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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

you the MOM! - gaining a dose of mommy confidence

It's clear that moms need to cut out the attitudes sometimes, right? 
If you've ever been part of a mommy and kiddo play date, playground group, library story hour, swim or soccer lesson, or even just part of an online Facebook type discussion board, you have observed the catty remarks from some so-called know-it-all mamas. Unfortunately, right?

I am sure you can think off the top of your head of at least 5 times another mother has made you feel inferior, stupid, insecure, or question your parenting techniques. I'm sure you have read something and wondered, "Oh no, she didn't! Did she mean this the way I think she did?!" I'm sure you have also re-read something you were about to post a few times just to be sure it could not possibly be taken the wrong way. I'm sure other times you've held your tongue out of fear of someone misinterpreting you.

Judgment. It's out there. 
It's a big part of our world, especially as mothers. I've seen it only a handful of times on our the Mommy Stories Facebook group. I've seen a few people leave the discussion group because they felt offended or disrespected by something another mother stated in response to something they shared. It has not been a huge part of our group, thankfully.

Still, I feel I need to address this concern I have. My concern is not as much with those who are doing the judging or disrespecting. I think anyone who disrespects others knows she has done wrong later and hopefully will try harder to be nicer next time. Since I don't see that as much as I see my main worry... which is insecurity, lack of confidence and mommy esteem.

We will always have opinions and thoughts about things. We moms are wired to give advice, offer solutions and ideas. It's in our girl-talking helping nature. The very point of a discussion board or momma group in person or virtually is to talk, brainstorm, throw out ideas, gain insight. If we had all the answers ourselves, we would not be part of such a thing in the first place.

We think we're right!
We base our statements, thoughts, opinions on our own experience. It's all we know. Or if we haven't gone through it ourselves, we base what we say on what others have told us it's like. We don't offer our advice out of spite or harm. We offer it thinking we are right. We have to believe what we think about parenting is right, otherwise what we did for our kids would be wrong ... and we moms can't handle being told we're wrong in the kiddo department, because that would make us our worst nightmare - bad mothers.

For example, when I say that babies don't need pacifiers after 6 months old it's because somebody told me that or I read it online or a pediatrician told me it was the best practice. And because I had my kids both give theirs up at 6 months old without permanent damage, I know it can be done. Because I've seen so many toddlers not speaking well with pacifiers in their mouths and then screaming because they misplaced one, my advice to someone asking about this topic would be to stop use of them at 6 months, end of story. I think I'm right because this is what I experienced. Does that mean when I see someone's toddler with a pacifier that she is a bad mother? NO! Honestly, no. It's just not my thing, not what I've experienced or preferred. That's the big difference. The other mom needs to have more confidence in her choices to not feel threatened or upset by my saying no paci after 6 months old. And I need to not come off like I am a snob with my opinions.

A mom whose baby nursed totally easily, no issues, no blistery boobs, no latch issues, no screaming, etc. is going to look at the world through these eyes. She is going to wonder why all moms don't just breastfeed since it's so super simple. She can't help but wonder this, it's normal based on her experience. I have had two babies. One never latched a single day, left me bleeding, him screaming, and a horrible experience. The other nursed within 10 minutes of birth, not a single blister or anything on my breasts, and did so for a year extremely easily, no problems. I get it. We only know what we know. And it has to be true, or else what we did or experienced is somehow wrong. And we won't accept that.

When someone posts something or talks of doing something in a different way than we did with our own kids, it challenges our assumptions about the world we raised our kids in. It challenges us as mothers, our skills, our knowledge. If a mom thinks thumb-sucking is terrible and I have a kid who sucks his thumb since birth... I'm going to stop and worry that I'm doing it wrong, even if that other mom didn't even say anything remotely like me being wrong. It's already in us to feel worried a lot because we are mothers. And being women, we worry what others think of us WAY too much. It's a given. But it doesn't have to be forever.

While I understand that it's normal for us to feel insecure, to question our mothering techniques and sometimes to blame the fact that we're questioning on other moms out there ... my hunch is we need to stop blaming those who appear disrespectful or crass and instead look at ourselves, building ourselves up to be stronger. Lifting one another up and living in no judgment zones is ideal, of course, but on most days I think the best we can strive for is to feel confident in who we are as mothers and to stand by what we do, while keeping an open ear to learn new things from other mothers.

