Look at the above photo. Tell me, can you find what I am doing wrong as a parent in this picture?
A mom in the waiting room could see clearly what mistake I was making and made sure to let me know.
First, the Steph You Should Know from the following story: this was not an isolated incident. While I live in a very kind area of the country—seriously, Portlanders are really nice people—that doesn’t stop the Mom Wars. These battles are everywhere and know no boundaries—in all senses of the word. Mom Wars can best be described as the animosity and judgement other moms feels towards each other for differing parenting and lifestyle choices.
For example, there is apparently this huge feud, (that I had no idea about until I read some comments online), regarding who is better: stay-at-home moms versus working moms. Without bothering to take individual situations into consideration, some mothers (and I say that as if there is another word at the end of it) feel righteous enough to tell other mothers that there is only one right way to raise a child.
The worst part about the Mom Wars? All of the judgement, the rude comments, the put-downs— it all comes from other moms. This baffles me. We all know how hard it is some days. So why aren’t we, moms, lifting each other up?
Last March, when Eli was 8ish months old, he had a fever. It was a tiny smidgeon of a fever, barely even 100.0, but I decided to take him into the pediatrician’s office. He had been acting funny and pulling at one of his ears, and I was worried he had an ear infection. We were a week away from getting on a plane and I wanted to make sure he was healthy before traveling.
I made the appointment, took him in, got him looked at. He was totally fine. The doctor couldn’t find any reason for his fever, made it clear I didn’t need to worry, and gave me some good tips for my upcoming flight with Eli. All in all, a very uneventful and unnecessary trip to the pediatrician. Uneventful, at least, until we walked through the waiting room on our way out.
A mom had come into the waiting room while we had been in the exam room. She was perusing a shelf of pamphlets in front of the door as I carried Eli towards the exit. I said “excuse me” in my quiet, polite, Portland way, because I needed her to move away from the door for a moment so I could get through it. It’s one of those heavy doors on an arm that slows it down so it can’t slam. She reluctantly moved aside, and as the door was closing behind me, I heard her say in a voice loud enough for me to hear, “It’s too cold outside for a baby not to have socks on.”
She knew the door would close slowly. She wasn’t trying to say anything to my face, but she wanted me to hear her remark.
In early March, it was maybe 50 degrees outside, and Eli had a slight fever. So I removed his socks to help him stay cool. Anyone who has had an 8 month old child knows that they tend to remove their own socks anyways. Whatever, I should not need to justify myself. Why, oh why, lady, did you think it was okay to underhandedly let me know this was not up to your standards?
She was not kindly informing me that the temperature had dropped outside; she was clearly not trying to help me out. Her intentions were to notify me that I was not taking care of my child correctly. That I was failing as a mother. That she could take care of my child better than I could. If she wanted to me help me out, she would’ve said it to my face. But she waited until I was a safe enough distance away not to turn around and confront her but still within earshot.
I wish I could pinpoint why this happens. If I had to guess for myself, I would say it’s my age. Or lack of a wedding ring. When I tell people at work that I have a son, the response is often, “You have a baby?!”. Sometimes, in this way, they are complimenting my waist size or how young I look. But usually, the way they say it makes it clear to me what they think of my ability as a parent in correlation to my age and appearance.
Regardless of the reason why she did this, I felt so much doubt and anger after this mom said this to me at the pediatrician’s. I wanted to go back in and tell her my baby had a fever, and I was actually overreacting and being overprotective by taking him in at all. I wanted to go justify myself to her; I wanted to prove to her that I am a good mom.
Does anyone else hear how messed up that sounds? I felt the need to prove to a complete stranger that I am a fit mother. Moms, why do we do this to each other? We ALL know how hard motherhood can be, and yet we continue to judge each other to the harshest standards—standards that are NOT one-size-fits-all. It’s been a year, a whole year, and I can still hear her voice in my head; I can still feel the doubt surge through me.
If you’re reading this and you’re a mom, I want you to know something:
You are doing a great job.
(And don’t you dare let the lady at the pediatrician’s make you feel anything less than that.)
I did find out why he had been acting sick later, when I saw the tooth coming through when he was screaming on the airplane. (Flying with an infant…Oi … that fun experience is a whole post for later).