Mummywars - how mothers are our own worst enemies
I’ve lost count of the number of media reports involving new studies about motherhood and child rearing. What’s right. What’s wrong.
Not to mention the endless proclamations from celebrities and high-profile know-it-alls passing judgement at the rest of the parenting world.
But instead of helping the parenting public, all these conflicting reports simply contribute to the compounding guilt, increasingly felt by parents, boht new and old.
Before I had children, I admit to having a host of pre-conceived notions about motherhood.
The things I would and wouldn’t do - during pregnancy, during the birth and especially when it came to raising my babies.
But as is often the case, reality and perception can be very different things.
As a result, several aspects of pregnancy and parenting didn’t exactly pan out as I’d planned.
So like many new mums, armed with an abundance of often conflicting information, I found myself struggling to find contentment with the choices I was making along the way.
And before long, I fell victim to the judgment of others – other mothers, friends, relatives, all thanks, for the most part, due to the “helpful” information provided by the media.
Put simply, the constant advice, friendly anecdotes, comparisons and shared information, often resulted in one big dose of guilt.
It’s a familiar feeling felt by most mothers at some stage during parenthood – often due to well meaning (or otherwise) conversations with other mums, and sometimes with those yet to enter the world of motherhood.
Not to mention the media, parenting books, midwives, relatives, the list goes on.
It’s not a new phenomenon, but it does seem to be getting worse as access to information becomes easier and more abundant.
The stay-at-home-mum versus working-mother debate has been an issue of contention for decades now, with each group seeming to judge the other as somehow inferior.
There’s the use of dummies, home-made vs commercial baby food, routine vs demand feeding, childcare, how long we keep bub in our room and co-sleeping.
Not to mention cloth vs disposables, the right age for toilet training, immunisations, natural health care interventions, the list goes on.
So why is it that we seem to judge each other rather than offer support?
We’re all entitled to our own opinion, but does that mean we have to make others feel somehow inferior for choosing a different path?
Amanda Cox, founder of www.badmothersclub.com.au believes it’s the pressure and conflicting advice given by the media that prompts mums to judge each other.
“It’s a way to justify their own choices and decisions,” she says.
“If they can convince another to do what they are doing, then they have more around them making them feel secure.”
And it’s not just a matter of being a whiney new mum, for some women, the repercussions of the constant guilt trip can develop into something more sinister than a simple twang of guilt.
According to the experts, the best way to deal with inevitable motherhood guilt is to take a step back and ask yourself a few simple questions.
- Is this right for my child, at this time in their life?
- Will this matter when they are in high school? (ie. Will your child still want her dummy when she’s trying to impress the boys?)
- How much weight should I give to the information that this person/article/advertisement is conveying?
- Will doing this help me feel good about myself as a mother or am I doing it to feel more acceptable to outsiders?
And as many of us have discovered, every birth, every child, is different.
The fact of the matter is, the majority of mothers are simply doing the best they can, to provide the best lives for their little bundles of joy.
If we ignore the media’s preoccupation with perfect parenting, be honest with ourselves and others and offer support rather than judgement, we can stop sending ourselves and each other on never ending guilt trips.
As they say, there isn’t a handbook and as long as we’re doing our best, that’s the best we can do.
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