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Dear Other Mom: My Formerly Judgmental Self Apologizes

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how motherhood has changed me, and the one thing that stands out is my increased empathy for other mothers. Before I had children, I thought I had a clue about parenting. HA. HA. HA. Isn’t it funny how humbling motherhood is?

With that, I wanted to share a few things that I had totally wrong. It’s not that I don’t have my values anymore; it’s just that I understand where others are coming from now. And I understand there’s no way I can rightfully judge another mother without walking in her shoes.

So…

To the mom who birthed in the hospital with an epidural, I apologize. 
When I got pregnant with my first baby (Harper), I decided I would pursue a natural birth. I watched all the documentaries and joined all the Facebook groups and spouted off all the statistics about how natural/out-of-hospital birth was better than medicated/hospital birth. I believe that in many ways, it is. But it’s not for everyone. And honestly, I don’t know which I’ll choose if I have a third baby.

Giving birth to Harper wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t terrible. There were a few extremely painful hours, but there were only a few minutes when I really thought I couldn’t take it anymore. With Ezra, on the other hand, I spent about 10 hours at 8.5cm+ in transition. It was awful. AB.SO.LUTE.LY.AW.FUL. I cried. I screamed. I swore I would never do it again. And I meant it. Afterward, I actually mourned my ability to have a third child naturally because it was truly that painful. I felt (and still feel, to some extent) that having a third baby might mean having a baby in the hospital with pain meds. Who knows? A third birth might be easy and fast. It could even be painless. (Ha!) But the unknown kills me. And for that reason, I have no judgment.

To the mom who uses disposable diapers, I apologize.

The decision to use cloth diapers with Harper was a pretty easy one. It made financial sense. My husband was on-board. And it seemed like a good choice for the environment. I spent months sewing all-in-one diapers from a pattern I bought online, and they ended up not fitting Harper. They also repelled water due to my misunderstanding of some of the recommended materials. I persisted, though, and I purchased a bunch of covers and prefolds. She was cloth-diapered almost from birth.

At around six months, she was sleeping through the night, and her diapers were leaking…and stinking! I emailed the manufacturer for suggestions, and I started changing her diaper while she slept before I went to bed every night. Sometimes that meant I had to rock her back to sleep again…and sometimes she slept through. Then, around 9 months, she couldn’t make it through a two-hour outing without needing a full wardrobe change. I was cleaning the car seat every night. And I was always covered in pee. By about one year, I had all but abandoned cloth diapers. They served their purpose for a long time, and I didn’t mind washing/scraping/soaking/sunning/bleaching all that much. But it just wasn’t working anymore. I didn’t want to buy all new diapers that late in the game, and she was showing signs of interest in potty training. So, we started using disposables.

I had every intention to cloth diaper Ezra, but it just never really happened. I tried a few newborn diapers on his tiny frame when he was born, but he leaked out. (His legs were TINY, and nothing cinched up properly.) I waited until he fattened up a bit, and I tried again. Pee everywhere. All-in-ones, pockets, covers/prefolds…nothing worked. I bought some disposables and just kind of never went back to cloth. I was surprised that my husband never questioned me about it, but he didn’t. I suppose he just thought it was easier for me to use disposables while taking care of two small children.

Some say that disposable diapers are terrible for the environment – and I don’t disagree. But cars are also terrible for the environment. So is textile manufacturing. And myriad other modern-day conveniences that we continue to utilize. The most important thing is that we’re aware of our actions and take small steps toward living a cleaner life. And if that means we do certain things in a greener way (and not others), that is OK. We do the best we can.

To the mom who feeds her baby formula, I apologize.
I breastfed Harper until she was 16-months-old. I never had any problems with supply or infection or pain (except for those early weeks), and I had several false stops when I tried to wean her. (Our nursing relationship finally came to an end when I got pregnant/miscarried and then got pregnant again with Ezra.) Ezra is almost 6-months-old, and he’s still exclusively breastfed. However, I recently found myself googling “why people give up nursing at six months.” (Of course, all the threads/articles I found were written by breastfeeding advocates who were passively and even aggressively judgmental of the original poster.)

