Ok, maybe it isn’t as bad as war, but some days it sure does feel like you have to pick a side and fight.
In today’s day and age, we are bombarded with information, recommendations, advice and well-meaning friends who “just want to say….” It’s exhausting! Because it isn’t just the hot button topics like circumcision and immunisation.
In our era of social media, a single statement or photo can see a great mother attacked and thoroughly dragged through the wringer. Personally I have many strong views, I am 100% for vaccinating my kids, I am a staunch breast feeder and advocate, I believe circumcision is unnecessary, I use a cotton wrap or ergo baby carriers, I have co–slept with all of my babies. And guess what? All of these things are my choice as a mother, and what I believe is right for my kids.
I have friends and family who choose differently. Would I ever bash them for their choices? No way! I’ve had many friends come to me for advice, some have been near insanity trying their hardest to breast feed.
If I forced my beliefs onto them and told them to suck it up, and breast feeding is best for their babies. Who does that help? Does it help that mother feed her child, and enjoy new motherhood? Does it help the baby, who certainly would be feeling and picking up on mum’s tension, feed better and settle better?
Of course not. All that would serve would be for me to feel superior and one up another mum, when all she needs is some compassion, some educated advice, and most of all – someone telling her that no matter how her baby is fed, her baby is loved, cared for, and has a full belly.
I’ve had a friend of mine gently and compassionately help me out when I got my first wrap carrier. I really had no idea how to use it properly. But I gave it a go, and excitedly posted a photo.
My friend started out by first complimenting me, then gently explained how the wrap should sit to support baby, where her legs should be positioned etc. I was so grateful, the way she spoke to me made all the difference in the world, she approached me with kindness. I thanked her and asked her advice as to how I should go about it.
Now if she’d have gotten online and said ” Oh my God, what are you doing? You’re using that carrier the wrong way! You will damage your baby!” How do you think I would have reacted? I automatically would have become defensive, I’d have gotten upset and I probably wouldn’t have used that wrap again, and certainly wouldn’t have asked how to use it properly.
It’s very easy for us to believe that our style of parenting is the best way, or the only way it should be. If you are happy and confident in the way you parent, excellent! That’s awesome, be proud of yourself. Stand in your own power and be confident with the choices you make.
But remember; we are all different, we all think we are doing the best for our families. None of us need to change, convince, bash or be negative towards another parent just because they are different.
If someone you know or see is doing something that you don’t agree with (excluding serious or emergency situations). Be kind, compliment that parent on their beautiful family and what a great job they’re doing.
We all know just how hard parenting is, no matter how we differ, we can all agree that being a mum is hard work. If someone wants advice, they will ask you. And if they know that you are going to accept their differences, they will more often than not come to you over someone who is hard line, or they will stay silent and suffering, thinking they can’t talk to anyone for fear of being attacked.
I’m not perfect, never claimed to be. There’s been many times where I’d have loved to stick my nose in and offer advice, but I realise that it’s my need, or want. Not the other persons, sometimes I’ll see a friends post, which falls under my area of expertise, I want so much to jump on that post and impart my knowledge. But I don’t, I step back, think about how that person would feel if I hijacked a post that wasn’t asking for advice.
Mostly I’ll put my ego aside and say something cheery to my friend. Or if it’s really bugging me, I’ll send a PM starting with ” I know you didn’t ask for advice, but if you did have any questions or wanted some information on ‘x subject’ I am here. Please don’t take this as interfering or judgement, and feel free to tell me to bugger off!” I’ll either get back “Thanks, but I’m good” Or “Yeah actually, I was wondering about x, y, z.”
And to be quite honest with myself and you, I realise that even sending those messages is more about me than them. Not that I ever think i’m being selfish, because I want to share my knowledge, it’s my personality, I want to help, that’s my calling.
I could justify it to myself a thousand different ways “I know I can help here, I know I have the education to help, I know so many tips and tricks that could help, it looks like that person has been given bad information.” I could go on and on justifying my sticking my nose in. Sure I do know lots, sure I’ve had 25 years experience as a mother, sure I’m a doula, sure I’ve had loads of training, sure my job is lots of educating and supporting – so I should do it.
No I shouldn’t. As I said, that’s my need. Even though I have the best intentions, who’s to say i’m not making that person feel judged? There’s a huge difference between my clients asking for information and advice, or my friends and family asking for advice, than me offering.
No matter how nicely or innocuously I word it, what I may think sounds neutral and caring could very well come across to that other person as rude and uncaring. I have to remember that everyone who knows me, knows how long I’ve been a mum, they know I’m a doula, they know I have the education and raining to help, if they want it. And I think each one of us has to take that step back from time to time and ask ourselves: Am I doing this for their benefit, or my own want to speak? Am I really trying to help this person? Or do I want them to do things my way?
It’s not easy to look at yourself critically, sometimes it’s a slap in the face when we realise what we have been saying and doing. We can either hold onto our ego and beliefs, that we are the ones in the right. Or we can be honest with ourselves and admit to ourselves that yes, we may have crossed a line.
You don’t have to make grand proclamations or publish a blog accepting your mistakes as I am doing. You can however change the way you approach other people, maybe you realise you need to apologise to someone. Maybe you realise that not everyone is asking for advice and all you have to do is accept that.
If we have to proclaim our views so strongly and so often, maybe we should be asking ourselves why we have to do that. Are we doing that to convince someone else? Or are we trying to gain acceptance and convince ourselves?
Sometimes the loudest voices are the most insecure. We want to be accepted and we want people to tell us that our choices are good ones. So we talk and talk about how our choices are the best, just hoping that our friends, family and even strangers will agree that our choices are right.
No-one can give us that confidence but ourselves. If you believe that your choices are right for you, then remember exactly that; your choice is right for you. If you’re feeling a little unsure about your choices, but you still believe it’s right for you, then do a little more research, question the facts, question yourself.
Until you reach the point that no matter what anyone else thinks, you are confident in your choices, and you have no need to convince anyone else.
What we all need is a more loving and accepting world, a place where we can do things our way, and still be accepted and celebrated by other mothers. There is no need for negativity. Being negative takes so much energy, and nothing positive comes from it.
But being positive, being kind, being accepting of others brings so many rewards. You may make friends in the most unlikely of places, you have support when you are struggling or having a rough day. You have the honor of being the person someone can turn to in a time of need or for advice. You gain a sense of community and feel like you belong to something bigger than yourself.
We need to end the Mummy wars, and all we need to do for that to be possible is to accept that we are all different and show a little love. And every single one of us is more than capable of that.
Do you avoid the Mummy wars? Share with us in the comments.