I am lucky to have a lot of mommy friends – or friends that are moms. Most of them I knew long before the idea of kids even crossed our minds. They are all amazing women, amazing friends and REALLY amazing moms.
Some breastfed past their baby’s first birthday, some struggled to make it to the 6 month mark, some struggled to get started – watching their baby loose weight – and agonized over turning to formula rather than put their baby’s health at risk, and some decided that breastfeeding wasn’t for them.
New moms do what new moms do and share their struggles looking for support and understanding and compassion and advice. I was surprised at what a struggle breastfeeding was, pretty universally, across the board. And what makes this even harder is the pressure that society puts on new moms. The constant messages and images that define what a “good mom” looks like, what a “good mom” does.
I’ve watched this pressure turn logical, brilliant, strong women inside out.
The pressure turned me inside out. With both of my babies I was determined to breastfeed until the 6 month mark. But with both of my babies my supply plummeted when I went back to work. I exhausted myself pumping and feeding around the clock, while working an intense full time job. I snuck in extra pump sessions at work, gave up my lunch break, pumped in the car on the way to and from work and dissolved into a mess when I would come home and still not have enough for the next day of day care.
Every time I added formula to a bottle to make up the difference I felt like a failure. I felt like I was doing it wrong. And at the 5 and a half month mark with both babies, I sobbed as I made the decision to move exclusively to formula. A decision that was right for me, my sanity, my marriage and my kids. But that decision made me feel ashamed, made me feel like I wasn’t doing the best I could, made me feel inferior.
Where the hell does this pressure come from? Why is doing the best you can not good enough? Why do we as moms feel like we have to compete with the best of every other mom or some ideal defined by society?
And breastfeeding is just one of the many many many topics that invoke this self doubt. Cosleeping, sleep training, baby wearing, organic baby food, homemade baby food, cloth diapers, working, staying home.
It has to stop! We are creating a generation of moms that constantly judge themselves against an unrealistic ideal. We are creating a generation of moms who feel like they don’t measure up.
There is no “one size fits all” guide to parenting. There is no formula on how to do it right. Parenting is not black and white, right and wrong. Parenting is knowing your baby and trusting your instincts. Parenting is trial and error and finding what works for you. Parenting is a journey down a path that winds and splits off in many directions. Parenting is making the best decision at that moment, celebrating when you took the right path and course correcting when you made a wrong turn. Parenting is loving, beyond all else, parenting is loving.
I wish my mom were here so I could ask her if she struggled with these same doubts. If she had the same nagging feeling that, despite everything she did, she just wasn’t doing enough good enough. Is this just a side effect of being a mom or something else?
Regardless of the answer, there is one thing for sure, the media exploits this desperate need to be the best mom for our children. They prey on our insecurities, our doubts, our gut wrenching instinct to do everything we can to give our children the best we have. And to that I say enough is enough. We are good enough. In fact, we are better than good enough!