For several reasons, I haven’t found breastfeeding to be as enjoyable with Ezra as I did with Harper. My supply seems okay, and I’m not in any real pain, but I am tired of it. I selfishly want my body back. (I’ve been nursing or pregnant for almost 3.5 years now.) I want someone else to be able to feed him. And I want to be able to leave the house for more than an hour without getting frantic text messages that I need to return home. Sure, I could pump, but that’s a pain, too. So, like I said…I fully admit my reasons are selfish. But they are my reasons. And for that reason, I don’t judge anymore. I will continue to try to nurse him until he’s a year old, but I’m not going to fault anyone else for stopping.

To the mom who lets her infant cry it out, I apologize.
I thought you were permanently scarring your baby for letting her cry it out in her crib. Babies NEED to be fed when they awake in the middle of the night, and their cries are a call for help. Right? That’s what I believed.

What I have learned, however, is that I am a bad mother when I am sleep-deprived and exhausted. And as much as babies need to be fed comforted, they need their sleep, too. There is a balance. When Harper’s pediatrician told me at her 9-month exam to put her in the crib and close the door, I was torn. On the one hand, I was losing my mind from feeding her multiple times throughout the night. On the other, I couldn’t wait to have her sleep through the night. I trusted his advice, and our entire family has been better for it. After about a week of mixed emotions, tears (her and mine) and doubt, she started sleeping 10-12 hours a night. She has not stopped since.

So when Ezra turned 4-months-old, I let him cry it out. It took him ONE NIGHT to make it through. At six months, he now shares a room with Harper and sleeps on about the same schedule she does. My husband and I get to share a bed at night. We sleep. It is glorious. And I am a better mother for it.

Go ahead, sleep-deprived mama: if you need to let your baby cry it out, by all means, do so. Don’t torture yourself because people like the-formerly-judgmental-me put their judgments on you.

To the mom who doesn’t co-sleep, I apologize.
I tried it. I really did. And it was nice in some ways. It was great when Harper wanted to nurse all night long, and I could still get some sleep. But in the long run, I hated it. My husband slept in another room. I got no sleep. Harper even fell off the bed once. (She was fine, but it still scared me.) I take naps with Ezra every now and then, but co-sleeping was not for me/us. Ultimately, it took a pediatrician telling me to get my baby out of the bed and get some rest before I went crazy to stop me from continuing to co-sleep when Harper was 9-months-old. (And I’m so glad he did.)

So to the mothers who refused to sleep with their babies, and who started right away with putting their babies in a crib, I apologize.

To the mom who doesn’t wear her baby in a wrap or sling, I apologize.
I wore Harper all the time. I had a myriad of slings and wraps – a Kelty pack, a mei tai carrier, a Sleepy Wrap and a Hip Hammock. (I used the Sleepy Wrap the most.) There were times when I liked the ability to carry her around with my hands free, but I never loved it like some do. I found that no matter which wrap/sling I chose, my shoulders and back would ache. And inevitably, she would start squirming and get uncomfortable. In the summer, there was the heat, and in the winter, there was the cold. If I wore her into a restaurant, there was no where to put her while I ate, so someone ended up holding her all the time (usually me).

So with Ezra, we use the car seat. And the stroller. (I LOVE THE STROLLER.) I have worn him in the Sleepy Wrap a couple times for hiking to a rock climbing location, but that’s it. He’s a heavy little dude. And wearing one’s kid isn’t for everyone. So to those mothers who use strollers and car seats to carry around their infants and 30-pound toddlers, I apologize for judging you.

To the mom screaming at her three-year-old in the parking lot, I apologize.
You really disgusted me. I saw you storming toward your minivan with your infant in one arm and your three-year-old dragging behind you. Her arm was uncomfortably bent, and she was screaming at the top of her lungs. You angrily placed her in her car seat and told her how bad she’d been in the bookstore. Your words were harsh and mean, and she was clearly upset and confused. Then, you sweetly placed your infant in his car seat and ignored your toddler’s screaming. I thought you were a terrible mother. Boy, was I wrong.

