Owning Our Choices

Mamas, I want you all to know something: No matter how accommodating you are, no matter how much research you do, no matter how often you agree with your peers and elders, no matter what your motivation is or beliefs are, no matter what choices you make as a mother… People are going to judge you and you are going to feel like you’re not doing enough.
It’s unavoidable in our culture right now. Yes, it’s a bummer, of course it’s not right – but it’s going to happen.
So let’s just accept it now and instead of being shocked, disappointed and defensive when it happens, let’s take some preventative measures now and deal with it head on.
Mom, you’re going to be judged for what you do and how you parent your child. You’re going to be judged by your family, your friends, your doctor and yourself. If you bottle feed, exclusively breastfeed, formula feed, let the baby eat solids before 6 months old, wait till she’s a year old before giving her anything but breastmilk, if you baby-wear all day or don’t, throw away the stroller at age 4 or don’t, take the baby out or decide it’s safer to stay home for 6 months, if feed your child McDonald’s or not, vaccinate or not, only let your baby eat non-gmo, organic food or not, co-sleep or not… you will be judged.
So, given the reality of this situation, how do we keep ourselves from turning into bitter, defensive bitches when the whole world, including ourselves, seem to be watching our every decision under a microscope just WAITING for us to fail??
There’s only one way I have found in my 7 1/2 years of parenting:
Own your choices.
What does that even mean?? It means know why you are doing it, believe in the choices you make and be willing to stand behind them proudly. Don’t do it becuase I, your Aunt Sally or your grandma said it was best. Do it because you have connected with your child and you know that’s what is best for her. Do it because it’s the right thing to do for her development in that moment. Do it because you know and know because you researched and listened to your baby, owned your limitations and did whatever it took to overcome them. Do it because you are embracing your new role as mother, matriarch of your household and authority in your own home instead of just doing whatever everyone else said to do.
Own your emotions.
Recognize what is truly coming from others and what may actually be coming from within. Remove the guilt from your OWN heart first by trusting yourself and your own process. It’s remarkable how once you’ve done that, you will see how others’ attempts to condemn your parenting decisions really don’t matter. You may also notice that maybe not everyone is actually judging you quite as much as you had originally thought.
See, it’s not about them. The work must be done inside you. YOU must deal with yourself and your guilt and your expectations and your reality. You must embrace your limitations, the challenges you face with your baby and fire up that warrior spirit to make it work for you, however you have to do it! That process looks different for everyone.
Just as an example, I struggled a lot with breastfeeding in the beginning. My first born was almost a month early and born via c-section and was tiny and it was scary and in order not to completely lose my mind, I had to know I was doing all I could. I couldn’t just take the easy way out. I couldn’t just give up and settle – even when they told me to. I had to know in my heart that I truly did try everything. The reality is; once you’ve done that – absolutely NO ONE can guilt you for making a choice when you know you’ve done everything else possible first.
Part of this process means allowing yourself to be vulnerable and ask the questions, admit that things are hard, admit that you’re struggling.
Mama, this is hard. Birth is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. Being up all night is hard. It’s exhausting and lonely and frustrating and full of anxiety and pain and feeling weak of mind, body and spirit. It’s okay to admit that – no one expects you to be a super human who can endure that kind of pain, pressure, urgency and anxiety on no sleep for months at a time without breaking just a little bit.
Just remember; asking for help makes you strong – brave – powerful and empowered. It’s not powerful to push everyone away and pretend you don’t need help. It’s powerful to be honest with yourself and know when you need to reach out.
You know I always say “if you need something, please ask, don’t wait and wonder and be sad later because you didn’t make an informed decision”. Now, of course I can’t say something like that without the caveat that yes; it matters who you ask and where you get your info. Some of us can’t just ask our friends because they’ll only tell you what they did and tell you why everyone else is wrong. some of you can’t ask your family because they’ll be offended if you don’t do what they think is right. Sometimes we can’t even ask our pediatricians or lactation consultants becuase they’re all judgy and rude and tell you to just “give up and do formula” or, “just put them in a crib and let them cry” or whatever else that is really no help when you’re struggling to do things differently.
So many people in so many different places will tell you to give up your ambition of parenting the way you wanted to because it’s easier to do something else. I challenge you, mama… I challenge you to keep fighting. Find the person who wants you to succeed the way you want to succeed and is willing to do whatever it takes to help you get there.
There are a thousand books, websites and apps to help you, but where do you start?
Start here. The Cautious Mom Facebook Page. That’s what this place is for.
Ask someone who gives you a safe space to weigh all the odds, talk it out in a nonjudgemental way and will help you put all the pieces of YOUR STORY together so you can make an informed decision that is best for your child and your family. My purpose here isn’t to make the choices for you or tell you what to do. My purpose is to provide you a space to ask questions without fear of being told you are a failure. My purpose is to lift you up while making sure you are able to make informed choices without that pang of guilt that comes from asking some friend or family member. That’s why this page is here, why it’s private, why you have to be approved to get in.
Yes, I tend to personally favor “attachment parenting” principles such as extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and natural parenting fundamentals, but I understand not everyone has my life, my children and the struggles that led us to this lifestyle. Everyone’s struggles are different. Just because *I* did things a certain way, doesn’t mean I expect YOU to do them that way. The most I will do is give you the research behind why I made my own choice and let you decide. That is why I post research and I offer suggestions on best practice based on neuroscience and psychology, nutrition, child development and real-life/personal observation.
I’m going to tell you what I believe the best option is and why, give you some tools to research yourself, then let you make your own choices. If you don’t or cannot go the way I’d suggest, I’m not going to hate you or think you’re a bad mom. This is a no-guilt zone. Yes, I post articles about breastfeeding support and how doctors all too often will tell a mother to “just” use formula before exhausting all resources available… but that does not mean they are directed toward you if you are a formula feeding mama.
The motto of this page is “Know Better, Do Better”. Not “I Know Better, So Feel Bad About Your Choices And Do What I Say”. See the difference? But honestly, it all starts within your own heart. Before you can ask, you must listen to your own heart and your own needs and honor that. Once you deal with that internalized guilt and the feelings of inadequacy you have inside yourself, the less others’ suggestions will feel like attacks.
I truly hope you reach out and ask the questions you need to ask. I hope that you can own your choices and be proud of them. I hope you feel safe to vent, to release your fears, to allow this circle of mamas who have been there to surround you with love and support. I hope you always know you are loved, that you are amazing, you are beautiful and inspiring. You are an amazing mom.
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