All new mums experience it: the unsolicited advice; the judgy, sly comments regarding how you parent, the disapproving looks.
I had it too.
When it came to my own family, I quickly realised the main reason this was happening. In my family’s eyes, I was still in the “younger generation” of the family.
I was dismissed as incapable of knowing how best to raise my own child. My parenting style was not respected.
They had already done it and raised their children- therefore, they knew better.
But what I knew, was that I knew exactly what I was doing and was going to hold my ground.
Essentially, I had to earn what was already rightfully mine- the right to parent my child as I see fit, and for them to respect that, and to begin to see me as no longer the youthful bottle blond, mini-skirt wearing teenager they once knew.
It wasn’t easy, I felt like I was going up against the matriarchs of my family and it felt wrong.
We were taught to respect our elders; respect our mothers and our grandmothers.
But – I was a mother. I now was one of them and therefore I was coming to claim my respect as well.
The hard part was actually the initial standing up for myself as a mother, which was surprisingly well received.
A little bit of information about how I liked things to roll and everyone knew where they stood and were happy.
Only one family member disregarded and disrepected my parenting after many chances to show me otherwise.
I remember a conversation where this specific family member completely violated yet another one of my clear as day boundaries.
I had to literally spell it out: “I am her mother, she is my daughter. When it comes to her, my way is the only way.”
It sounds harsh because it is. It had to be. How can we expect our children to be assertive and confident individuals if they see their parents being stomped on by their own family members?
Unfortunately, that family member was never going to learn, and after many hurtful and disrespectful actions, it’s a huge relief to say that she is out of our lives, and that our family is only made up of wonderful, supportive family members.
And I’m not saying that all of my family members agree with my parenting style and choices either.
You can disagree with someone’s lifestyle while simultaneously respecting it and/or minding your own damn business.
What we have to realise is those family members don’t go home and stay up late thinking about a new sleep strategy. Mothers do.
They don’t rack their brains trying to figure out how to work swimming lessons, a trip to the post office and a grocery shop around 2-4 naps a day and multiple breast or bottle feeds. Mothers do.
They’re not thinking about whether your child is getting enough nutrition from the food we are giving them, or whether they were traumatised when that kid pushed them over at the playground.
Advice is given to mothers, but the thought stops there.
At the end of the day, the buck stops with us, mamas.
Our children are our responsibility, not our mother’s, not our grandmother’s or aunties’ or sister’s.
We can be open to advice and suggestions, but we sure as hell don’t have to take them.
See, the thing is, if you choose to do things your way, and it fails or goes wrong or not as planned, it’s on you.
But if you take someone’s advice, and it fails or it goes wrong or not as planned, it’s still on you. Now that’s a trip!
As mums we have to own our responsibility, find strength in our mothering and become self assured in our own parenting style.
Be open to new information but be the one to make the final call confidently.
We are in a beautiful age of mothering. We are mothers who are well informed and making informed choices. We’re mothers choosing a way of motherhood that best suits us and our families.
We know our child better than anyone else and we know what kind of parent they need.
Trust not so much in the parenting tools and techniques, but the intricate knowledge of your family and the individuals that make up your family unit. When we put our trust in that knowledge, the way we mother becomes ripe with conviction.
Our children feel safe. They feel secure. They see confidence and assertive behaviour being modelled.
They see how boundaries are placed and held. They see mistakes being made sometimes and that it’s okay to make them; that their mum isn’t perfect, but imperfect, and that’s the real perfection that we should be striving for.
Let’s show up for our children, by showing up for ourselves.
The mum that commands respect – not demands – is in there. I see you. Come on out, be the mother you want to be.