You were tired. And frustrated. And who knows? Perhaps you’d just gotten some terrible news, or you’d been in a fight with your husband. Or maybe it was just one of those days – those days when nothing goes your way and the toddler is into everything and there’s poop on your shirt and spit-up in your hair. And you’d just HAD IT. I’ve been there.

I’ve been that mean mom. I know how it feels to get to the absolute end of your rope and then cry myself to sleep at night out of guilt. So to you, I apologize. You are trying your best. And some days are hard. Really hard. Maybe I should have helped you instead of secretly judging you. Again, I’m sorry.

The the mom who goes back to work full-time, I apologize.
I used to wonder why you even had kids if you were just going to work full-time and leave them in daycare for someone else to raise. I thought you were selfish and valued material things over your relationship with your children. I always made the exception for those families who needed the extra income, but I simply couldn’t justify the “unnecessary” second income earner.

But over the past couple years, I’ve changed my tune. Working full-time isn’t for me, but that’s just because I know I’d drown myself in guilt if I spent so much time away from my children. But for the women who choose to go back to work, more power to you. Whether you’re doing it to support your family or because you simply like the finer things in life that having a second income can buy, you’re doing whatever feels right to you and your family.

I am crazy thankful that I have the ability to stay at home, but I must admit…there are times when I fantasize about having a full-time job. With the salary I’d make, I could buy cuter?, more expensive clothes for my kids, take my family on vacation, choose organic without worrying about price, buy more fabric, save more for our future, etc. And sometimes, I just miss having a job. So, I’ll say it again: I apologize. And to you moms who work out of necessity? Props to you. I don’t know how you do it. The thought of waking up before daylight to take care of the kids AND get myself ready for a full day of work scares the bejesus out of me. You are amazing.

To the stay-at-home mom who puts her kid(s) in daycare a day or two (or three!) a week, I apologize.
When Harper was an infant, I estimated that I was “working” 90 hours a week. 90 HOURS A WEEK! For 90 hours, I was either feeding, changing, entertaining, bathing, carrying, soothing, holding or teaching her. That’s almost 13 hours a day. Every day. Seven days a week. No holidays or paid vacation. No sick days, either. It was exhausting. And yes, I know there are women who do it with more than one child. Some are amazingly good at doing it with 3…4…or even 5+ kids!

But I wasn’t. My husband was working ridiculous hours when she was little, and I was miserable. I felt like I had no help, no family nearby, NO BREAK. I finally decided to put her in daycare three days a week when she was about 15 months old. Soon after that, I found out I was pregnant with the second baby (which I lost) and then with Ezra. Harper’s being in daycare was an absolute godsend when the nausea of early pregnancy (and the exhaustion of later pregnancy) set in.

So to the stay-at-home mom who just needs some time to herself…I HEAR YA.

To the mom who wears high heels and skinny jeans and looks a little ridiculous at the children’s museum, I apologize.
I admit it: you looked amazing. I posted a photo of you on Instagram expecting everyone to agree with me, but they didn’t. They thought you looked fab. So I thought to myself – maybe I’m just jealous. And I was. There I was in my maternity overalls and milk-stained tee, and I hated you. I hated you for setting an alarm and getting up that morning and taking care of yourself. I hated you because I wanted to be you. So to you, I apologize. I have since learned that putting myself first sometimes can make all the difference in my happiness. 

And a happy me makes a happy family. For that, I don’t apologize. 

  • Olga Becker

    Well said, Lauren. I’ve been there. LOL. It’s funny how children change your perspective and outlook. I am pretty sure I did everything I said I would never do when I become a mother. :)

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Don’t we all?!

  • Jodi

    It’s amazing what hindsight does. I have found mothering my fifth baby to be very humbling. I used to know so much more about mothering and parenting than I do now. ;)

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Yes, it is all so humbling. You are pretty much my hero though! Five kids…whew. But I’m sure you get so sick of hearing that…

  • Cheryl Sameit

    I enjoyed reading your post and can totally identify! It’s amazing how much I knew before I had kids vs. what I’ve learned after having two. ;-) A happy mama makes a happy family…100% true! :-)

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Cheryl!

