At some point in motherhood, we can all feel like we are on the outskirts of the "normal" group of moms in society. That feeling can last longer for some than for others.
I happen to be in the thick of this feeling. My sweet baby is 6 months old. He is my second baby but the experience is totally different.
With my first, I was constantly gauging myself against other women to make sure I was "doing it right" and to make sure I was following the best path. For many reasons, this caused so much chaos and heartbreak for me. I couldn't measure up to what I saw around me. I felt constantly on the fringe of normal. I didn't hate what other moms hated. I hated what other moms loved. I loved the way my baby's milky breath and neck smelled. I really disliked going out with other moms and babies. Their babies were always so plump and quiet. My baby was skinny and hungry. Fast forward almost 3 years....same. This kid has unending energy, maybe because he spends his day figuring out ways to not eat what's in front of him and foraging for something bigger and better in the fridge.
Anyways, now I'm on my second sweet baby. I had one goal for myself: I didn't care about anything else other than having peace in this round of motherhood. I had the most beautiful birth. If you haven't read that story, here it is. It's long but it will make you laugh, cry and probably yearn for such beauty...and if you're really cynical, it might make you think I'm making it up. It's that good.
My second sweet boy is following in my first's thin footsteps. The difference is that this time, I haven't allowed that to be my defining force. With my first, I did everything I was told to do. I hated it. I let all of my power be stolen from me because I did the "right" thing according to everyone but me. I didn't think it was ok to be expert of my children, and I don't blame myself. When a mother says "I know what's best for my children" she is labeled as brash, stubborn, stuck up and who knows what else.
With this sweet second baby, I've determined to mother in the most empowered way I can. I have to say - this is really hard to do. It seems like a lot of people around me are fighting for the exact opposite. My son is thin. We've tried a lot of different things, but the truth is...we are a thin family and he is sweet, happy, ahead of milestones and growing in other ways.
I am so lucky to have a dear group of friends who is my safe space. I share my experience with them and am met with love, emotional validation and support. They ask me questions like "How are things going?" and they offer advice when I ask for it.
We all have these friends. We all also have a different set of friends...
From the unsupportive, anxious and maybe even controlling group, I've heard things like "Carol, I beg you...PLEASE just x, y,z" as if they care for your baby more than you do or "Carol, don't be stubborn." It's funny how people call you stubborn when you don't do what they want...
All of this is said as if I haven't tried everything. As if it doesn't keep me awake at night, worrying if I am failing him or causing him damage. As if I don't want perfection for him. As if I haven't ached tears and tears, crying and worrying.
Strangers come up to me and instead of playing with this incredible boy and enjoying the sweet joy of a baby smiling at them, they ask me questions about his stats, as if they're doing some weird science project. I get the anxiety that comes over people. I also wish people didn't let their anxiety override common decency - the kind of decency that acknowledges how common it is for moms to have their own anxiety with a new baby.
I was so overtaken by all of this negative attention until it hit me: Some people are just help-rejecting complainers. The people who speak like this are the same people who talk about their motherhood experiences so negatively. They don't see their words as negative so how could they possibly speak positivity to someone else?
Help-rejecting complainers - You know the type - The ones who say things like "My body just doesn't work. I tried everything." or "Well, I HAD to do x, y, z." without adding in "I'm hurt by this new reality. Can you help me?" A help-rejecting complainer talks about facts and stats and fails to mention their feelings. They say things like "Watch out for ___" the blank is usually the worst case scenario horror story and somehow completely eradicates the idea that moms are working so hard for their babies.
These help-rejecting complainers are all around us. They're the ones who see a movement like MomCo and balk at our tag line "You're doing the right thing." Their response to that is "What about the mom who is putting her kids' lives in danger?" Well, Help-Rejecting Complainer, what ABOUT that mom? Doesn't she deserve our care? What would be so wrong about putting our arms around her and getting to know her story and empowering her rather than beating her down?
So, if you're one of those moms who is "different" from the rest: Join the club. We'd love to have you.