I am a judgmental bitch.
I wasn’t always this way. There was a long time where I was consciously open-minded. I made efforts to always assume a person was doing the best they could with what they had at any given moment. As a teacher and an administrator, I gave parents the benefit of the doubt as I believed that they loved their child and were trying to be the best kind of parent they knew how. I worked at this practice. I worked at being empathic and compassionate and I felt good about those things.
When I became a mom however, that changed. Along with this 7.5 lb bundle of magic, it appeared the stork dropped upon me the right to judge and this was a right I practiced with fervor. Replacing my open-mindedness came a self-righteousness and an unforgiving point of view that required one to always do right by their babies. And what was right involved self-sacrifice and grueling hours and playing through the pain and dammit, you better smile and feel hashtag blessed while doing it. Enjoy every minute, it goes by fast, you’ll miss these days when they’re gone, not everyone is lucky enough to have babies and stay home with their babies and you are lucky, lucky, lucky. All of the experienced mommies said it. I heard it. I lived it. And I was nearly swallowed by it.
I am a judgmental bitch. But my judgements and my bitchiness it appeared were directed almost entirely at my own performance as a mother. I had no compassion when it came to my own performance. Perfection. That is what my kids deserve and only under the tyrannical lens of my own idea of solid parenting would they get the best.
When my milk didn’t come in and my baby lost a pound in his first five days and was jaundiced and sleepy and just not well, my doctor told me I wasn’t going to be able to exclusively nurse him. It was for me the first and most important lesson in parenting: My intentions were one thing, and my intentions were good, but the reality of what a baby, MY baby, needed in the moment was everything. See, intentions don’t feed a baby. When your body will not make the milk, formula does. And so that is what nourished my child in the eight weeks it took for my constant pumping to stimulate enough milk to feed my baby. It was not my original plan but it was the new plan and it made my baby healthy and strong. Thank God and Enfamil for that. And yet, I felt immense guilt over not exclusively breastfeeding my baby.
The hardest part of parenting, in fact, has been the immense guilt I feel over everything. It is the guilt I feel about leaving my career and staying home with my kids because what is the message I send about women’s role in society and the guilt I feel when I do leave my kids because I should be home with them experiencing ‘the moments’. It is the guilt I feel for dragging them to places they don’t enjoy or understand and the guilt I feel for leaving them home to have childless experiences with my husband or my friends. It is the guilt I feel for letting them cry it out and the guilt I feel for not properly sleep-training. It is the guilt over saying no and breaking their little hearts and the guilt for saying yes and creating overindulgence and entitlement in my babies. There is the guilt of being an overtired and overstretched and under-fun mom of three very small and demanding people and the guilt of getting help, of allowing another capable loving person into my children’s lives to help meet all their needs but knowing that person is just not me. (And again…’the moments’. Parents, you know the missing of the moments…) There has yet to be a decision I make in motherhood that hasn’t been cloaked in deep reflection and second-guessing and guilt, in fact. And it is exhausting.
I began to think about my resolutions this year through the lens of a mom. This I am sure is no surprise to any other parent; it is after all how we begin all of our major decisions. I then thought about what I would resolve to make better about myself that would allow me to be a better wife. And the lists began accumulating. And, as appears to be a theme, those lists nearly swallowed me.
What I have come to realize is that my judgements, my harsh criticisms, my severe analysis of every choice I have made is not what makes me a better mom or a better wife or a better person. The despotic way I look at my own contribution to my family and the world does not make me more present or more loving or more generous. What it does is make me feel less-than and broken and sad.
So this year, I am not resolving to change. Because if I go ahead and silence my inner judgmental bitch for even just a moment, I think I can say that I am pretty good the way I am. I am not perfect, but I love the crap out of my family and I give good hugs and do a mean Peppa Pig impression and can pretend eat play-doh food like a champ and I make my husband laugh and I make sure he knows how much we appreciate all he is and that is good enough. It has to be.
I know these thousand words won’t entirely squash my mom guilt. I am, after all, a judgmental bitch. But at least this year, in 2017, I am a recovering judgmental bitch.