In this age of mommy wars, when women seem to enjoy criticizing others’ parenting choices as a means to assuage their own insecurities, I would like to try taking a different route. Today, I’m giving a shout-out to all the moms out there who are boldly going where I, personally, haven’t gone before, and who are earning my sincere respect in the process.
- The Exclusive Pumper. Between blinding pain in the first month while baby is learning to latch, constant worries about having an adequate (but not over abundant) supply, and the fact no one can ever help with 3 am feedings, we nursing mothers have it rough. Formula feeding moms, meanwhile, have to deal with measuring and heating bottles at all hours of the day and night. And then, when baby is finally asleep, mom has to wash all those bottles. Keeping baby fed around the clock is exhausting by any method, but you, exclusive pumper, have it the hardest by far. You obsess over your supply while washing bottles, and you have to wake up at night even if someone else feeds the baby. You also carry around electronic equipment everywhere you go, and you schedule your day around pumping sessions, all to provide the best nutrition possible for your sweet baby. Sometimes she cries for you while you’re pumping, putting you in the awkward position of deciding whether to keep her waiting or stop just short of expressing the full amount you know she’ll need for the next feeding. But you persevere, taking on the worst of both worlds and providing your child with the very best.
- The Babywearer. Not everyone understands babywearing, and when you venture out of the house, you can never be certain what reactions you’ll encounter. It could be anything from the side-eye to frantic insistence on confirmation that your child can breathe. Someone may tell you it’s too cold, or too hot outside to be “doing that,” but you know the truth. Your baby is safest and most comfortable close to you–strategically shielded from the unwashed hands of nosy strangers in the grocery store. And speaking of the grocery store, you’re able to make full use of your cart while you’re there. Your baby’s car seat is neither precariously perched over the seat portion of your cart nor taking up prime real estate in the basket. It is securely installed in the car where it belongs, and your shopping is efficient. When you get home, you’ll be able to put all your groceries away the same day you bought them, and you may even finish the laundry. You’ve found a solution that works beautifully for you and your baby.
- The Working Mom. Not to say that moms who stay at home don’t work hard–we do. And sure, we miss out on things like adult conversation, warm lunches and private bathroom breaks, but that’s okay. Our toil is all for the purpose of making memories with our children, keeping our homes clean and cozy, and putting food on the table every night. So is yours. Yet somehow you manage to do all the same things we do in less time, with the added pressures of demanding bosses, annoying coworkers and difficult clients. Something has to give, and never having walked in your shoes, I’m not sure what that something is. All I know is that I admire you, and all you do for your family.
- The Single Mom. Or the wife of a husband who is not around. Whether he is deployed overseas, working long hours to make ends meet, or actually choosing to be elsewhere, you are on your own. Parenthood is hard, and lonely at times, but you roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done. Breaks, if there is any such thing for you, are few and far between, and there is no other adult in your home to even acknowledge what an awesome job you’re doing. Your only accolades come in the form of seeing your children succeed, and that is more than enough for you. One day they’ll look back in awe at how you rose to the occasion and wore many hats to be everything they needed.
- The Mom of Three or More Small Children. One is more than enough for some people, and it only takes two to wear me out, but small families must seem dreadfully boring in comparison to yours. Whether you planned the close spacing of your children or just embraced the surprises life threw your way, you have a lot on your plate. But it probably doesn’t even feel that way to you, because by now you’ve mastered the art of motherhood. You don’t have the time of day for strangers who ask intrusive questions or comment that you have your hands full. You’re too busy fostering lifelong bonds between your babies and catering to the unique needs of every child. You don’t bother doling out parenting advice to your friends, because you’ve seen enough differences between your own kids to know there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
- The Mom who Nurses in Public without a Cover (especially if she puts a nipple hat on her baby). You have chosen to prioritize your child’s need for nourishment and oxygen over your own modesty and the comfort level of strangers. Good for you! It doesn’t matter whether you forgot your nursing cover at home, your baby pulled it off, or you just hate wearing one–you are doing the right thing. Your act of courage, confidence and motherly love is moving our society one small step in the right direction. The sight of you gives me hope that breastfeeding will eventually return to favor and regain its rightful place as the norm in our society. And if I happen to notice a hat on your baby’s head that in any way resembles a breast and nipple, I will drop what I’m doing to stand and salute your mothering moxey.
- The Unapologetic Formula Feeder. Speaking of moxey, there is no reason a mom should ever want to hide while feeding her child a bottle of formula either. That’s right, I said it. The ‘Breast is Best’ campaign has now crossed the line in some advocates’ minds and led to a practice known as formula shaming. This practice is utterly preposterous and benefits no one. Breastfeeding may not have worked out for you, in spite of your best efforts. Or you may not have tried it at all. The reasons you’re feeding your baby formula are none of my damn business, and none of anyone else’s either. You know this, and you make no excuses. You are providing your child with the exact nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. Some people want to act as though you were feeding him garbage; intentionally poisoning your precious baby. You know that this insinuation is every bit as revolting and untrue as it would be to suggest that a breastfeeding mother is nursing for sexual gratification. But you would never dare suggest such a thing. You don’t want to attack the breastfeeding mother because you know how it feels to be attacked, and you wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So instead you take the high road, tuning out any ignorant comments you receive and continuing to provide your baby with exceptional care. I tip my hat to you.
- The Grandma who Truly Understands. This does not apply to every grandmother. In fact, far too many of them are either pushy and demanding. They insist their way is right, and that we, as young parents, have no idea what we’re doing. But as the grandma who truly understands, you have confidence in us. After all, you didn’t raise a dummy. You realize that many of the standards for safety and baby care have changed since you were in our shoes, so you either listen to us or take it upon yourself to stay informed on the latest product recalls and APA recommendations. You remember how it felt to be a new mother: tired, overwhelmed, and under way too much scrutiny from other moms. You provide emotional support, unconditional love, and advice when we ask for it. You’re patient with us when we try things that you know won’t work. You show us by example, rather than telling us, exactly what it means to be a great mother.