Monday, July 30, 2012

My Way Is NOT Best

I often joke about the negative things motherhood has brought to my life- lack of sleep, no free time, an acceleration of the aging process, increased need for wine, etc.  The truth is, motherhood has brought an innumerable amount of positive things to my life as well.  In addition to the great things about my kids, becoming a mom has developed a more compassionate and non-judgmental side to my personality that I might not have had otherwise.  Instead of being annoyed or just walking past the mom with the screaming baby in the grocery store, I’m much more likely to ask if there’s anything I can do to help.  When I see someone with a different parenting style than mine, I try hard to understand and be respectful of the fact that we aren’t all the same, instead of automatically assuming what they are doing is wrong. Believe me, this skill has developed over time.  At first, I was one of "those moms" too. Thinking that I knew what was best, but after many a sleepless night, uncontrolled tantrums (not mine), and moments of realization that I had NO IDEA what I was doing as a parent, I've opened my eyes to a new perspective. No one has it figured out! Everyone has moments of utter desperation, and everyone has moments of triumph in parenthood. No one has a right to think they have it all together. 
I think part of my hesitation to judge others, especially other moms, comes from the fact that my own parenting and lifestyle choices have been judged by family and friends.  And honestly, it doesn’t feel too good.  I had a conversation with my mom the other day regarding correct ways to discipline. We all do it differently.  I must admit, before kids, I was the stiff in the high heels looking down my nose at the disheveled mom who wouldn't bend her unruly child over her knee for a swift "coming to Jesus" moment. What are these mom's problems?! What this child needs is a good beat-down! But as a mom, I realized in a quick minute that all children are different and the discipline that works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. Another judgement that was made by a few friends was my choice to not breastfeed. In all fairness, I had some extenuating circumstances surrounding my delivery that put off my ability to breastfeed the boys the first few days of their lives and after those days, my body decided that milk wasn't necessary. Thanks, boobs, for the vote of confidence. After some discouragement, I decided not to continue to try any longer and that decision seemed to be a big deal to some. This was a decision that many new moms make, but I’m not going to judge someone who chooses something different that what I did.  (By the way, the intention of this blog is not to start a debate about the acceptable amount of time to breastfeed.)       
I’ve had others question a variety of decisions I’ve made, from how much weight I gained during my pregnancy (Holy 72 lbs!), to what I feed my kids, to how much tv I let them watch.  The interesting thing is that it’s mostly been moms who do it, less out of concern, but more because I’m doing something different than how they’d recommend.  I would think that every mom has experienced this at one time or another, so moms should be the most sensitive to this kind of criticism.  Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.  My feeling is that unless a child is in danger (which definitely isn’t the case in my situation), most parents know their kids better than anyone else.  They are trying to do a good job of raising them and making the decisions they think are best.  It’s fine to offer feedback when asked, but be careful about telling someone they aren’t doing something right just because it’s different.
I think this lesson can apply in many aspects of life, not just parenting.  Our society tends to judge anyone who is different for whatever reason:  because of their size, religion, income level, political views -- the list goes on and on.  I know it sounds a little idealistic, but I think it would be nice if we could learn to understand and accept differences instead of always assuming our way is the best way.
What do you think?