Silver Lining: let moms be moms

September 12, 2014

let moms be moms


This week, someone told me I was parenting incorrectly.

I've had lots of experience with people saying unsolicited but well-meaning comments about the choices I'm making for my daughter. An offhand remark about how a pacifier made their child stop latching correctly, so I should be careful about giving my daughter a pacifier. Asking whether or not I do enough tummy time after seeing that my daughter can't hold her head up for very long yet. And LOTS of opinions about whether or not I should work outside of the home.

Usually, I don't mind these well-meaning comments. I know people are genuinely trying to help. In fact, when it's family or a close friend, I'm always seeking their advice and opinions.

But this time was different. It had already been a pretty long and hard day. I was in Costco, putting some baby formula into my cart.

"You know what they say, breast is best," I heard. I looked up to find a man standing across the aisle by the paper towels. I give him a half-smile and turned back to the formula.

"But really," he said. "When you breastfeed your baby, it gives them immunizations."

"Hmm," I said.

"Babies can't get those immunizations from formula. If you're not exclusively breast feeding your baby, he's not getting the best start."

At this point, I was mad. So I mumbled something even I couldn't understand, put the formula in the cart, and wheeled away as fast as I could. Of course, when I played it back in my head, I imagined myself throwing a can of formula at his head and shouting "Why don't you parent your own children and I'll parent mine, thankyouverymuch. Oh, and it's immunity. Breastmilk doesn't give your child immunizations, it gives them immunity. There's a difference!"

Someone needs to invent a rewind button on life, so when people think of these great comebacks hours later, they can rewind and play them out in real life ;)

Here's the thing. I'm not the first mom that's been told she's doing it wrong, and I'm sure I won't be the last. And I don't think that man woke up that morning and thought "if I see a new mom at Costco, I'll be sure to belittle her parenting choices." But still, it happens. And it bothered me for the rest of the day.

I'm a big believer that there's no one right way to raise a child. Talk to any mom with multiple children, and she'll tell you that each of her children had vastly different needs. I'm part of a few mom support groups on Facebook, where mothers can ask questions and get advice from other moms. A few weeks ago, one mom asked a question about circumcision, and I was really surprised at all the terribly negative, judgmental, and accusatory comments that stemmed from it. Why do we as human beings feel the need to judge other people so harshly? If circumcision is right for your child, do it. If it's not right for your child, don't do it. But please don't think that you have the answers for someone else's child.

My baby takes formula in bottles, because that's what's right for her and I. My baby takes a pacifier. My baby gets immunizations. My baby sleeps in her own crib. Those are all choices that are right for my baby. If your baby is the total opposite - exclusively breast fed, no pacifier, co-sleeps, that's great too!

I loved this article on stopping the mommy wars. Seriously, read it. I love the pictures.

How do you deal with unwelcome and unwanted criticism? About anything - not just being a parent. Should I have been more brave and told him that formula is a good choice for my baby? Or was it best to just walk away? I would love to hear your opinions.

In the meantime - happy weekend!
 


40 comments:

  1. Oh girl I have BEEN THERE! I was at the store when I had Rory and we had run out of formula so I had opened the can to give her a bottle since she was screaming (and she had stopped taking her pacifier at 3 months, sad day) and this woman gave me the dirtiest look and asked me why I was poisoning my baby! I just looked at her. I had no words to express my surprise and hurt at her words! I just wheeled my cart away and cried in the next aisle. NEVER judge another mom! I wrote a whole post about that actually hahaha

    http://crazyaligirl.blogspot.com/2014/08/baby-prep.html

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    1. I can't believe that lady outright told you you were poisoning her child! That is so ridiculous! Thanks for feeling my pain with me though :)

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  2. First--you doing a fabulous job. No worries on your parenting skills.

    Second--sometimes when that happens, I lie. (shhh) Sometimes when a random person criticizes me when they have no idea what they're talking about or my history, I say something I know will put them in their place, like, I was breastfeeding her, but she has a brain tumor and my pediatrician told me the extra enzymes in the formula might help her live longer. Stuff like that shuts them up pretty quickly and hopefully teaches them not to judge what they don't know.

