I have never been a girl’s girl. When I was a child, I was a full-on Tomboy, always wanting to do what my brothers were doing and never really getting along with the girls my age. As I got older, I found that I had more in common with men than women. I could wax poetic about my favorite football teams, I was REALLY into pro-wrestling (what was I thinking??) and I had no desire to wear makeup or get my hair done. But somewhere in the middle of 2010, everything changed. I learned I was expecting my first child. I was 28 years old and had been living in a foreign country for nearly a decade. My mother, grandmother, aunts, sister and friends were thousands of miles away. All of my girl friends were either young and single, recently married career women or had fully grown children. I felt lost and alone.
As my pregnancy progressed, I knew that I couldn’t figure it all out on my own. I needed other women. I needed The Sisterhood.
Thankfully, I found support in online forums, which helped me out no end. Eventually I started reaching out to other women in my local area when I met them at my doctor’s appointments. And once my son was born, I joined the first “Mommy and Me” group I could find. Some of the women were first timers, like me. Others were on their second or third child. One woman had a nineteen year old daughter who had just left home when she got pregnant for her new baby! Each of us had a story to tell.
A small group of us became closer than the others, and we took it in turns to host coffee mornings, afternoon strolls at the local park and even meet-ups at the swimming pool to help teach our babies to swim. We were shy at first – each of us was from a different background, whether it was economically, racially or religiously. We were each raising our children in our own ways, and sometimes our conversations together were unintentionally judgmental.
“You gave your baby a pacifier? I’d never do that!”
“Why aren’t you breastfeeding? Don’t you know it’s best?”
“If you’re going through all the trouble of pumping, why not just feed straight from the source?”
We all had our own reasons for doing the things we did, and the things we didn’t understand we asked about. We learned from each other. There were some things we were afraid to share, but once we did, we found so much support and understanding.
One of the ladies cried as she admitted that she was letting her eleven week old baby sleep on her stomach. “I know it’s wrong,” she said. “But it’s the only way she will nap. I stay right by her, and I watch her like a hawk. But I’m so afraid something will happen.” I tried to reassure her. I told her that my son (who was the same age as her daughter) was already rolling over onto his stomach and slept that way most of the time. “There’s nothing I can really do about it. If he’s old enough to roll, he’s old enough to sleep on his tummy. You’re keeping an eye on her, so just relax a little.” Her relief was palpable. It was as if by telling my story, I’d given her permission to do something she was afraid to do. It wasn’t long before the other ladies were telling us that they sometimes let their babies sleep on their bellies as well.
My second pregnancy brought a new set of judgments from moms who had “been there and done that.” I got a ton of unsolicited advice about juggling two and three children. Other mothers, fathers, teachers and child-free friends were only too happy to tell me what they thought I should be doing. While I knew they meant well, I would often cry when I got conflicting advice. Everything made me feel like I was failing my kids.
It is so easy to judge other parents. We’re all guilty of it at some point. But what is important to remember is that we’re all doing the best we can. We all want to do right by our children – to give them the very best we are capable of. If you can take a moment when you’re about to judge someone and simply think about your own experience, it is much easier to take a step back and remember that she is doing her best. Her way may not be your way, but she knows her child better than you do. And any mistakes she makes will be learning experiences that she will use in the future.
I am proud to be partnering with Similac on a new initiative called The Sisterhood of Motherhood. It’s not a club, and it’s not just for mommies. It is for anyone who supports, encourages and embraces the fact that we all have our own way of parenting. We have one simple message: We all love our babies. We are all doing our best. We all want the same things.
Watch this video below and feel free to share it. Use the hashtag #SisterhoodUnite.
Over the next few months, I will be sharing some of our personal parenting stories with you. I hope you will follow along and share your own stories with me. Let’s start a conversation. Have you ever judged another mother unfairly? Have you ever felt judged? How can we all do better?
** This has been a sponsored post on behalf of Similac. However all stories and opinions are 100% my own.