The Mommy Wars with Karen Shanahan
In this second feature from our trusted expert Karen Shanahan, L.M.H.C. of Coastal Therapy, we wanted to tackle a very touchy subject that impacts every parent, dubbed 'the mommy wars.' You may not be familiar with this term, but if you have a child, we'd bet you've experienced it: that unwanted opinion, comment on your parenting choices, or recommendation dripping with judgement. The topic is almost irrelevant, as this type of behavior can bleed into any conversation, from pacifiers to breastfeeding, sleep training to specific products. Karen has some great thoughts on how we can change our own behavior and how we interpret behaviors from others, to minimize the impact it has on our own parenting, and the way we interact with other parents.
"One of the hardest lessons we can learn when we become moms is that the idea of the village is so true, but unfortunately, members of the tribe can make you feel pretty lousy. There are a LOT of opinions on what is the best way to parent, from feeding, to diapering, to sleeping, etc. Sometimes these opinions are a godsend, other times they make us feel like we are failing and this is even more so when we receive these opinions without asking for them. We’ve all seen it- the mom who posts something about a formula recommendation and instead gets berated for not nursing her child or the mom who talks about her natural home birth and gets opinions around safety and berated for not taking someone else’s defined precautions regarding childbirth. Parenting can come with enough self doubt, worry and guilt without these added opinions. I choose to believe that most of this comes from really well intended moms who are sharing things that worked for them to help others and who also need to celebrate their victories because, let’s face it mommy-ing is hard and we all have times we feel like we aren’t succeeding. With this belief, the intention is good, the delivery has some room from improvement. So to end the mommy wars, we need to first make sure we listen; not to the opinions you didn’t ask for but listen to the questions being asked before sharing your own responses and try to offer support that you have specifically to that question. This helps other moms to not feel shamed or that they are doing something wrong. If a mom asks what the best way to diaper or sleep train their child is, please share your successes, opinions and ideas- we all need those to help us- but if she asked what the best rocker is, don’t answer unless you have a recommended rocker- she is not asking you if you think a rocker is a good idea or not.
The other important step is to remember that the opinions of others are just that- opinions. Opinions do not equal facts, especially in regards to you and your baby. You are the expert when it comes to your baby. Your family will learn together, sometimes through immediate successes and sometimes through some epic fails on the path to finding the right fit. All moms experience this. Allow yourself this space, ask for the help you want, and let unsolicited advice be heard and let go if not helpful.
Is this being discussed with simplification, for sure- with intention. We need to be able to find lightness in the common challenges we share. It can all feel heavy so we need to remember that small, simple ways of changing how we perceive, process, and integrate information can have profound effects on how we think and feel. And when the small stuff doesn’t work, or when the heaviness feels beyond what may be typically or what you can carry alone, or when your partnership feels challenged and stretched beyond its limits, there are people to help so please seek them out and know you never have to do this alone."