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    1. Okay, I definitely need to think of a few of these for next time someone tells me I'm being a bad parent! Love the extra enzymes solution :)

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  3. I can't believe a man told that to you! Not that a woman should either, but do men talk about breastfeeding to women who aren't their wives?? Awkward! I do wish you could have corrected him on the immunizations thing, someone should clear that up for him :)
    I think you did the best thing, walk away and think of a clever retort for later!
    About 2 years ago the big social media mommy war issue was enjoying being at home with your children. That one killed me because it's not even really a choice. No stay at home mom wakes up and thinks, "wow, I can't wait to have another really depressing day with my children. I'm so glad I get to be sad all the time". There were constant articles about something that I consider to be personality differences. Yes, you can change your attitude, but people are all different, which means parents are all different! I actually think the mommy wars have gotten a bit better recently.
    She truly is the cutest and she looks like she loves her family! Keep up the good work. She looks just like you in that first picture.

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    1. The more I think about it, the more I think that man must have had some sort of social disability. It's not culturally acceptable to talk to random women about breasts and breastfeeding.

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  4. Or, "I wish I could breastfeed, but I've had a double mastectomy and can't." -when they look at your boobs-- "These are fake."

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    1. Brooke, I wish you had thought to say this!!! I could never do it with a straight face, but think of the look on the man's face. You are so ready for next time.

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    2. Hahahahaha I love that! Keep these fake excuses coming!

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  5. Your Aunt Julie is the best! And, I can't believe what that guy said to you! Don't people realize that moms already second guess themselves and agonize over the smallest decisions? We really don't need help with that. Taking care of children is hard enough.

    On the bright side of things, I've been really touched when someone (sometimes a complete stranger) offers their help in a moment of need without judging. Usually, it's other moms who've been there and get it. I hope you get to experience that side of people too.

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    1. I totally agree - as moms, we are second-guessing ourselves way too much, and agonizing over every little thing. I'm so glad you shared a positive experience too! I know they happen. It's just easier to focus on the negative sometimes. Thanks Britny :)

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  6. As the man on the inside, I can testify that this really did upset her for the rest of the day.

    But seriously, breast is best. Unless it isn't.

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  7. "It's immunity not immunizations!" Haha. What an idiot. I say if your baby is happy, healthy, and safe you are doing it right. Good job mama!

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    1. Thanks Anna! I feel so gratified by all these commenters like you who have my back :)

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  8. What a shitty, inappropriate thing for anyone to say - but particularly from a man to a woman. You know me; my reaction would be a big ''F*$! You and have a nice day!'' I'm impressed that you were able to walk away. But again, that just goes to show we all handle things differently. You're a great mommy. Keep on keepin on.

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    1. This is exactly why I need you to come to Costco with me, Liz.

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  9. As a society, we are very judgemental at times, and sometimes we don't think about how it will affect another person... Much less whether its appropriate to voice your opinions or keep them to yourself. We've all been judged as a parent, whether its a vocally or not, and we will continue to be till the end of time. You do you as a parent! You know your baby, you know you, you know your family, nobody on the outside knows those things - just remember that! You are doing the very best job of being a parent, regardless of the thoughts of others.

    I feel like I get judged a lot for being a stay at home mum, not only because 'I have no job' but because Alexander isn't getting more socialisation with other children - we go to play group once a week, we go out daily, we intend to attend the library story time when he turns one, he gets an abundance of socialisation with other children. He is less than a year old, his going to be attached to his primary care giver, and I'd much rather he was attached to one of his parents than a random nursery worker etc. I shouldn't have to justify myself for that.

    We all have our own way, and reasons, for doing things, so just let us get on with it!

    Your comeback would have been a great one!
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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    1. I hate that parents feel the need to justify and over-justify each decision we make for our child. What a great example of sticking to what you know is right. Thanks Jade!

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  10. Here's my confession: I was one of THOSE people before I had kids. No, I would never, ever say something to someone's face like that man did, but I regretfully thought it. I heard people say "formula" or saw commercials for it and rolled my eyes and said "lazy parents" under my breath and made promises to the world that when I have kids, oh, I will be the best breastfeeder ever! And then life happened. I had a very complicated delivery with my son, who is now 3. In fact, I had to be on so many stabilizing drugs for preeclamptic seizures (for the first few months of his life, actually) that he had to receive formula. I didn't even get to meet him until he was two days old. I let myself fall into a wading pool of post partum depression because of it. I've dealt with depression many times over my life, so you think I would have seen it coming -- but nope. I refused to leave the house. I made my husband drive to buy formula -- I wouldn't even go in the store to buy it -- and go two towns over so no one recognized him. I put the formula in Medela bottles and lied to people that I was, in fact, nursing. When my son was 3 months old, we went to a mommy and me singalong where another mom saw me mix a bottle and said "oh, that poor baby. Drinking poison!" I cried my eyes out in my car to the point where I was too hysterical to drive and made my parents come meet us to drive me home. I was able to get through it, but not without some sensitive feelings. When my son was 1, I was mostly over it but found myself getting defensive and sad when people blamed his asthma on formula (I was breastfed until 2 and had pediatric asthma, as did my breastfed sister, and my mother and everyone in her family has asthma -- so, yay genetics?) and didn't really like to talk about bottle feeding. Somewhere down the road, by the time my son was 2, I became so super open about formula feeding. I mean, I ROCKED that formula awareness. "Hell yeah, my baby was formula fed!" style.

