OK, Who Invited Judge Judy?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not too long ago, I left my son at home with family while I went to the city for a meeting. There were a few things that I wanted to note about QB’s care, some routines that we had in place. Instead of rattling off all the information to folks and possibly overloading them, I grabbed a pen and notepad to jot things down.

Midway through the list, I stopped myself. I started to feel this mix of guilt and eye-rolling and embarrassment. It was weird. Then I realized what was happening. Somehow I was in the process of shaming myself, making myself think that I was being a fusspot, exacting, one of those mothers.

I was about to tear out the sheet, trash it and put the notebook back in the desk drawer, when Sensible Nikki swooped in to remind me of something simple, but fundamental: the only thing I was being was a mother. More specifically, QB’s mother. The one person who had spent the most time with him from Day One. A person who knew—felt in her bones—what was right for this particular kid.

I should absolutely write down some notes, explain the laws of QB Land, and feel completely fine about it. I shouldn’t worry about being labeled as one of those moms, right?

In theory, yes. But then there’s life.

We’ve talked here before about the judgment that swirls around motherhood and parenting. The labels (Helicopter Mom, Hippie Mom, Fussy Mom, Nervous Nelly Mom, etc.) are just another branch of the Criticism Tree. Labels make you second-guess your gut. They make you feel bad and ashamed about your choices, your process.

I remember talking to a mom who was trying to wean her toddler from breastfeeding. She was so embarrassed about it that she couldn’t bring herself to “confess” (her word) this to her close friends … or even her own mother. And she was horrified at the thought that her talking child might expose their secret one day when out at the library or a playdate.

Red-faced and contrite, she admitted that she didn’t want people to think she was one of those mothers. So she ducks and hides while nursing—something that she and her child rather enjoy. All to avoid being tagged with a label.

It makes me think of a new additions to my running playlist. It’s a song by Ne-Yo called “Champagne Life.” It’s catchy; keeps me trucking along on those cool, damp mornings. But there’s a line in it that I really like. In fact, I’m thinking about adopting it as some sort of motherhood motto:

Baby, I’m a boss, I don’t know what they do.”

It says (to me, anyway) that I’m in control here. I’m not studying what the next man/mom is doing. I’m focusing on what works for me … and busting out a little funky dance move while I’m at it.

  • 1
    Emily says:

    love this. and thanks for the new song!

  • 2
    Wolfmother says:

    Similar thoughts have coursed through my own head, wondering if I was behaving for my child’s benefit or for some idealized motherhood persona. Sometimes it is difficult to separate ourselves from all the mommy drama out there and simply follow what we believe is right despite popular opinion. What helps me keep it real is reminding myself that in the end, it is between me and my child. The random person who might be judging us will have no bearing in the future, but my children will internalize our relationship and that’s what really matters.

    • 2.1

      Excellent point: It’s all about you and your kid(s).
      Thanks for reminding us that the random critic is just, well, random. :-)

  • 3
    Rachel says:

    I love this post.

  • 4
    Momma Jorje says:

    I consider “Hippie Mama” a badge I get to wear with pride. That said, I’m NOT a private person and I’m quite opinionated. (So I know I’m right and I’m not afraid to argue about it.) That said, even I get hesitant or embarrassed in some situations. For instance, when coworkers talked about those crazy moms that nursed their children until they were (gasp) 3 or older! (I nursed my second child for 3½ years! So long as they didn’t trash it first, I was more willing to speak with pride about my choices.

    Anyway, yes – we need to embrace who we are. Not because we or anyone else labeled us so, but just to be authentic to ourselves. Great post!

    • 4.1

      Arrrgh! The co-worker critics’ circle. That’s such a yucky feeling. But you’ve hit that nail with one solid BAM… do you because it’s you. Table the labels! <—New mantra? I'm thinking yes.

      Thanks for reading, Momma Jorje.

  • 5

    I strive to avoid doing things because of current opinion (I hesitate to say popular because it’s such a transient label), but sometimes I’m influenced in a way I’m grateful for later. Nursing in public was always a non-issue for me, but my husband had discomfort with it. And I have used the “before I had kids I swore I’d never (fill in the blank)…” as I did the polar opposite.

    I think what people learn eventually, hopefully, is that our idealistic values are malleable when they mix with real life. Or at least they should be. My four-year-ago self would “tsk tsk” at me now. Plastic toys! Processed food! Television! Ice cream! Oh my!

    Heck, even my pre-two-kid self would balk at my current survival tactics.

  • 6

    […] Ms. Mary Mack, Nikki observes — and questions — our tendency as mothers to second-guess ourselves (via Lauren of Hobo […]