We really focus a lot, as “crunchy moms”, on doing what works for us and making sure that we realize that those things don’t always work for others. There was recently an incident that happened that made me want to address the issue of mom-bashing. Mom-bashing happens in all types of groups with moms of all colors, shapes, religions, statuses, and parenting styles. Most of the time it is intentional but sometimes we can wear our Judgy McJudge pants out the door and not even realize it.
I think we have ALL had a moment where we have been in both the Judgy McJudge pants as well as at the other end of the stick where someone was judging us. I am personally a young(ish) mom. I had my first son when I was 20 and I am now 30 with five children. I look younger than I am. I am overweight. I am single. I have tattoos. My kids can be obnoxious in public sometimes. I occasionally wrap my baby wrong and have to redo it in the parking lot while telling my preschooler to not run around the car. I feed my kids fruit snacks sometimes and not the organic ones. My oldest son is obsessed with s’mores pop-tarts. I use food stamps to buy those pop-tarts. I’m not perfect. I’m not 100% crunchy. I do what works for me and my family. We all have different struggles that we have to deal with and people who may look down on us because of them.
The upsetting part is when those people who start to look down on us are those who should be the ones lifting us up. Being a part of such a huge mom group guarantees that you will be hard pressed to find a lot of moms who are EXACTLY like you. If you breastfeed, there will be moms that bottle feed. If you have ten different baby carriers, there will be moms who have five different strollers. If you co-sleep, there will be moms who can’t live without their baby in a crib. It’s so easy to say that someone wasn’t watching their child close enough if there was an accident when maybe that mom was tending to another child at the moment. We can range from super, ultra-hippie to completely mainstream. Yes, ladies. All in ONE group. I know this seems like I’m being Captain Obvious here, but when you’re really passionate about something in particular, that passion can easily turn into nastiness when someone doesn’t agree or have the same passion as you. The passion goes both ways and everyone has the capability of using their passion in a negative way.
I have been there. Yep. I have been a wearer of the Judgy McJudge pants. Someone close to me had an elective c-section and I jumped into those pants faster than you can say, “aw, snap!”. I ran to my group of like-minded crunchies and went on a ranting rampage about this “ignorant, unnecessary surgery-wanting mother”. My problem was not her choosing to do something different than me but the fact that I didn’t feel like she was informed and not just being a sheep. MY problem was the way I reacted. I wasn’t there to talk with her doctors. I wasn’t there when she talked about it with her husband. It was not my place to judge her for her choices. I should have just given her the information I felt she didn’t have and left the decision for her to make. We can’t “save” or persuade everyone.
Our jobs as activists are to bring knowledge and share great information. We are not here to judge or bash those who don’t do as we say or convert to our ways. We may not know why people choose to do things differently but we have to believe (even if it’s not true) that they, as adults, researched and made the right decision for them. As activists, we want to be a voice and it can be frustrating when our voice is not “heard”, but let me tell you… It is. Your knowledge is reaching others who are looking in from the outside or walking by when you tell a new mom in the grocery store about your amazing babywearing group. You want to make sure the correct voice is being heard. If there had been a new crunchy mom who had had a c-section join the group the day I posted my c-section rant, do you think she would stay? No way!! She’d probably feel uncomfortable and like she wasn’t welcome. I would NEVER intentionally want to make someone feel that way so we have to work extra hard to not UNINTENTIONALLY make someone feel that way as well. It’s so easy to do when you’re passionate about a subject. You have to realize that when you are a part of such a diverse group that you’re probably not going to be met with 100% agreement on ANYTHING.
The reason this needs to stop is because it hurts. It hurts to feel like you’re not good enough or like you’re a bad mom. It’s already hard enough to rake through all of the information out there and make decisions on how to raise your children. We don’t need someone saying, “Hey, idiot. You’re doing it wrong.” because who are you to say we aren’t doing it right? Unless someone’s child is in serious, imminent danger, you should never tell someone they are in the wrong. It’s totally okay to suggest other methods that may work better for you, but in a kind, helpful way. You never know how a mother (or father or whoever!) may be struggling. They could have tried for years to have that baby and required a c-section for unspoken medical reasons. They might be saving $5 from every paycheck to save up for a baby carrier. They could have been awake all night, in tears, because they just couldn’t pump any milk for their baby. That mom could have postpartum depression or not have the help at home she needs. She could have a mentally or emotionally abusive significant other and be coming to your mom group for support that is non-existent elsewhere. Maybe no one showed that mom how to properly use a car seat.
Despite your beliefs and passions, I think we need to make more of an effort to lift up and support ALL of the mamas around us, no matter how they may choose to parent their children. If your passions are calling you to make a difference, donate to them a carrier and invite them to a babywearing meet-up instead of laughing at them struggling with a stroller. Offer them some of your frozen stash of breastmilk instead of giving them the list of nasty ingredients and explaining why you are boycotting Nestle. Take a few minutes to tell them what has made a difference in your life and WHY. Our world is ugly enough without adding to it and bringing someone down for ANY reason. Let’s try to add a little more happiness and love to the world by giving someone a hand up when they need it!
Photo credits: Britany Quick, Jordana Sell, Katelyn Sain, Becky Wilday & Elyse Flannigan (Thank you ladies for sharing your less than perfect moments!)