausted from trying various ways to encourage him to sleep. I explained that I would breastfeed my little one for a while, and then give her a bottle of formula to fill her up before putting her down to sleep. My friend looked in horror at me, and shook her head. “No” she said “No, I could never drug my baby to sleep”. Boom. Judgement mic-drop.
From what you choose for your baby to sleep in, to how you feed them, clothe them, encourage them to sleep or wean them – there is a mighty plethora of opinion from strangers, (sadly often mothers), seemingly signed up members of the perfect parent brigade.
How have we come to a place where, apropos of nothing more than a couple of lines on a Facebook status, a woman can be subjected to trolling, name-calling, threats of social services and the like? The right to an ‘opinion’ on social media has seemingly tipped us into a dangerous arena of guilt-tripping, posturing, and the insistence that complete strangers accept your judgement of them without any comeback. But seriously – why should anyone need to defend themselves to a total stranger?
What is a passing remark of outrage to the keyboard warrior, can be significantly harmful to the recipient. While the commenter has walked away and carried on with their life, the person their vitriol was directed to is often left in a state of turmoil, anger and upset. It may only be words on a screen to those peddling their parenting doctrine, but if you are attacked on the internet, it can feel very personal indeed.
Of course, caveats are often used by those passing judgment to in some way excuse their inexcusable damnation of another mother. “I don’t mean to judge, but..” or “no offence, but..” and you can bet your bottom dollar that what is coming next is nothing other than pure moralising. Hell hath no fury like a mother who thinks she knows it all on a Facebook drama group.
“But I just want them to know the better way!” I hear them cry. Yep, okay, sure. Pass information, share resources and best practice. But the difference is allowing a woman the choice to be the mother she can be, not beating her down and telling her that unless she follows your advice then her baby will be endangered, or worse, should be removed from her care.
No one, not any one, is a perfect parent. No one. (Not even you at the back! Yes I see you, eye-rolling. Definitely not you.) Every single parent will make a decision at some point that could have been better considered, or fairer, or less reactive. We all take calculated risks every day because that is part and parcel of raising children and becoming a mother. No handbook is given out at birth telling us how to be a parent; because it is an individual journey that all of us must take, find our own way through and research for ourselves. There will be good decisions, and poor decisions along the way, but you should be allowed to make them, learn from them, and adapt your parenting accordingly. EVERY single mother loses her shit occasionally, drinks wine, and silently screams inwardly, or in my case, occasionally flips the bird at my children’s backs behind the kitchen wall. Every mother worries that she hasn’t got it right and I bet every one of us will sob a sorry into our children’s sweaty head while they sleep one night, and we lament our failings that day. That isn’t abuse. That’s the stress of motherhood, and it’s totally normal for motherhood to be stressful at times, in the same way it is totally normal for you to be so damn proud that a roll in the hay created some of the most incredible humans you have ever met.
The thing is, it’s all totally pointless anyway. It achieves nothing but to run another woman down, a woman you don’t even know. We have to believe in other women and trust that bar significant issues (and believe me, people who actually abuse their children rarely openly declare it on a parenting forum), we all have the right to choose how we want to parent and raise our children. Every child is different, with different challenges, achievements, traits and personalities. Even between siblings, what works for one, won’t work for another. We have to find a way to share our best information without shaming other parents for doing it differently, and seek to raise each other up as a sisterhood, and share the motherload of motherhood together, reclaiming the village that we have lost. The role of mother, of parent, is one of the most important – if not THE most important – you’ll ever have, so let’s support each other in this incredible role, and not punish those who just choose a different way to you.
The Motherload® is determined to be the space where you can share your experience of motherhood without judgement, and it’s exactly that ethos, that makes the MOLO tribe one to be very proud of. Let’s love another mother, and support each other to be the best mothers we can be.
About Kate Dyson
Founder of The Motherload®. Wife, mum to two girls, two cats and shit loads of washing in baskets that sit around the house waiting to be ironed. It never happens.Hater of exercise, denier of weight gain, lover of wine. Feminist.
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