“Twenty-two months, huh?” she retorted with that look one tends to have on their face when trying to hide surprise and suspend judgement. That was the response I received from a co-worker as I sat quietly nursing my nearly two year old daughter in our the staffroom the other day.
As my babe nuzzled close to me, those beautiful, inquisitive, blue eyes gleaming up at me, her tiny body weightless in my arms, I sighed. Not because I was tired or felt judged (though surely those realizations admittedly had an affect on my already cluttered mind in that moment)… not because I agreed with that nosey co-worker or was upset (though those, too, were sentiments from time to time in response to that reaction).
It was a sigh of relief. A sigh of comfort. A sigh of contentment. A sigh of, after two babies, numerous conversations about my parenting “choices,” looking for validation or advice from other parents, friends and family members and, like so many of us moms do, questioning every decision we’ve ever made in rearing our tiny humans, I genuinely didn’t care.
I didn’t care that this particular childless co-worker was silently passing judgement with the rolling of her eyes. I didn’t care that I’ve tempered my responses to that reaction more times than I can count, or that I’ve recited the schpiel from our Pediatrician about how wonderful it is she’s breastfeeding into her second year (because the WHO recommends that, didn’t you know?). I didn’t care that co-worker didn’t understand. I was, in that moment (five and a half years in the making), finally confident enough as a mother that I didn’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone. I felt liberated.
According to those social media memes about mom-types (evidently socially perpetuated by parents and non-parents alike), I fall into the “granola mom” category. We chose (and were lucky to be able to have) a natural birth, to have a Doula, cloth diaper, extended breastfeed, baby-wear, co-sleep, make our own baby food, try for organic, hormone-free food when possible; but we were also for circumcision, and vaccinations… But, who am I kidding, I fall into the “hot-mess mom,” the “got-it-all-together mom,” and the “soccer mom” from time to time as well.
Don’t we all fluctuate between “groups?” And really, do we care what “group” we’re in, anyway?
I know it certainly doesn’t define or validate me and the decisions I make on the daily, in making an effort to keep my tiny army safe and healthy, to know which category I fall into… unfortunately, those “mom-types” and the judgement associated with them has followed and haunted me from word-go.
You see, I was “not breastfeeding” when I was pregnant with my first. I was going to pump, because “breast was best” for nourishment, but the sheer thought of nursing made my skin crawl. I was judged about that decision by literally everyone I conversed with, even to the point of tears and losing friendships, if you can imagine. Obviously (credit owing to our amazing Doula, Deanne), that situation turned out quite differently.
I had my heart set on cloth diapering. But the thought of dealing with the diapers themselves also made my skin crawl. So we got a diaper service. Best of both worlds, right? Wrong. The cloth diapering “community” disagrees with my decision- I’m not really doing it if I’m paying someone else to take care of the ruminants of my children, that’s just a fact. Lost friends over that decision too.
The “granola-mom’s” I kept in touch with vehemently disapproved of our decision to circumcise our son. We chose not to pierce our daughters ears until she is old enough to ask for them, so that earned me back into their good graces. Then they discovered we vaccinated both our children. Friendship off.
Then there’s this extended breastfeeding thing with my second… I get more heat over that one than I even care to give attention to.
Over the past five years, there have been many instances where conversations (at times, quite heated) would occur with friends and family that resulted in that same look from my coworker. At times, as a first-time mom, I’ve got to be honest, that look broke me. At times, as a mom twice-over, that look enraged me.
But not this time. This time, it gave me the opportunity to just breathe; to sigh. I finally didn’t care what other people thought. What an incredible feeling.
Motherhood is hard enough without feeling like we owe explanations to bystanders about our decisions. We all do what we think is best at the time. Sometimes, we reflect and decide a different choice or reaction is necessitated next time around. Other times, we are pleased with the decisions we make. And many times (more often than not, if I’m being honest with myself) we don’t have the time to examine the decision we’ve just made, because in five seconds our toddler is going to go all Hurricane Katrina on the underwear bin at Superstore, so we move onto the next hundred decisions to be made that day.
My point is this- do you. Do your kids. And don’t be apologetic for it. Own your choice with confidence and pride. No one else is on your parenting journey, but you. And remember, the most important line you’ll read in this verbose blog post today- you’re one amazing Mama!
As my twenty-two month old unlatched, tucked my breast away and pulled down my shirt, I giggled. “Yeah, she’s old enough to do that too.”
Written by Lindsay White-Thornton