I used to think my opinion mattered. In my sheltered, inexperienced mind, pre-kids, I would judge other parents. My face rarely revealed my disgust or shock or annoyance, but those were common emotions as I observed the tiny children I came across in public, even those of my friends. How could they be doing such a terrible job; it seemed so easy! Wipe the child’s nose when it runs– simple! Tell them no when they asks for french fries, and order applesauce instead. Why was that so hard? I was bewildered by parents who made it seem like such a struggle to keep kids on the right track. Laziness, I assumed. Inattentive parenting.
I was better than that. I would be better than that. I had a long list of things I would “never” do as a parent, and an equally as long list of things I would “always” do. Doing the right thing, the best thing, would always be a clear decision, a choice between black or white. I would always choose the best path, regardless of its ease.
And, then, I became a mom, and my memories came back to bite me in my smug behind. Parenting is hard. Not because we are lazy, or inattentive, or confused on which decision is the best decision, but because there are so many decisions to make! Picking my battles is imperative to keeping my sanity, though the times we go with the easier battles causes guilt to form a small ball in our stomachs. Did we do it right? Was that age appropriate? Will she hate us for this? Are we doing what’s best for her? Bite sized guilt meals, thanks.
Eventually, I grew my mom wings, and became more confident in my parenting. The newborn stage is downright scary, and on those days where she did nothing but cry, I would wail along with her. Why did I think this was going to be fun?! But, she grew, and I did, too, and soon it was fun. Is fun. A one-year-old is like the incarnation of happiness and innocence, and my days consisted of waking, playing, smiling, laughing, and cuddling. I slipped into a different mindset when observing kids in public, my eyes sliding to a table at restaurants as their toddlers threw tantrums. Poor thing. Been there.
This summer shocked my system. So many diagnoses, so many bizarre, puzzling and unbelievable syndromes and symptoms to look up and research. I joined support groups and read, and the things I read astonished me. The things these parents do for their kids. The complex, tiring, emotionally draining and heart wrenching things they do. Their testimonies and pleas of advice from fellow parents altered a piece of me. These parents weren’t worried about a minor tantrum or a snotty nose. They weren’t concerned with Pinterest-worthy crafts or cutesy kid lunches organized into the likeness of a clown. They were dealing with real stuff. And, I felt ashamed for the earlier version of myself, again. I had been so shallow, so obtuse!
Because, it was me, now. I was one of those parents, doing things I never thought I’d have to do for my baby. A thousand doctor appointments in a day. Ordering medical supplies, learning how to care for wound sites, and asking for advice when a medical mishap would happen. A snotty nose? Dear god, really? Who cares!
Nobody. Nobody cares. Just the smug, inexperienced mom in the corner booth, judging before she has lived, before she understands. Before her hands are full and her shirt is dirty, and she has a sick baby, and a bored toddler. You might have the healthiest baby on the planet, and decisions are still hard, because you want the absolute best for them, and the anxiety that you might choose wrong, and hurt or damage this reincarnation of your heart and soul, is overwhelmingly scary. Or, you might have a child that requires 24 hour care, and all of those hours include you. Your decisions might be a tad bigger, a tad more complex or complicated, but they’re still choices. They’re not black and white, they’re not easy, and no one deserves judgment.
We’re all moms. We’re all just trying to make it. We need to be able to reach out our hand for help, and have ten more reach back to steady us.
We need an encouraging smile, a shoulder-squeeze. A hug. Some supportive words.
No more judgment, moms. Please.