Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that a second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right, in her own way, and she happens to be honest. —Glennon Doyle
I got super nervous posting yesterday’s post about extended breastfeeding, because I know it would shock some people, and because #momshame is real.
I experienced that for the first time when V was really small, and her pediatrician diagnosed her as “failure to thrive” and told me to stop breastfeeding immediately.
That didn’t feel right to us, so we sought a second opinion, from renowned pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon. Thankfully, he said we were doing everything right, and that V was fine. I started breaking into the huge freezer stash of breastmilk I’d amassed to give her more calories. My supply was never an issue, but V did have trouble emptying the breast due to a tongue tie and undiagnosed lip tie. Together, Dr. Gordon, C and I made a plan and got V nice and plump.
I excitedly shared this plan with the mom group I was in at the time, and one mom, after our session, said, “I wouldn’t trust this second opinion. I think this doctor is just trying to get your money.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “He is seriously at the top of his field. And I don’t think he’d recommend something that would endanger an infant.”
“Well, she looks like she’s starving, and I think you need to face the facts.”
I was devastated by her comments.
And look, I totally get it — she was being caring and expressing concern. I’m still on good terms with this person. But in that moment, what I needed to hear and what she had to offer me were planets apart.
By the way, the renowned doctor was right. V got nice and chunky.
Why do we feel like we need to comment on other people’s parenting?
I have someone in my extended family of in-laws that I truly dread seeing because of this very thing. This person means well (I think?), but at some point during visits, our style of parenting always comes up and the condescension starts.
I would have never let my kids…
I did this with my kids and they turned out great…
Sleep training is really important for their development, a full night of rest is so good for their brains…
We never did any screen time at all. The research shows…
I don’t even argue with this person because it is pointless, but I wish, during these conversations, that I was brave enough to say something like:
“I absolutely know that you care so much and are trying to help, and I just want you to know that C and I actually feel so good about the choices we’ve made. It’s what’s right for us.”
I don’t feel like that would go over well.
The point is, leave the struggling mom alone. Unless she explicitly asked for your advice, don’t give it. Listen, nod at appropriate points, and don’t offer your opinion if you disagree with her. Offer your support instead.
Because the thing is…she’s already afraid that she might be doing it wrong. And it took a lot of courage for her to tell you what she’s experiencing. So for the love of god, please don’t stomp all over her with what worked for your perfect kids and tell her that you would never do what she’s doing. She can get that from anywhere, and can especially get it from the internet. (Which she already has, with her ten thousand google searches she did before talking to you.)
Try saying instead what my good friend Alexis said to me so much in the beginning:
“This shit is really hard. Your baby is happy and loved. I think you’re doing a fucking amazing job.”
Because really, that is what every mom needs to hear.