Here are a few ideas for feeling like you are the MOM (you da' man, get it?!): 

1. Don't take it so personally. Many, many comments other mothers make are not at all meant to upset you. Most mothers are talking in phrases like this, even if they don't spell it out... "in my opinion," "in my personal experience," "what worked for me was..." "what I was taught/told/learning about is ..." Before you react even internally, ask yourself, was that comment that mother said meant to harm me personally? 99% of the time you'll come up with the answer of no, she probably wasn't even talking to you, so let it go.

2. Opposites attract. Stop yourself before you wonder why someone did something or said something. Remind yourself all the kiddos are different. All moms have only their kids to compare to, so they are of course going to respond differently than you would. What works for me as a full-time working out of the house mother who commutes an hour a day and has two kids, is very different than what will work for the stay at home mother who has three kids and a partner who doesn't help out a lot at home. Remind yourself that if someone co-sleeps with their child but you'd never do it, that's OK. You can be different. Different is good. Same is boring!

3. Pause. What did she really mean? Stop reading into what people say or write on mommy boards. Before responding, ask yourself what she really meant by her comment either online or in person. Did she mean to offer advice? If you don't like her advice, simply ignore it or say thanks but no thanks that won't work for me. Was she trying to share her experience of what worked for her, in an attempt to inspire or help you out a bit? If so, thank her, there is nothing else to say but thanks for the gesture. Before you react, think about what she meant. 99% of the time I doubt she is meaning to offend you.

4. Choose your friends wisely. If someone makes you question your mothering techniques, puts down your kid or says things in a sarcastic way about your parenting skills, it's time to find new friends, end of story. You should surround yourself - online and in person - with mothers who are similar to you with your values, experiences and ideas about raising kids. And yet, you can still be best friends with mothers who do things totally different than you do, yet respect how you do things and don't judge you for it. Surround yourself with women who uplift you, make you feel good about yourself, and constantly say how great your kids are.

5. You da MOM! Enough of the pity parties. Aren't you tired of not feeling good enough? Not being perfect enough? Sick of comparing yourself to the other moms who seem to get it right the first time? Then stop. Nobody else is making you feel this way. You own your feelings. You may not be able to control your feelings, but you DO own them as yours to do what you will with them. You can allow someone else to get in your head or under your skin and make you react like a crazy mama, OR you can be yourself. Always. True and real. Isn't that what you are trying to teach your children to be anyway? Real and honest? Then walk the talk and straighten up and walk tall and stay focused on being the best mom YOU can be, not the best mom out there. Tell yourself every single day one thing you did well. Better yet, write it down every single night. Pick one thing you did well today and be proud of it. Even if all you did well was find matching socks for your kids to wear to school. Good for you! We all know the quote, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent," so listen to it. It's your choice whether you allow your insecurities to get the best of you or whether you pump yourself up and look yourself in the mirror and think, "damn that's a GREAT mom right there!"

6. Give yourself a break. You aren't always going to get it right. That's just how it is. You can't do it all. You can't raise your kids like that other mom raises her kids because you aren't her and your kids aren't her kids. Difference is what makes things interesting. So embrace the difference. Be OK with chaos and changes and ups and downs. Because it's one hell of a roller coaster ride, this parenting thing. It's a lot more fun of a ride though if you are more accepting and less critical of your mommy ways. Let it go. Whatever fault you are carrying around like a loaded up suitcase full of criticism and guilt, let it go. It's too heavy a burden to carry and it's not worth it. Be OK with mistakes and pitfalls. Those mothers you admire? Well, they make mistakes, too.

Tell it to me straight. 
I know this post was pretty straight forward. I would never write so honestly if I didn't think it could help someone to think differently about how they are as a mother. The point: Think of yourself as awesome. Trust your own instincts. Trust that you ARE a great mother, not just good enough but fantastic for your child. Try not to let sensitivity get the best of you. Gain some confidence and I swear you'll be getting along better with moms around you, and feel happier, too.

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