    When my son was 2, he was talking up a storm and another mom at our mommy and me class said "oh, that vocabulary! The power of breastmilk!" I had no problem laughing and saying "or the power of infant formula...or the power of him just developing at his own pace. You choose!" I was able to look back at those early days and feel SAD that I left myself feel so...sad, about something SO SILLY.

    When I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, due shortly before my son turned 3, I made the decision to formula feed from the start. I was proud of this decision. I was able to proudly tell nay-sayers what I thought.

    Unfortunately, my daughter was born asleep in May. She was stillborn a couple of weeks before my son's 3rd birthday party. Suddenly I knew the meaning of a DARK time. Suddenly I knew what issues were important. In the days following her birth, I stood in the aisle at Whole Foods trying to find a tea to try up the milk that had come in to taunt me and remind me of my loss. Another mom said "honey, I know it's hard in the beginning. Please don't give up." Not taking a cue from my puffy eyes -- or, maybe, assuming they were puffy and sad for a different reason -- she continued to lecture me on why breastfeeding was the best I could do for my baby. I ended up storming out of the store in hysterics. I'm still disappointed I didn't stand up and tell her that I had no baby, and maybe nothing else mattered.

    Anyway, sorry for the novel. I am SO PASSIONATE about this. You are an amazing mommy. <3

    Lindsay
    http://www.youaretheroots.com

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    1. Lindsay, this is such an incredible story. I feel so honored that you shared it with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a wonderful example you are to me of courage and sticking to what you know is right!

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  11. I don't understand why people do this! Don't they get that parenthood/motherhood is hard enough without the unwarranted comments?! This just blows my mind. I'm sure you are doing a GREAT job... I mean just look at that beautiful baby girl! How could you NOT be doing a great job?! Also what is the new mom's support group on facebook and how do I get in on that?! Seriously though, we all need a good network like that in this psycho world.

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    1. Add me on Facebook and I'll add you to a group or two! Seriously, do it :)

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  12. Let moms be moms. I had the opposite problem. From the start my daughter won't take a bottle at all. Even if it was breastmilk. And boy that got impossible. As soon as she was old enough to have cow milk we switched her with sippy cups. A lot of people judged me because I couldn't leave her for long. I'm glad I was lucky enough to give her that. Don't let people bring you down. They all have opinions about everything.

    www.diaryofastayathomewife.blogspot.com

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    1. I think breastfeeding 100% of the time might be harder! And I agree - people have opinions about everything. It's my choice whether I let them bother me or not!

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  13. Wait I have a happy story about other people! Like Britny mentioned in her comment. One time I was at the grocery store with 3 year old Cole and 5 year old Rachel. My very best friend in the whole world was moving the Utah the next day. I had just watched Rachel say good bye to her daughter. I was unstable when I got there, and then things went from bad to worse... Standing in the middle of the produce section I burst into tears and yelled (like out loud, a real yell in public) "this is the worst day ever" or something along those lines. Then I leaned against the cart and kept crying. Another woman (probably a mom) came over and patted my back. She said, "It's going to be ok. Sometimes I open a bottle of a bottle of wine in the parking lot". I said that sounded pretty good and pulled myself together. She actually did have a right to treat me like a psycho in that instance, but she gave me the benefit of the doubt. I'll never forget that!

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    1. I LOVE that! Keep these positive moments coming! Frankly, there are some days where I feel like opening a bottle of wine in the parking lot too :)

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  14. That just makes me mad. That man had NO RIGHT! You're doing fabulous. No one understands anyone else's situation perfectly & has a place to judge. I struggled to breastfeed & felt so guilty with Graham. Everytime someone saw the formula I felt I had to explain myself & felt like such an awful mom. Who knew boobs were so emotional! Then I realized that I didn't have to. I fed my child! Isn't that what was necessary? With Kyden it was a little easier but still a struggle & formula saved us. However this time there was less guilt. I may even just skip it altogether on the next because that is the one of the hardest parts of having a baby for me. She is beautiful! Put them in their place next time, I love Julie's ideas! Also on the stay at home vs working mom thing, really people can't we just help each other! I feel that on the other side all the time (working mom). It's a personal choice. Put them in their place there too!

