My son was a challenging baby. When we managed to get enough sleep to access some portion of our thinking brains, my husband and I determined he was easily over-stimulated, highly sensitive, highly active, had a sensitive digestive system so he was often uncomfortable, and had no trouble communicating all his feelings, LOUDLY.
One day, during his first year of life, I set out to do the unthinkable, I took him shopping at Macy’s. Despite Tyler’s intolerance for the stroller, things were going surprisingly well. I was so enjoying being out of the house, showered, dressed and amongst other human beings, that I tried to make it last as long as I could.
The meltdown came as I was heading through the jewelry counters towards the door. Loud screams and a squirming body writhed as every head in the quiet and peaceful store turned my way. I saw another Mom with her baby and looked her in the eye for sisterly support, thinking “don’t you hate when they do this”. But instead of solidarity, I got condemnation! I couldn’t believe it! She looked down her nose at me like, “what are you doing to your child to make him cry so much! What a terrible Mom you must be! Why can’t your child behave like mine?” Okay, maybe I was reading into it a bit, but it was definitely a look of judgment, not the support I was reaching out for. I stormed out to my car, thrust Tyler into his car seat, shoved the barely collapsed stroller into the back of my car and drove off in anger. I was mad at Tyler for not being like other babies, mad at that woman for not understanding, and mad at myself for getting so mad!
That’s when I knew. Moms being judged by other Moms, totally sucks! And I was quite guilty of it. I had all sorts of opinions about what ‘good Moms” should or shouldn’t do. In my effort to become the best Mom I could be, I formed many opinions about working vs. staying home, breast feeding vs. bottle, cloth vs. disposable, vaccinations, co-sleeping, crying it out, you name it! Those who judge others are often very judgmental of themselves. Before Tyler was born I believed a “good Mom” wouldn’t let their baby cry, yet my son cried no matter what I did! I thought “good Moms” stayed home to raise their kids but I was going crazy, feeling trapped in a prison I had built myself! Being a parent is hard enough without judgment around how it’s done.
My intentions were good. I love children and truly want the best for them. But that day, in Macy’s, I realized that the best way to help children was to give their parents as much encouragement and support as they could handle. It has become my passion.
Think about this for a minute. Do you know anyone with a Mom or Dad who doesn’t care for themselves: physically, emotionally or financially? How does that affect their child? Many adults describe it as a heavy weight, a burden that keeps them from experiencing their own lives fully. On the contrary, if you have a parent who takes good care of themselves, really think about how that feels. I am blessed with two parents who eat healthy, see doctors when necessary, manage their finances, enjoy healthy relationships and find pleasure in everyday life. What a blessing that is to me! That gift allows me to fully be ME. Because my Mom and Dad are happy, I feel free to pursue my own happiness.
I believe the best gift we can give our children, is our own joy. Listen, not to negative judgments, but to your own inner wisdom. What lights you up, energizes you, and makes you come to life? What brings a genuine smile to your face when you think about it? Try filling up YOUR cup first this holiday season, do things you know are good for you, your kids will value it more than you can imagine.
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