So much judgement in the air at the moment. Aimed squarely at the jaws of parents. Mothers in particular. Breastfeeding or not? How long is too long? Smacking, not smacking? Body image for children. Schooling private or state? Early learning or not? Stay at home or working mum? The list of things we can judge other mums on seems to be endless. Will it ever end?
My boys are 20 and 18 and I couldn't be happier. I don't think I could stand the criticism if they were little right now. I would not stack up and I am almost certain I wouldn't be mum enough in the eyes of many.
I was not and am not a perfect parent. I didn't give it my best shot at all times. Sometimes life was too hard and I was too focussed on myself. Sometimes I couldn't be bothered cooking dinner and I gave my kids weetbix. Sometimes I couldn't be bothered getting them ready for school so we all had doona days. Sometimes they wore dirty socks to school. Sometimes I wrote notes to say they didn't do their homework because of a family emergency - I was just too tired. When I left my husband it was hard work. I only had them 50% of the time I totally underestimated how difficult that would be. To even begin to explain the difficulties of this will take a whole other blog post.
I was judged for leaving a seemingly perfectly good marriage for my own selfish reasons. Do I regret that? No way. Did it alter the course of my children's lives? Absolutely. For the better? I hope so, but I can never be sure. Does this make me less of a mum? Not in my eyes, but I'm sure in the eyes of the judgers it does.
I breast fed both my boys. They both stopped at 6 months. Does this make me a good mum or a bad mum? They both went straight to cows milk at 6 months. I hear the purists screaming now. My boys are okay. They always have been. Their stomachs are healthy. If they didn't wean themselves at 6 months I may have fed them for as long as they wanted. I don't know this. It didn't happen to me. Whether I breastfeed for 1 day, 1 month, 3 years or 5 years, does it really matter? Does it make us bad mothers because we do what suits us, our children and our lives?
My youngest had a dummy until he was 3. People looked and judged. I didn't care. Okay I did care, but I shouldn't have. His dummy was his security, something he needed. Something I needed to ensure he settled at night. Could I have done it differently? Maybe. But I didn't. Doesn't make me a bad mother.
My children didn't have regular 6 monthly dental appointments. They only went 3 times during their growing up years. I have a dentist phobia. Friends and family are horrified when I tell them this. As you are reading this you are probably horrified too. I took my kids when they were quite young and they were never going to need braces. I took them again when they became teenagers, their teeth were all good. I took them again in their later teens. The older one needed some fillings and the younger one didn't. The older one doesn't clean his teeth. He doesn't like toothpaste. I don't make him clean his teeth. He is 20. This is his problem. He always had a toothbrush and toothpaste to use. The fact he doesn't has nothing to do with whether I am mum enough.
My boys were not academic. They are both extremely smart. They could be anything they want. For the most part they have just chosen to cruise along, not really trying too hard. I never pushed them to be anything different. Should I have? Would it have made me a better mother? Maybe, but when you only have your children 50% of the time it is very difficult to keep up any form of consistency. They will hit their straps at some point. They see their parents and step parents work hard. They understand working hard and the rewards it brings. I'm seeing my youngest start to hit his straps now, despite the fact he dropped out of school in grade 11. In fact he just walked in from work at 7.30 pm and said "I'm psyched. I'm loving work. I'm excited." He's not a doctor, he's not an engineer, he's a salesman and I couldn't be prouder. Does this make me mum enough?
Throughout all of this, over the past 20 years, the hard times, the good times and all the times in between, we all loved each other and everyone had a soft place to land.
My boys have both been in trouble. They have messed up. They have made some big mistakes. I have despaired for their futures. There were times I worried they were actually going to survive the teenage years. They have, and so have I.
The point I am making is there is so much I could be judged poorly on as a mother. I am not even close to the "perfect model mother". I don't care about this. My boys are healthy, loving, good people. They know how to love. They know what is right and what is wrong. They know how to be compassionate and they have empathy for others.
A month ago I asked my youngest if he liked his childhood. He said "mum I had the best childhood ever. I miss it so much now that I'm an adult." That right there is all the judgement I need.
So many parents out there don't have perfect lives - in fact most of us don't. Our circumstances are not always conducive to playing happy families. There are a million different variables. How about we all stop judging each other and start accepting that this parenting gig is tough. When we meet in mother's groups instead of boasting about how good little Jemima is and how she can count to ten before she can say daddy, why not ask the mum who looks tired and sad if she's okay? Maybe tell her about something that you are finding difficult so she doesn't feel like she is failing and alone. .
As mums we are all doing the same thing, we all have the same fears, the same concerns and most of all we want the same outcome for our children. We want them to grow up to be happy.
It's time to start playing nice and stop judging.