How practicing less judgement of other mothers brings nothing but rewards.
Differences in opinion or reflection, variety of taste, strength in personal belief, and knowing your mind. These are often the beautiful things that make life interesting, colourful, and less …. 'samey.'
Would we miss something magical if we all thought, ate, behaved, and dressed alike? We should. Yet I can't help but notice, both anecdotally and within media, of mothers sometimes judging the behaviour and ideology of other mothers.
To illustrate some examples I've read (no names attributed as I'm not here to critique individuals) ….
"How any parent can still think it's acceptable to post photos of their children on social media is madness."
"Is it 'mum guilt,' or is this the realisation that you are ignoring your one true calling."
"The perfect postpartum photo has become as fetishised on social media as the perfect 'golden hour' between mother and baby is idealised."
The voices behind these comments are individual, which illustrates how mainstream, whether overt or subtle or even sub-conscious in its communication, the judgments of others are. My reaction when I stumble across a statement like any of the aforementioned is, on a personal level, does the opinion resonate with me? Am I clear on the intent? Am I triggered, and if so, why?
Secondly, I ask myself what is the writer revealing about themself and their feeling in sharing these words?
The first reaction is one I can evaluate as honestly as I can. It could sit with me for a few minutes or days, or even weeks, to revisit at a later date. Critiquing and questioning myself in a safe space despite the sometimes uncomfortable truths, knowing valuable rewards exist. And to lay myself bare here to illustrate my point, it might be that I have rolled my eyes or been irked at another mother's actions. I often talk about small steps and their impact, so working through these moments is a substantial part of life and hopefully helps to make us better humans. As more and more of us do this (which I do see), we have a greater chance to make the lives of others, and first and foremost, our family's life, a more positive, well-rounded experience.
The second stage of putting myself in the shoes of the writer, creator, or broadcaster takes a leap of imagination, and it would be judgmental of me to make too many assumptions. What insecurities or layers might be revealed in the words or actions shared? Have they considered the nuances of every mother in making decisions best for them, or is their aim to be deliberately provocative for a bigger purpose? Where do the truths lie, because the comments I've quoted are not entirely absent from them, and many people seek out bluntness or more extreme views to validate themselves.
To have opinions and the right to express them should be one of the foundations of a free society. Still, I wonder if we, as mothers, can better distinguish between some of the views we hold dear without excluding or belittling others. I also wonder if we can try, albeit at times hard, to swerve comparison, especially to the detriment of our own joy. As a mother with one business built around talking to mothers, I know my opinions can't encapsulate all mothers' experiences. Undoubtedly, there will have been occasions where I've excluded or offended someone without intent. Motherhood is so rich and ripe with emotion, from the moment we become pregnant and suddenly public property to the day we birth our child when all sense of decency goes out of the window (good riddance!) through to the sometimes straightforward but not always and most definitely not linear road to finding your new rhythm, new you.
Stories of motherhood, whether they relate to my own experience, make me feel part of something special. They leave me in awe and wonder at what women physically and mentally achieve in bringing and nurturing life. Whenever a mother shares a part of her experiences, I learn more about humanity. It deepens my empathy and makes me value the opportunity I have been given despite the challenges and losses I can identify. Whether a mother has birthed her babies or not, the role is transformational, and it comes easier to some than it does to others. To watch individual mothers' journeys unfold through the likes of social media or reading their words on blogs or a novel, witnessing their transition is, yes, in part voyeuristic but also an honour, and believe me when I say I'm at the sidelines championing you on, even if we don't know one another. Or, indeed, our opinions don't align.
The beauty of motherhood is unquestionable, despite the stretching and scars, the soreness, leaking, exhaustion, feelings of failure, the burden and grief, and much more. The visceral rawness and realness of it all and this vast amount of love make something beautiful, even in its most challenging times. By changing our perception of true beauty, we enlighten (and free) ourselves.
Your shared images and words make me appreciate how something universal can be unique and personal. What a fantastic contradiction, and it sums up what life, particularly motherhood, is all about.