The Facebook Post That Made Me a Terrible Mother

by Kristin Parran

I can’t keep it in any longer. I must be the worst mother ever. It doesn’t matter that my not-yet-3-year old son adores me. Or that he climbs in bed with my husband and I and tells us we make the best team (then asks for high-fives). Or tells me he loves me more than cars. CARS! None of that matters.

Two things I have read today make me believe that despite all of these things, I must be a terrible mother. First, I read a blog post about breastfeeding. Or, rather about not breastfeeding. The author shared her honest feelings around the disappointment – and subsequent judgment – around not being able to breastfeed. The point was that mothers should leave other mothers alone – breastfeeding or not. Funny, though, all of the comments from women who felt judged about not breastfeeding came from a place of not being able to breastfeed. I didn’t see one from a woman who CHOSE not to breastfeed, like I did. It’s hard as a new mother to not feel at least a little judgment with every decision you make – even if it’s self-inflicted judgment. But, I am increasingly finding that mothers like me – those who choose to bottle feed for one reason or another – don’t exist in public forums. They sit back, try to stay unnoticed and feed their babies the best way they know how. Some choose the expensive organic formula. Some pay for soy-based. Some do extensive research to understand which product is best for their babies. But the thing that connects all of these women is that they love their babies just as much as breastfeeding women do. I love my son no less than the next woman. I firmly believe – and would argue til I died – that in the way I know how, I have given my son the best chances for a life full of love, happiness and health. But it’s hard to find people like me out there. At least those who admit it.

The second thing I saw was on Facebook. This kind of thing usually doesn’t affect me the way it did today. Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive, or because my stepdaughter is visiting and that always has my emotions doing somersaults. Either way, it hit me. An old acquaintance just went back to work and posted that she’s missing her babies more than ever. But that’s not it – it’s what she said next that hit me: “I know every working mom would rather be at home with their babies all the time.” I dropped everything and started this post. I couldn’t help it. My brain is screaming. You ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom. But, am I? Really? My response to that post was not: “Sister…you are so right! I would so much rather be at home with a screaming toddler, playing with cars and arguing about naptime Every. SINGLE. DAY.” Rather, instead my response: “That’s BS! While I LOVE my baby, I also LOVE my job. And the people I work with. And the opportunity to be ME. And the socialization. And that I contribute something financially to my family. I love having both. I NEED to have both.”

I get the sense that a lot of mothers will read my response and gasp. GASP. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT!?! How could you say you love your job AND your baby? How could you not want to spend every single waking moment with your child? The answer for me is simple. Being me – the me who loves my job and my husband and my son and my friends and my time alone – makes me the very best mother I can be. Whether or not that mother meets standards set by others is something I can no longer judge myself against. I wish I could say that feeling follows me everywhere, every day. But, it obviously doesn’t. Rather than reading that post and saying: “There are mothers of every color, and I happen to a bright pink” I took it as a jab. A knife turning in the heart that is still trying to heal from post-partum. So, I’m not perfect. I do let some things get to me. But after the initial crazy self-judgment and guilt wear off, I once again see that I’m not such a bad mom. My son is an incredible human being. And, at the end of each day, I have to believe that I have something to do with that.

Kristin Parran is a mother of one (nearly 3-year old) boy and wife to a husband who anchors her in peace. Wise enough to know life can (and should) have balance, brave enough to listen to her gut – but not always smart or Zen enough to stop sweating the small stuff – she recently moved her family 1,100 miles to give everyone the best shot at equilibrium. She spends her days working from home for a tech PR firm and shedding tears of gratitude for newfound peace – which is soon interrupted by the impatience of reality. Each time she leaves her house, she secretly hopes to be discovered by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley or Dierks Bentley as a (silent, yet energetic) back-up singer. Or, to someday see her name on the cover of a book.

KP

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3 Comments

  1. Kristin, I think you speak for many, many women who remain silent but secretly would echo what you’ve expressed in this post. I was a breastfeeding failure who gave it the “old colllege try” with both kids, leading to underweight newborns in both situations. If I could go back and talk to myself 7 years ago, I would have said “Don’t be a breastfeeding martyr! It’s OK to quit!”

    And regarding the whole “I like to work thing,” I pretty much started my whole blog around that issue (Working Moms Against Guilt). Have dads ever in human history felt guilty for supporting their families and doing something that made them feel productive and satisfied intellectually? No way! It’s a mom thing, and it needs to change. Work is a blessing, for many women. Keep doing what you’re doing, and being proud of it!

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  2. Kristin, as a first-time Mom, I can completely relate with you on both accounts. I chose to breastfeed, but that doesn’t make me any more or less of a great Mom than those who choose not to for whatever reason. Why some much judgment? Can’t we all just support each other and celebrate the important things like, is baby growing, healthy and strong, and is Mom recovering from childbirth and managing everything OK?

    And on your second point, I’m with you. Maybe it’s because my professional career is what defined me for 13 years before my kid came along – should what motivates me and interests me personally take a complete 180 turn with the introduction of my son? Or maybe it’s because I am an equal financial contributor to the family and I actually REALLY LOVE being able to provide in that way? Or maybe it’s because I firmly believe that my son will grow and evolve in many wonderful ways by spending time learning from others who certainly know more about child development than I could ever learn reading a gazillion websites (ahem, experience is a good thing!)? But hey, if someone else chooses to give up her (or his) career to spend all day everyday with the kiddos, that’s fine by me!

    It’s time we stop judging each other and remember that whatever works for you or me may differ, and that’s a good thing, right?!

    Reply
  3. Christine, Thank you so much for the comment! It is so nice to know there are women/moms out there actually feel the same. I have watched my son flourish in the daycare environment, and know I could never provide him that learning, social stimulation, activity. While I have been blessed with confidence in my decisions, I have also been blessed/cursed with my own post-partum challenges — and those sometimes have me questioning my personal feelings when I don’t seem to fit the popular “mold.” What I’m learning is that there is no mold, I fit in just fine — sometimes it’s just takes a little more searching to find it. :)

    Reply

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