First of all, I’d just like to say that, in my opinion, the moment you find out that you’re going to have a baby, you’re a mother. It’s a gift, plain and simple, and not everybody should receive this gift (I mean, read the news—there’s people out there who shouldn’t have kids. Period.) It isn’t just the mechanics of motherhood that make the world go ‘round—it’s the love, commitment, and sacrifice that makes a mother a mother. Whether you opened your heart to a child through adoption, IVF, surrogate, naturally or otherwise, you know what it is to put someone else’s needs before your own.
That being said…
Mothers are constantly being shamed for not doing the right thing—and there’s no way you can’t sweat it when people are questioning your decisions as a mom. For the love of God, above all else, being a mother is the very definition of your being, your purpose in life. So when somebody attempts to make you feel like you’re doing a poor job of it, you’re going to take it personally, damnit — plus, you’re already your own worst critic. So here are some things that you, as a person, a woman, and a mother, need to remember when people stick their unwanted opinions in your face.
1. You can partake in a social life.
This is the one that gets me. If I make an appearance at one of the local bars, I feel the “shouldn’t-she-be-home-with-her-kid” glares from across the room. Yeah, I left my toddler at home alone, with a can of spray paint and some plastic bags. He’ll be fine. (Kidding.) Yet when I go to a different bar, there’s other parents there and guess what we spend 99% of the night talking about? Yeah, our kids.
I’m not saying you should engage in illegal activities, because that’s selfish, stupid, and blatant disrespectful of yourself and all mothers in general.
Most people have grandparents or other trusted friends or family members that love spending time with kiddos, and you deserve to blow off some steam and spend some time catching up with your friends. Remember friends? People who you can talk to who most likely won’t vomit on you or pull your hair? Unless it’s one of “those” nights…
2. You are allowed to look good, bad, or ugly.
I still remember the first time I went to the store after I had my son, and was still getting used to the mechanics of breastfeeding. I was in the checkout line, wearing huge sweatpants and a t-shirt with spit-up all over it, with the baby chilling in his car seat in the basket of the cart, when I became aware of the stare of the high school boy who was bagging the groceries belonging to the woman in front of me. His eyes stared at my boobs. Self-consciously, I looked down, aware of my ginormous new rack…but unaware that my shirt had two big, growing wet circles on it. I was horrified. Heaven forbid the world know I have milk coming out of my boobs. I got over that pretty quick. Boobs are awesome, aren’t they?
The first time I went to a wedding without my son, I was still nursing, and had lost all my baby weight (it was glorious, don’t ask me how that happened because I have no idea…thanks breastfeeding?) I dressed up in a black blazer, black skinny dress pants, nude heels, and a soft green tank top underneath. One of my friends told me I looked sexy and I immediately chagrined. Was I still allowed to feel sexy now that I was a mom? The answer is yes. You are sexy. And you’re allowed to look sexy, too.
In summary: wear whatever the fuck you want.
3. You’re still you
When I was a senior in high school, my answer to the What is your life goal? yearbook question was: “To experience as much as possible.” And I’ve had many experiences. I’m a little amazed that I didn’t specify just good experiences, in my naïve eighteen-year-old state of mind. And now that I’m a mother…does that mean I only get to experience mommy-related things from here on out? I don’t THINK so!
There’s still a world out there for you to explore if you so choose. It may not happen right away, but believe it or not, you don’t have to resign yourself to giving up on your dreams of learning new things other than what kind of poop is good poop. You’re going to be wrapped up in The Wonderful World of Parenting for a time and that’s okay, but don’t feel guilty about wistfully daydreaming about traveling or learning. And don’t feel guilty about making it happen, either. Keeping yourself happy keeps your family happy.
4. You’re a good mom.
Your baby had poop in his butt for the last half-hour of the road trip and you didn’t know it, you just thought he was screaming because he hates listening to your mixed Nelly CD from high school. You get home, realize your mistake, and cry. You take your baby to the doctor and they poke him. You cry. You step outside to take the garbage out for literally twenty-nine seconds and you come back in to find a toddler (whom you thought was sleeping) that thinks you abandoned him forever. You cry. Guilt is a part of the mommy universe, always.
This is the proof of being a good mom. I swear it. If you’re making an effort, if your child knows that you love them, and you’re doing everything in your power to keep them out of danger…then repeat after me: “I AM A DAMN. GOOD. MOTHER!” (And repeat throughout the day.)
5. Help is here.
I know how hard it can be to keep swimming. Raising a baby, working hard to pay the bills, and providing for your family is a never-ending gauntlet, full of unforeseen obstacles that you can in no way prepare for. And while your mom’s advice is always good to have, sometimes it’s the last thing you want to hear. I found that joining a mom group online could be extremely beneficial, if you need somewhere to go to keep your problems more anonymous. Sometimes all it takes is a virtual stranger telling me “It will be okay” for me to relax.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You can always return the favor. I’d much rather ask for help to make sure my child is taken care of than let my child suffer at the hands of my pride. There’s more than one way to be dignified, and you’re only human.