  • Cari Homemaker

    Wow! I haven’t been in exactly the same situation as you (no one ever is exactly the same), but I can see where you’re coming from, and I totally get what you are saying. To that I say, “amen.”

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thank you. :)

  • Kimt2au

    A wonderful post, Lauren. It is amazing how we change our tune once we have actually walked the road rather than just looked at it on the map. I am so glad that you have realised that as a mother it is necessary, I am going to repeat that word, NECESSARY, to make time for yourself. If you do not look after yourself then you end up losing your ability to look after your family. Sounds like you have walked a long road. Congrats on your achievements.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Thank you so much for reading and replying. :)

  • Aafke

    Love this post, brought tears to my eyes. Read some other earlier post about parenting as well. When my kids were at the ages yours are now, I felt exhausted because I wanted everything to run perfect: clean house, clean kids, clean great looking mommy, do fun things, make a lot of money, etc. But that’s a dream. Not gonna happen. And I got peace with it. Now they are a bit older (6.5 yr old girl and 4 yr old boy). They play games with each other, go to the bathroom by themselves, no more breastfeeding and nappies, in school all day. And life is much more relaxed now. I find more time for myself now without feeling guilty. I love being a stay-at-home mom, even when they were little in hindsight. And now my husband wants a third child. Sigh.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Wow, Aafke, thank you for sharing! My husband wants another, too…or two…eeeeek!

  • Mae

    Boy do we learn a lot about life once it get’s complicated. We learn that there isn’t just one right answer and so many times we thought we had it. We were SO SURE that those mom’s were careless and callous and just not as good as we supermoms are and if they could just sacrifice a little more or who knows what else, then, they could be great moms like us. I think it’s a coping mechanism. I mourned the loss of high heels and good hair and flawless makeup- then I thought myself better for shedding those things. It helped me from becoming bitter at motherhood for demanding my time and energy for children and chores. Today, after two very different kids and a third en route- I’m happy that I’ve changed not only my own expectations but also the expectations I held for others. Thanks for sharing your struggles as well, this post really teared me up as I felt similar to you many times over. Congratulations too- letting go of judgement is a a difficult but beautiful feeling. <3
    Mae

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Thank you so much, Mae… Definitely a coping mechanism for when we are feeling subpar ourselves, I believe!

  • justine/ sewcountry chick

    Since I had my first in 93 and my last in 09 I’ve seen the pendulum go full circle I coslept, breastfed, etc. with my first because I had this instinct too, but everyone thought I was weird and judged me. Then later they coined the term ” attachment parenting”and it became fashionable doing those attachment parenting things, like a religion really, and the judgement started for the moms who stayed with the older methods, ie cry it out, bottles… moms like me who chose epidurals sometimes even felt guilty! Pain sucks. Why feel guilty? I just think its totally ridiculous to judge other mothers. Of course real abuse and neglect are a different story. Great post!

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Yes, abuse is a completely different thing. But generally, I think we are all doing our best and getting by however we can! :)

  • http://www.idreamloudly.com Kate Rowan

    I had a 25 hr labor and am absolutely terrified of having another baby, so I get ya there. Also, everything else hits home as well. Being a mama is hard. I appreciate you writing this. It’s perfect.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Thank you, Kate!

  • Charity

    I admit, sometimes I still get a little judgmental… until I actually stop for a minute and think about the circumstances surrounding the situation. It always helps to just imagine myself in the other mother’s shoes for a minute. I love this post. =)
    And concerning 3rd babies…. I was in labor for a really long time with my second baby, so I was expecting my third to be the same way. NOT AT ALL. She came so quickly we didn’t make it to the hospital and she was born in the car.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      If I do end up having a third…I REALLY hope it goes quickly like that! I don’t mind if I have the baby at home or in the car if that means it’s easy/fast!

  • Jess Abbott

    Great post!!! I often say, I wish someone had told me to shut the heck up back then. Hindsight is 20/20 :).

