What Happened to Support Without Judgment? Questions from the Mommy Trenches

One of the things I used to love about girls friends, is that unlike most males, they simply offer support rather than try to fix your problems. Most men are more goal-oriented. When I come home with a problem, my husband tries to help solve it. Most of the time I appreciate this, but over our 8 years of marriage, he has also learned that sometimes all I want is for him to listen. Women, generally speaking, are good at listening and providing support or encouragement without necessarily dispensing solutions. Or so I used to believe. But since I’ve become a mother I’ve discovered this tendency to Mommy Solve all problems. When I mention my daughter wasn’t sleeping through the night yet at 9 months, I was inundated with ways to make it happen. When my daughter first started showing interest in the potty at 18 months, every mom I knew had an opinion about whether I should start full-blow potty training, or ignore the interest and delay until she was closer to three. Except for a few rare cases what I didn’t receive was support, or at least not without advice attached. Then when I didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t accept said advice, the support began to evaporate. Why does becoming mothers make us less supportive of each other as women?

Every new method and book has moms in a tizzy other whether we will accidentally mess our kids up. Today’s young mother seems to have little confidence in their own instincts, trusting the experts more than themselves. One of the things I love about the theme of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) this year is that it emphasizes our own innate instincts as mothers. They call it Mom Sense.  Common Sense + Mom Instinct = Mom Sense. I’m not saying books and advice aren’t helpful, but I think we forget that for centuries women parented based on the support of their mothers, grandmothers and larger community of women, not child psychologists. Yes, there were bad mothers then, there are still bad mothers now, in spite of all the supposed modern resources at our disposal. I too often hear the phrase, “It takes a village.” But I don’t see a village. I don’t see mothers banding together and supporting each other. I see experts, and even government, telling me they can raise my child better. I see moms criticizing each other’s parenting methods and gossiping about the moms who won’t use the current “approved method” feedings, diapering, discipline, etc. This is not a village of support. We have fostered an atmosphere of competition not cooperation.

I’m working on training myself not to become part of this trend. Things like asking open ended questions like “How is breast feedings going? Or “How is the baby sleeping” rather than “Do you have a feeding schedule yet?” or “Is the baby sleeping through the need yet?” Then whatever the answer, I try to offer encouragement and support, even share my own difficult experiences. I offer advice if it seems to be desired, but mostly I’m trying to keep my mouth shut and listen. I remember being the first time mom who just wanted someone to listen. Not to judge or solve, but to encourage me that I was doing just fine and that eventually things would get easier. We so quickly forget what it’s like to feel insecure and uncertain that we allow ourselves to fall into criticism and judgment. If we are willing to close our months and open our eyes and ears we can still make “the village” a place we all want to raise our children instead of a cloud of critics and cynics.

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3 thoughts on “What Happened to Support Without Judgment? Questions from the Mommy Trenches

  1. Wow, I am so with you on this. Excuse me while I write a novel in your comment section haha!

    I was just thinking about this today because my daughter isn’t sleeping through the night well at 10 months (we’ve had a relative sleeping on our couch for the last two months so that might be part of it…), and whenever I brought it up around other moms there was this mommy advice explosion. Although I’m not sure I’d call it “advice” in that case, more like they all told me to “get back on track with the schedule” “get my act together” that sort of thing. It basically made me feel like the worst, laziest mom ever. I am so exhausted, all I wanted was understanding and a hug I guess. It’s sad how moms feel like they have to jump all over other moms in how they raise their children. Among the circle of moms I know there’s always this underlying tug-of-war between moms who are all about attachment parenting and the moms who are militant about feeding schedules. Or when I had to bottlefeed because my daughter was premature & not nursing well, there were definitely disapproving glances from other moms. It’s so sad! It shouldn’t be like that, we’re all in this together, right?

    “Every new method and book has moms in a tizzy other whether we will accidentally mess our kids up” –I have totally been there. A friend gave me the book “The Baby Whisperer” and basically told me that if I just followed all the advice in it my baby would be sleeping through the night at six weeks and on a flawless feeding schedule…..yeah, that pretty much never happened. All it did was made me feel like a huge failure and bad mother. I definitely agree there needs to be more Mom Sense!!

    Thanks for the insight and reminding me I’m not alone!

    1. I know how you feel. I hope your daughter begins sleeping soon. Our daughter didn’t sleep consistently through the night until 13 months. I felt like a huge failure. You have to find the method that works for you and trust yourself. Or find a few moms you trust and ask their advice when you feel like you are at your wits end. The key is to find as unbiased (as possible) a person to get advice from. Just know that I’ve been where you are. It’s rough, it sucks, but it will get better eventually.

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