Usually on Friday’s I post gratitude, and this week, like every other week I am grateful for so much. I have decided though that I would prefer to post about a recent issue that I think needs discussion: is it ok to judge other parents?
This week, Pinky McKay, one of my “go-to” people for parenting advice (via her Facebook page, blog and books) posted quite a harsh post, having a rant at mothers who are “tamers” and not “cuddlers”. Her blog post answered the most frequently asked stupid questions from “tamers”. At first I laughed aloud, because she was so on point in my opinion. I often want to lose my shit at mothers who complain that their child at 3 months is not sleeping through, or that their baby at one week is eating on demand every 3 hours. I often wonder why people have babies if they are not willing to dedicate the time, patience, and respect for their little ones.
Then I take a breath, I get off my high horse, and I remember that I was one of those mothers too. Yes, I was the mother who would cry every day for the first few months because I could not cope with my new situation. I was the mother who called my sister when Liam was just two weeks old for advice on when I can put my baby on a routine because I couldn’t handle demand feeding (she has 3 kids of her own). I was the mother who was too scared to “over cuddle” my baby for fear of bad habits I would create down the track. I was the mother who looked at the clock for feeding times, instead of reading my baby. I was the mother who couldn’t handle my baby not sleeping, and even considered letting him cry it out (the lowest point of my motherhood journey). I was the mother who called a baby whisperer/sleep trainer because I needed help with my baby. I was the mother who wanted a minute alone. I was the mother who longed for my old life.
Yes, that was me.
My newborn baby sent shockwaves through my body. I didn’t know how to handle him or myself. My life changed so dramatically, and I found it hard to cope.
I will admit that as a mother some things came natural to me. Babywearing for example was something that I was into right from the beginning. I saw much more sense in carrying my baby and having him close to me than having him distant from me in a pram. Breastfeeding was also something that I took on with passion as a new mother. I struggled with breastfeeding for a whole month, and worked with a lactation consultant by my side in order to get Liam feeding properly. I was stubborn in my need to breastfeed, simply because I knew breast is best, and I wanted to give my baby the best start if I could.
Other areas of parenting were really difficult for me. Most of the time, I was just trying my best to keep my head above the water in a sea full of waves. Sleep, for example, was an area that we struggled with. When Liam moved to his 3 sleeps a day he wouldn’t sleep more than 45 minutes at a go. For memory, the rule of thumb is that babies at that age “should” be sleeping 1.25-1.5 hours each nap. Well my son didn’t. I tried the shhh pat method (patting with one hand slowly and saying shhh with the other), but even that didn’t work. I thought about going to sleep school but convinced myself I didn’t need to. I called 2 baby whisperers/sleep trainers because I was desperate. I listened to what they said, and thankfully something in my gut told me not to go ahead with a consultation.
One of my biggest lows in parenting was when I left Liam to cry. It must have only been 2 minutes, but it was long enough for me to still feel guilty about. My husband, Liam and I were staying at my parents while our house was being renovated, and we had put Liam down in the portacot upstairs. I remember walking down the stairs drained and exhausted, when I started to hear Liam crying again. My husband and I looked at each other saying
Me: you go
Husband: no you go
Me: i’m not going
Husband: neither am I
Me: so what are we going to do? Leave him to cry?
Husband: is that what we are meant to do?
Me: I don’t know. Maybe we should leave him for a few minutes.
Husband: I can’t handle this. It sounds stupid. I’m going to get him
And husband went upstairs and picked up Liam. I breathed a sigh of relief. This conversation must have lasted a minute, but by the time we got to Liam probably two minutes had passed. I felt so guilty, and to this day I find it hard to forgive myself for even considering leaving him to cry.
The truth is that we all start our parenting journey somewhere. Some of us continue on the same journey, while others diverge. A few months into my parenting journey, I listened to my gut instincts that had kept me in check since Liam was born, and finally had the confidence to follow the gentle path with great fervour. I became a “cuddler”, and let go of the noise that was trying to get me to be a “tamer”.
The question is – is it ever ok to judge another mother for the way she raises her child? I think Rita Brhel in her article ‘You are a good parent’ put it perfectly: “You are probably doing it the right way for you and your child, but so is the mother down the street who is doing everything opposite of you. We have to remember to expand our minds, to understand that judging is a part of who we are naturally, but that we can overcome it by being consciously tolerant of others”.
With those words, I wish you a great weekend full of blessed memories with your little ones. For all the new mothers reading this post, I hope that you have the strength to follow your heart and your true mother instinct and to do what is right for you and your family, and not anyone else’s. We all find our own way eventually.