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Yes, it definitely is!

  • Karly

    What a wonderful post! Definitely need the reminder that everyone walks a different path. Thank you Lauren!

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      My pleasure, Karly!

  • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

    Mie, I have done most of them now as well! We do what we gotta do! :)

  • Rae

    Aw man I love this post Lauren!! So great. And…I’m always here if you want to make snarky comments about the mom in the high heels. ;)

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Oh girl. Don’t get me started. hahaha!!

  • Brittany

    Great post :) I learned very quickly (after being publicly shamed for formula feeding Lucas when he was just four or five months old) that judging other parents is completely unnecessary. I will admit that there are a lot of parenting styles out there that I don’t personally agree with or take issue with. But you know what? That’s why we don’t do them. I know that not everybody agrees with everything we have ever done (some of which you listed yourself). Bottom line is that we are all just trying to survive. Parenthood is really fucking hard sometimes, and when it comes down to it, you just have to do what you have to do to get through those really rough moments. The journey itself doesn’t really matter as long as all parties involved are happy & healthy in the end. Love you, friend!

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      I am thinking about switching to formula for Ezra…I hear ya girl!! I once read about a mom who would put formula in Medela bottles so she wouldn’t get publicly scorned. Crazy!

  • Sherrie Virdell

    Lauren, thank you for your post. As a mother of three grown great “kids”, I couldn’t have said it better. So amazing how your perspective changes. As a grandma now I see the same scenarios repeating themselves. What I wish they knew! Thanks, awesome post.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Thanks for reading, Sherrie!

  • Theresa

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head. Prior to children I had dreams of breastfeeding for at least 6 months, working part time, cloth diapers, and I am guilty of casting a disapproving look to the mother struggling with a toddler and infant. Then I had twins. Needless to say motherhood is not what I had envisioned. (Not that I would change a thing.)
    Just the other day, a young twenty something woman was giving me that same look as my boys “raced” through the store aisles. Now, I just smile.
    I too, am sorry for my behavior prior to children. Thank you!

  • Melissa

    My oldest child, of 4, is 23 and youngest is 11, and I still got emotional reading this entry. All those feelings came flooding back. I love how you put that in words, I think we all experience just that. I think most of us can all say, Amen. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Thank you for reading, Melissa!

  • Fadanista

    Thank you for putting into words what we all go through. I came to motherhood quite late (38) and thought that it was a bit like having a dog – you trained the child to behave, sit at the kerb (hehe!), etc. My sons are grown men now and never really behaved themselves, but boy, they are wonderful adults!

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Ahhh…I don’t want to wish their childhoods away, but that sounds wonderful!

  • Sheela

    Hi Lauren, this is my first time on your site (via a link from Sew Caroline). It looks like you have some really great stuff!

    Just one comment on this post. All of these are such great points. I would just clarify the point on working moms: women do not go back to work only for money (either because they need another income or because they want “the finer things in life”). Many of us go back to work because we find our work fulfilling, rewarding, compelling, and/or necessary for our mental health and our souls. I love my children and I love being a mother. In fact, my children are actually my motivation for working: I work on global nutrition programs that aim to save the lives of malnourished children in developing countries. Would I love to stay at home all day, hang out with my kids, sew clothes and take photos? Sure! However, I see my children and want to help other children whose lives are equally worthwhile but who are not fortunate enough to have the same privileges. I also want to demonstrate to my own children that women can achieve things and make a difference in the world. Trust me, I don’t do it for the money, because the money is not that good. I do it for the children (and their mothers) who need me. It goes way, way, way beyond money.

    • http://www.laurendahl.com/ Lauren Dahl

      Sheela – Thanks so much for commenting and reading my post! I totally agree, although I hadn’t though of it quite like that. I was thinking you were going the route of “it satisfies me,” but what you are saying is so unselfish and thoughtful!! I love it! I really appreciate your different perspective. :) Would love to have you as a reader. :)

  • Tami

    I’m listening to you on Sewing Affair Podcast and just have to say, the best advice I got as the Mom of a three year old: when they ask a question say, “What do you think?”

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