The Importance of Community: Supporting Moms Trumps Shaming Them
The Hardest Time to be a Mother
From breastfeeding, vaccinating, and sleep training to the big social issues of our time such as mental health and racial divides, 2016 is a difficult time to be a mother. It is often easy to default to entrenched positions often created from what we have ‘heard’, not what we have verified and reflected upon. I am not innocent of such opinions, but I try to challenge my own positions. I try to remain flexible and open to new information that may alter my position. There are pitfalls to having just enough information to be damaging and not enough to do any real good. I want to talk about the importance of community and supporting over shaming in this blog post.
What do Donald Trump and mom-shaming have in common?
Whatever your feelings may be towards Donald Trump, I heard someone say a very smart thing on the news yesterday after his recent victory. This person was not a Trump supporter. However, he wanted to reflect on the fact that this man with no political experience had risen out of 17 opponents, despite tens of thousands of negative ad campaigns against him, to having a legitimate chance at the White House. He wanted to reflect upon this, and then revisit his own opinions. I wish more of us could do this when it comes to parenting.
When there is an opinion that we strongly disagree with, I think we need to look at why, rather than simply trying to quiet the noise. We need to get to the root of the problem, let people be heard, find a solution together. There may be a lot of noise about something that we may or may not agree with, but I think we should give it some value and address why there is unrest surrounding sensitive topics. It is not wrong to challenge the status quo, but it is wrong to expect that your challenge cannot be challenged. Freedom of speech applies to more than just politics; it applies to moms and dads too! Next time you disagree with someone’s opinion, try to ask yourself why they feel this way, and really try to hear them. I think there is much we can learn from each other, truths we can shake out and myths we can surface. I really do wish we would start to form a world community of parents instead of one that seems as divided as the country is on politics.
How do we unite?
It’s a great sadness I experience as a mother, as a woman, and as a daughter, that we are immersed in a mom-shaming culture. I am shocked by the attacks people make on other people’s choices. We have freedom of speech, but I am not sure it feels that free when a million punishing comments are made the moment you utter a word. I think, or at least I hope, it comes from a place of insecurity, not inherent meanness. What helps is getting a person to feel more confident about themselves so they don’t need to criticize others to bolster their own feelings of self worth. A person that feels more confident in themselves, their own decisions, is not intimated by others. There is room for variety, at least there is in a confident community.
There needs to be an understanding that what is best for one is not best for another. What is best at one time is not necessarily best all the time. Further, when talking about parenting, about children, human beings, it can never be black or white: “Breastfeed or you are a terrible Mom”, “If you vaccinate you are poisoning your child”. Any one, with a shred of intelligence or humanity, knows that the vast grey that exists in between provides for an ocean of variety. We need to be flexible with our opinions as our knowledge and experience changes. To learn that you are wrong is not a massive failure. It is an achievement if you can admit it. Just as being right should not convince you that this will always be the case.
The Importance of Community
My best friend just had a baby. It is her second, and through blood, sweat, and tears she managed to breastfeed for over 10 months with her first child. When I say tears, I mean it. You have no idea what she went through, but this was important to her and so she did it. She has the same plans for her second, and after a night of cluster feeding in the hospital she used a pacifier to soothe her baby and give herself a small break. Immediately a nurse ran in with anti-pacifier leaflets, not once but twice. In no uncertain terms telling her that she is a bad mother if she uses one.
Where was the nurse all night while she was struggling to breastfeed? Where was the nurse as she struggled with C-section pain? In what crazy world do we actually think using a pacifier makes a mom a worse mom? I thought to myself, sh*t, if this is where we are at with the parenting community then we have a long way to go before global unity! Parenting can be lonely, and there is a lot at stake. I completely denounce the notion that scaring people is effective when community and support are clearly the best ways to go. Or am I wrong? I remain flexible. IF you can show me scaring people makes them better at what they do, then I’ll consider raising my hand.
Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you are part of the problem, even in a small way. Take a look in the mirror and think about how you are going to make this easier for your kids – not harder – by the examples you set. I pray for parenting communities that won’t see diversity as threatening but as interesting and beneficial. We can co-exist. I pray for a change in media coverage so as to not perpetuate fears citing another random study but instead focus on truth and educating.
It Takes a Village
If I could speak to every mother on the planet and rally communities around her, around the world, I would want to say the following.
It takes a village – it really does. Anyone who thinks they can raise a child without anyone else’s help (and I don’t mean you have to be married), is not realistic. It is not giving their child the best start in life. We need to be able to raise our children together; supporting each other and understanding that our choices affect more than just our children or ourselves. Most importantly, we need to understand that raising our children together as a community does not mean we have to raise them in the same way!
Tags: community, Donald Trump, mom-shaming, parenting, parenting politics, politics
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