Originally published in The Exhausted Mama Challenge by Bonne Nuit Baby:
To end the challenge with a bang, I’ve invited Sara Lyon to write about a topic that’s a bit different than what we’ve seen so far. Sara is the founder of Glow Birth & Body and the creator of The Birth Deck. She’s my entrepreneurial spirit animal and is equal parts cool girl and wise soul.
Throughout the challenge, we’ve talked about various way achieve the same result: More energy, both physically and mentally. We’ve brainstormed hacks to help us get into bed earlier, ditch our devices, find and effectively use what little free time we have… and it’s been amazing.
Today Sara talks about something that you probably don’t associate with mom fatigue, but is an ever-present factor in most of our daily lives: Mom shame and mom guilt. Two sides of the same coin, both of which can really deplete our energy without us even realizing it.
Curious? Read on!
WHY JUDGE A MOTHER
by Sara Lyon
In the years I’ve been a mother, and the decade before that working with moms & moms-to-be, I’ve observed some things about judgment and jealousy.
Mothering begins early in pregnancy or in the adoption process. Recognizing that I am wading into sensitive territory and acknowledging that only a woman can decide for herself how she is identifying within her experience, I will carry on with my point.
From the time you feel those sore breasts, that dragging exhaustion and nagging nausea, you are IN IT. You are catapulted into a diligence process unlike any you’ve encountered.
You are weighing the vitamins, the practitioners, the birth venues, the tests, the future teachers and the prenatal thought leaders. You are engrossed in a high-stakes game of “This, Not That.”
These decisions come at the cost of great chapters of time; late nights Google-ing, a late-in-life discovery of VLOGS, endless pro-con-pro analysis with a (hopefully) patient partner who just wants to watch the game or go to sleep already.
This research is an investment and you are damn well going to make the best decision that time, effort and money can afford. Only the best for yours!
All of this deciding necessitates a stance. You have choices to make. And in choosing some things you are actively NOT choosing others. With great pains, you are so deep in reconnaissance that you are now a low-grade expert on a variety of topics from cord-blood banking to co-sleeping. And now you have ammunition, locked and loaded, against all the naysayers, those who disagree with your ultimate decisions.
And, to be clear, if someone has chosen a path different from yours, they must disagree with you, right? Because they’ve also gone through the pain-staking process of obsession and deliberation to come to their personal parenting decisions. They have actively NOT chosen your path. You are in disagreement and now you are both defensive. Toxic.
There are very few decisions that feel so damn personal. If you’re a lawyer and I’m an engineer, we chose different occupations, different foci, and thus we can respect one another’s expertise. If I love shabby-chic and you’re into mid-century-modern, we can still enjoy one another’s home because how much time did we really take making furniture decisions anyway? Not a whole lot.
In parenting, however, we are all experts. We’ve all done our due diligence under the perceived threat of dire consequences over a misstep. It’s loaded.
So what if we step back and simply don’t take it all so personally. What does my 5 year old say? “Don’t ‘Yuck’ my ‘Yum’, it’s not nice.” If my method is working for me and even if it isn’t, let me enjoy and learn from my decision. There isn’t one right way, contrary to popular theory.
I’ve seen friendships strained and even ended by the pressures of this conflict. It’s. So. Personal. So just stop. Stop. Rest your big, beautiful brain and feel connected through the process of decision making.
Have compassion for your colleague, cousin, bridesmaid. Recognize that you’ll look back and laugh at the disproportionate amount of time you spent milking almonds instead of managing your 401K. Remember when I cried because I didn’t want her poop to change smell when she started solids? Insanity.
This is all a game, everyone is shooting in the dark and there is really very little that can empirically be regarded as “best practice”. So go on with your badass self, parenting the best way you know how.
Look around at the moms doing something different and recognize that the bags under their eyes aren’t from waking with baby but from late-night scouring of blogs on the pros of starting Kindergarten at 6 years old instead of 5. The kids will be alright and so will you.