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    1. The thing that gets me is that strangers do not see the whole story. They only see one tiny thing you're doing, one tiny choice you're making, and not the whole picture. Keep doing what you're doing, and I hope your new year at the new school is going well!

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  15. If there's one thing I've learned in the two months since my baby was born, it's that being a mom is REALLY hard. I don't understand why moms are hard on other moms because we should all be keenly aware of how difficult it is. As for this man, he may not be a mom but he should know better. Just keep loving your baby. Love is far more important than the mundane practicalities of life.

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    1. I totally agree. I think people feel more at liberty to comment on choices as a mother than anything else because another human is involved. But being a mom IS hard! Moms second guess themselves all the time, and agonize over every little thing. Thank you for your comment Shelby!! Your tiny one sure looks cute :)

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  16. Can't believe that man! I second what Shelby said... I've on,y been a mom for fifteen days, and this mom thing is no joke. Moms already put so much pressure on themselves, we don't need it from other people.ma lady made a comment to me about having him out in the grocery store, implying that I'm putting him in this horrible danger. Shut it lady, my doctor said he is fine just as long as weirdos don't touch him!

    Keep doing your thing! She's beautiful and looks happy so you are doing something right!

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    1. Amen! It is so hard, especially right at the beginning! You are doing great, and I love seeing pictures of your cute little baby on instagram!

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    2. PS I always have my baby out in the grocery store. In fact, I like to wear her in the grocery store. And you're totally right, as long as weirdos don't touch him or her, it's fine!

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  17. I used to think there was only 1 right way to do several mothering things, but 5 kids later I stand corrected. If a parent loves their child and is trying their best that is awesome! Period. With all the parents who beat, torture and neglect their children, how can we possibly look down on 2 different ways of feeding, sleeping, soothing, etc.

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    1. I love this idea. When you keep things in the big perspective, we are doing great as long as we're not putting our baby in extreme danger. It's not important to judge each other on the little things like pacifiers.

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  18. I produced milk like a dairy cow and loved nursing my baby, however, we had to supplement Alex with formula per our pediatricians direction. The reason: Alex would NOT poop! Seriously, he would go three weeks without a bowel movement on a regular basis. I panicked and had him see a specialist because I was convinced he had something wrong. Nope, the proctologist said that he used my milk so efficiently that he did not need to poop. When he was born the not pooping was a problem because he had jaundice so severely that pooping was the only way to help clear it and since he would not poop we had to supplement with formula. I was already stressed about his jaundice. Well, one of those people who I swear troll the formula isles at store, made a comment to me that was unkind at best. I said "if you have a magic wand to make my son poop then I won't buy this stuff, if not be quiet!" My husband says that people who give unsolicited advice are trying to assuage their own guilt. Your sweet Clair seems like the happiest baby. Each time I read a post and see pictures of her I can only image your sweet mom playing with her before she came here. Playing with your mom would make anyone happy :-). By the way, the unsolicited opinions do not stop! People always seem to know how to parent your child better than you do. You will have a come back for next time I'm sure :-)

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    1. Thank you for confirming the fact that people's life jobs are to troll the formula aisle. I swear it's true. Especially since I've heard so many people talking about mean comments when buying formula! And I'm starting to accept the fact that people will be telling me how to parent for the rest of my life. Woohoo! But I'm getting better at realizing that I don't have to let their comments affect me. Thank you so much for the comment!

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  19. I'm a little late, but I want to say that my daughter was bottle fed from day one, and in daycare full time and NEVER GETS SICK. Like hardly ever. And maybe once while she was in daycare. Two years later I had Axel, nursed him from the start and stayed home with him all day every day and he get's sick ALL THE TIME. Starting at three months he's gotten sick like once a month. So take that "immunizations"!

    Also, having done both, I really want to bottle feed my next baby. So much less pressure on mom when you can let other people help feed her! And I never left him for the first 13 months (colic didn't help that) and he's really hard to leave with sitters now. Yeah, when I think of having a third baby I get all sorts of stressed until I think about bottle feeding and then I just feel light and happy.

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    1. I agree - I always thought breastfeeding was going to be this idyllic, relaxed thing, but actually it kind of stresses me out. And when I say kind of, I mean a lot. I really love feeding her bottles, and it just goes to show that one single parenting decision (feeding, daycare) determines how your child will be. THANK YOU for this comment!

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