Fight Me: Why Moms Are Always On The Defence
Have you ever tried to offer someone advice about kids? Hopefully they asked you first! If not, then odds are you felt the wrath of a defensive mama bear.
Moms (myself included) have a tendency to always be ready to snap back at anyone who dares judge their parenting choices. It's easy to joke about or criticize this but the truth is, moms are always on the defense because we've been taught that we have to be!
Every decision we make for our children will potentially be met with criticism. If you have a natural birth, you just got lucky because a c-section would be so much worse. If you have a c-section, you didn't actually give birth. If you take an epidural, you're weak. If you don't, you went through pain for no reason and that's not really anything to be proud of.
Allow TV time? Lazy. Ban TV? Too uptight. Breastfeed? Not everyone can, it's just luck. Don't celebrate because it will hurt people's feelings! Formula feed? You should've tried harder to breastfeed. Choose cloth diapers? Gross! Disposable diapers? Terrible for the environment.
There is nothing we can do that is going to please everyone. There's nothing we can do that won't result in someone telling us why we're "doing it wrong." The world is horrifically judgmental and moms take on quite a bit of that from both parents and non-parents. It's no surprise this results in a culture where moms feel the need to defend every move they make - even if no one has questioned it (yet.)
From the moment the first pregnancy is announced, moms are under a microscope that no one seems to realize they've put them under. Advice is flying and it's incredibly overwhelming. Even a woman who has been well-warned by her friends who already made the motherhood leap can find herself unprepared for the intensity of it all.
Nutrition, sleeping, playing, education, and even fashion are all up for grabs when it comes to things a mom can (and will) be judged for. My most recent experience of this was in a discussion surrounding minimalism as a lifestyle. I said that although I am trying to embrace the idea of minimalism more, I wouldn't get rid of my son's things without his permission. Of course, my son is only one so I was asked what that even meant.
I explained that one example was that I had packed up toys for donation but my son took a few out of the box to play with so I kept them. It didn't take long for the insults to fly. "That's not minimalism then." "You have to teach him to get rid of things." "He doesn't understand it, just take the toy back and get rid of it. Who cares?"
I should have expected that. I should have been more careful or kept my personal ideas to myself. It's not that I think their way is wrong but I think it's wrong for me. I feel comfortable with the way we're approaching things like toys with our son. I feel confident that he's going to turn out just fine in this regard. But I let my guard down and shared "my way" and was instantly attacked for it.
This is just one of many examples and any other mom could tell you plenty of her own stories. These experiences we all have train us to keep our guard up and be ready to defend ourselves and our kids at any moment. If you're a parent, you're not alone. You're not the only one who feels constantly scrutinized. If you're not a parent - now you know. You know why we're often less than happy when comments come our way. Why we're always "on the defense."
Next time you have advice to share, be aware that you may get a less than welcoming response. Not because we're mean but because we've been shown time and time again that we are under attack. So how to help? Well, it's actually pretty simple!
1. Make sure we're open to your advice. If things are going well and we're happy. Let it be! What works for you isn't for everyone else and vice versa.
2. If you feel you really must give us advice, (and seriously if something we're doing is unsafe or there is an easier way, let us know!) then start out with identifying what we're doing right first. When all you hear is the negative and the hate, it gets exhausting. It often makes you pretty much shut down when people start in on you. So start out with a compliment (they're nice to hear!)
At the end of the day, motherhood is a lot more "figuring it out as we go" than any of us expected. A lot of our ideals have given way to reality and some days it's just about surviving. Be patient with the defensive mom because plenty had to happen to get her to that place. Make sure all your help comes from a caring, understanding place and remember, we're all in this together.