Monday, October 24, 2011

cleaning out my Thought Closet

I like to believe I am 100% open hearted.  That I can understand other's circumstances, no matter how different from my own.  I sometimes even trick myself into thinking I am free from judgement.  Then, I step back and watch my thoughts, and I know that I am judgemental.  Phew.  It is hard to admit this.  It is hard to post this when so new to the blogging world.  What will you think?  Will you high tail it out of here and never return?

But, It is true!  I hold judgements on others that I am so very far from proud of.  I make broad-sweeping statements, with the best of intentions about what is best and what everyone should or shouldn't do.    The ones I find in myself that disgust me most are those about parenting styles.  Thankfully, I am being reminded that, Mama, you are not your parenting style!  You are You.  I am Me.  We don't have to do the same things.  We don't hold the same standards for ourselves.  And we certainly do not have to be perfect.

How do I get off thinking that I must be "Perfect Mom"?  You know, expecting my self to cloth diaper, stay at home with my kid, eat only organic food, hand-make my baby's clothes, never have the baby in front of the TV, not use antibiotics, birth without medication, nurse on demand (and be the human pacifier), co sleep until my baby is ready for their own bed, oh and keep my house perfectly clean.  With a smile on my face.  And, really, the problem pops up greater in my expectation of others to do the same.  My silly idea that this is the only way to parent.  Sure, for me lots of those expectations can be met, because they are ideals for myself and they work in our family.  But to feel saddened at the sight of a baby with a paci stuck in his mouth?  Disturbed when a mom shares her excitement of preparing a nursery?  I am finding that not only is it inappropriate for me to make these judgements on others, but I am carrying around this baggage that everyone expects me to follow all these rules too.  Because truthfully I'd love it if my baby sucked on a paci nowadays.  And then I think, really, where did this idea of "Perfect Mom" come from?  It surely can not be solely self-imposed.

I just finished Inconsolable, by Marrit Ingman, and boy did she rip me a new one about parental judgements.  This was something I had been overlooking, that here we are as moms trying to do it all, and likely feeling inadequate.  Trying to truly keep up appearances of ourselves and our families, when there are those days, frequently for me, where I am lucky to get out of my pajamas (which are half-made of what I wore yesterday).  Seriously, I take a shower twice a week at best right now.  I may be judged by others for letting the baby take over my life, while I am judging myself for not being able to do it all, and all the while I am also thinking I am better than those who put down their crying baby so that they can enjoy 10 minutes in hot water alone.  I must ask myself, umm, who's giving us report cards?

Ingman writes:
We (are) afraid of being judged.  There's that word again.  Judgement is a leitmotif of motherhood- along with guilt.  Neither feeling is constructive; neither comforts your child or fills you with energy or feeds people.  You will feel judged regardless of you particular choices.  If you have a hospital birth with a physician, you will be judged as retrograde and out of touch with your body.  If you are having a home birth with a midwife, you will be judged as insane and a threat to your baby.  I watched a mother of two -a student midwife-collapse into tears of gratitude when she was finally able to confess that she had her son circumcised because penile cancer runs in her family; in fact, she'd recently watcher her father die from it.  I've seen women who refused circumcision branded as controlling bitches putting their children at risk for the sake of their politics.  Get the eye ointment and be judged; refuse it and be judged; don't vaccinate and be judged.
And this is what makes us crazy...the feeling that we have failed in spite of ourselves

No one is giving me a report card, regardless of my need for a pat on the back.  And I am not here to give anyone else a report card, any more than my baby is here to please me.  I can keep on idealizing a hippie version of Susie homemaker all I want, but no one is going to grade me on how close I come to this goal.  I can strive to do it all.  I just gotta not beat myself up when I don't.  I must remember that I am me.  That  motherhood is a brilliant part of me, but not all of me.  And, most of all, I have to let go of the idea that others should ascribe to the same standards I hold.  Another snippet from Ingman's book:
It's not wrong to have ambitions, to dream of home-sewn Halloween costumes, (or ones we just "whip up" because we're so crafty), and slow food and perfect portraits and cooperative preschool.  But we have to remember that our standards of success, of happiness, of demonstrating our love for our children are inflated.  We'll never meet them.  Our reach will always exceed our grasp.  Some days it is perfectly legitimate to feel proud that everyone is simply still alive.

I have to take a moment here and thank all of my friends for parenting differently than me. My parents and in-laws, too.  But, mostly, those friends of mine that I think I can pigeon hole into the same-type-of-mom group, and then they totally surprise me with some of their choices.  They blast the natural-attachment-parenting mom label to smithereens.  Maybe they give their baby pacies and love it, they use disposables, their kid hangs out in its car seat,  they vaccinate, or they make confident, clear minded choices to have a cesarean birth.  All these things can be a part of raising a natural, healthy, attached child.  Because of my own judgements, I would have previously thought "No!  Not possible!  We can't put our babies down in their car seat with plastic toys!" .... but we can if it works for us.  I love you, mama friends, for blowing these parenting labels out of the water.  Thank you, for helping me reconsider my biases and judgements.  

I'm airing the skeletons in my Thought Closet, people.  Filtering through what fits, and what has got to go.  This is an ongoing process of course.  I hope I am not over-sharing, I'm just trying to keep it real.

I've been stewing this post in my head for weeks now, afraid to share these judgements and better-than and not-good-enough thoughts I have held.  I did not even know that I believed some of these things until I was a parent, and started seeing others parent differently.  In the meantime, through internet conversations and searches, I have found other mamas speaking to a similar tune.  I am thankful to the inspiration and courage to write this, that has been influenced by Inconsolable,  these thoughts from SortaCrunchy,  and an article I read this summer in Natural Family magazine by this woman.  Again, so many big thanks to my friends and family for helping me see my judgements, blast open labels, and be a kinder, gentler, human being.  You are teaching me, wether you know it or not.


  1. Well written. Well placed. Everyone needs to have honest discussions with themselves, and sometimes others, about the "J" word. You're teaching me (and others) too Lissie. Love you so much!!

  2. I love reading your mama-ing posts because I know that you and I are going to have such different parenting styles and I'm looking forward to what I can learn from watching (reading?) you with with Sly. I know that I'll be having medicated hospital birth (because as much as I'd love to go natural at home, I'm terrified of complications because of past experiences), I'm probably going to use disposables and a paci, and I'm terrified of cosleeping (though I plan to have him with us for a while, at least). Maybe with our next baby, I'll be more comfortable in my ability to mother properly (whatever that means, right?!?) and I'll be brave enough to try the more "hippie Suzie homemaker" approach. Keep up the good work and sharing your experiences - you're teaching us all so much and you're obviously doing something right, look at that beautiful baby boy!

  3. Kimmy ~ the "J" word! it's a sneaky booger, right there with it's sister, another J word - Jealousy. difficult to look at, but oh so worth it. thanks for following <3

    Kristi ~ thanks for you comment!! i think there is no real "proper" way to mother, no right or wrong, as long as you are following your heart. and we gotta support each other no matter what our parenting style is. we are parents at the core of it ... and we gotta stick together! so excited to hear your journey as well :)


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