And They’ll Know We are Mothers by Our Guilt

My father came to me with an idea when I started The Lorix Chronicles.

“You should write about natural health and cloth diapers and that sort of thing.”

My mind flashed back to two years ago, when my daughter was a year and a half. I wanted to start a blog called Informed and Aware, about cloth diapers,vaccinations,breastfeeding and the many choices we have as parents. I was going to help people become informed…and aware. Even with the load of parenting magazines and books about parenting, I thought parents were uninformed and unaware.

“Dad, there are a lot of blogs and websites like that already. I think I’ll just stick to what I’ve been writing.”

“But you use cloth diapers and homeopathic medicines and all of that. I think people would want to know more about it.”

“No, Dad. Parents get that stuff shoved down their throats all the time. They don’t need more of it.”

What I meant to say was “I don’t need more of it.” I’ve had enough. One expert advises sleeping with your child, while another says it’s best to let your baby cry it out.  Some mothers nurse their children until they are toddlers and others scoff at such perversion. Reading parenting books and listening to parenting advice leaves me feeling confused and conflicted.  No, the world doesn’t need any more parenting advice.

Before Beatrix was born someone told me “Do what works best for you and your family.” When I found what worked best for me, I began to pass judgment on parents who did things differently. If someone commented on Beatrix’s cloth diaper, instead of saying, “Yes, we use cloth,” I would go into a whole speech. “You should see the way they make these things. They’re awesome. They’re cute and easy to use. If you ever want to try, let me know and I’ll help you find the right ones.”

I wasn’t trying to inform. I was trying to convert.

Do what works best for you and your family became You should do what I do because it works best for me.

Why did I care how other people raised their children? Why did it matter which parenting philosophy (if any) they followed, if they breastfed or formula fed, or if they had a natural, medicated or C-section birth?

I realized if I was judging others, they might be judging me as well. So I tried to be the perfect mom, which meant I had to live up to other people’s expectations.  The only thing I gained from that was guilt. I felt guilty when I couldn’t keep my house clean, but my friend with two children had a spotless house. I agonized over the decision to use disposable diapers at night because the cloth diapers smelled like the elephant’s cage at the zoo. The moms on the online cloth diapering forum made it clear that it was cloth or nothing else. I questioned everything I did as a parent, wondering if I was doing it right.

When Milo was born, I used cloth diapers and breastfed him. I carried him in a baby carrier, made my own baby food, and used homeopathic remedies when he got sick. I also cut some corners. I started to use disposable diapers, formula, over-the-counter pain medication, a stroller, and store-bought baby food. I made it easier on myself, but I still felt the guilt.

Then I started attending a Postpartum Depression (PPD) Support Group, where the phrase “They’re not babies forever” is an encouragement and not a warning. I listened to other women’s stories, and came to understand that mommy guilt is abundant.

“It makes me feel horrible,” one mom said, “when I pass those WIC billboards that are plastered along the highway, promoting all the benefits of breastfeeding. I’m sorry I can’t breastfeed. I tried, I really tried, but I don’t have any milk supply.”

“It makes me feel guilty, too,” said another. “I don’t want to breastfeed. It’s never been something I’ve wanted to do, but I feel like I get pressure from everyone.”

Another chimed in. “I had the opposite problem. My grandmother told me I was going to kill my baby because I breastfed her. She thought she should only have formula.”

Mommy guilt is not a new phenomenon. My mother told me she experienced it when I was three years old. I was the youngest of four, and she had to put me in daycare when she started working. She says being a working mother was the thing to do back in the seventies, but she still questions whether she made the right decision.

Though I remember the daycare facility – with fondness – I am clueless about most of the decisions she made as a mom. I would have no idea if she breastfed me, save for the fact that she told me she did. I don’t know if she let me cry it out or co-slept. I don’t know if she used cloth or disposable diapers. And none of it matters, except for the fact that she did what she thought was right for her and not for anyone else. And the only thing that matters to me, and the one thing I do know, is that she loved me.

Isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t we hold our judgment and let parents be parents without guilt or shame? Keep your house spotless or let the laundry and dishes pile up. Go to work or stay at home. Breastfeed or formula feed or do both. Be a helicopter mom, be a soccer mom, be a slacker mom (and if you don’t know what those labels mean, maybe you’re better off). Be the mom that you are, and be confident in that. In other words, do what works best for you and your family, and know that others are going to do it differently than you. No one is perfect, and everyone has different ideas about what it means to be perfect anyway.

This past week at PPD Support Group our facilitator asked us to tell the group how PPD has changed us. I told the group that I’m learning to be confident in who I am as a mother. I’m not afraid to be honest about having PPD. I’m not afraid to wear my pajamas all day. I’m not afraid to feed my child organic homemade rice and lentil cereal one day and Cheetos the next. I’m not afraid to let other moms raise their children the way they choose.

I’m not the mom I imagined I would be.  I may not be the mom others expect me to be.

But I love my children. And if I love my children, that is all that matters.

I’m done with the mommy guilt.

 

How about you?

 

Have you experienced mommy guilt?  The very wise women in my writing group tell me it never goes away, but one can hope, right?  What do you think?

You may have noticed I had a bit of “link fun” with this post.  Tell me what you think – was it a distraction or did it make the post more interesting?

As always, I love to hear your comments!

Advertisements

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deanne
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 18:11:49

    Wow…you have a gift! Mommy guilt never goes away…but the good thing is that we can become aware of it…and most importantly keep it in check. I still find myself (not as often!) measuring myself against the decicions of the other moms trying to raise a teenage girl in this society. Now that I’ve done this for a few years, I’ve learned to take in the information…say to myself…is this best for my daughter? And to let my instincts guide me. (A little prayer helps too!) I’m reading a book by Dan Alendar about how our kids actually raise US to be parents. So true…none of us has a handbook! I’m glad you are sharing your journey with us Mandy!

    Like

    Reply

    • lorixmom
      Feb 14, 2011 @ 08:44:07

      My former boss told me that all children come with a handbook, but it’s kept inside them and they’re the only one who knows how to read it! So true!

      Like

      Reply

  2. Larissa
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 15:43:31

    Mandy, I know I’m late in reading this one, but I just had to let you know what an chord you struck in me! When you talked about how you don’t know what decisions your mom made or didn’t except for the ones she’s told you about, I realized that’s so true!!! All these things that we stress ourselves out over to such a degree aren’t important at the end of the day as long as we love our children and do the best we can whatever that is. Once again, thank you!! xo

    Like

    Reply

  3. nikki
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 07:33:21

    Wow Mandy, great post! That sounds like FREEDOM to me!!! I celebrate that sister. Keep writing. It is healing you day by day. You can hear it in the words. They jumped off of the screen in this post.

    Love you!

    Nik

    Like

    Reply

    • lorixmom
      Feb 04, 2011 @ 10:04:50

      Thanks Nikki! It is freeing and it is healing. It’s strange how writing about the most personal and vulnerable parts of my life has led me to be more confident in myself.

      Don’t worry…I’ll keep writing!

      Like

      Reply

  4. Cassie
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 08:39:02

    YES!

    When was pregnant and I got formula samples in the mail I wanted to throw them away. All my prenatal education had made one thing vert clear : BREAST MILK GOOD, FORMULA BAD. The other thing I took away my books and classes was that any woman can breast feed and if you are having trouble a lactation consultant will solve all your problems. Did I judge mothers who used formula? Yes. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true.

    Fast forward two months and my “dedication” to breast feeding is one of my major reason I ended up in Pine Rest.

    It’s true, you really have to to what’s right for YOUR family. Breast milk is the best choice for a baby when the mommy can handle it. But my baby needed a mommy that was not going to be having panic attacks all day long. So formula is it.

    Thanks for the post

    Like

    Reply

    • lorixmom
      Feb 04, 2011 @ 10:03:00

      It’s hard to not judge ourselves if we’re judging others, isn’t it? That was my problem. But I couldn’t hold myself to my own expectations, and I do believe that contributed to my PPD.

      I am so glad you were able to do what was best for YOU. I’m sure your baby is glad too, especially if it means that mommy can spend more time with her!

      Like

      Reply

  5. Judy Hirdes
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 22:52:05

    I remember comparing myself as a mom and housewife to everyone else and feeling like I was the worst of them all many times. That was over 30 years ago and there wasn’t as much information available as readily. Glad you are deciding to be who you are and do the best you can.

    Like

    Reply

    • lorixmom
      Feb 04, 2011 @ 09:58:04

      I compare myself to others moms all the time, and I realize that it does not help me in any way, shape or form. I am me, I have always been me, and I need to not only accept that, but be confident in that. I know my family loves me, and that is enough to show me that I’m a good mother.

      Like

      Reply

  6. janderson9874
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 11:15:21

    Oh thank you! Sadly, the editor of that blog doesn’t think it’s too terribly important to have such features. I try and update it about every week to every couple of weeks. Since my husband has left all of my creative energy has gone into pretending to be a three year old every night and my other blog has sort of been pushed to the side. But, you’ve inspired me to update it…I shall get on it right now 🙂

    Like

    Reply

  7. janderson9874
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 01:13:59

    AMEN!!!

    If I wasn’t too pregnant and too tired to stand up and clap…I would be doing just that. Completely agree with everything you said!

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog Stats

  • 8,838 hits
%d bloggers like this: