When I was pregnant and elbow-deep in parenting books, I was quick to formulate opinions and horribly stubborn about maintaining them. I can’t explain this phenomenon, but it really seems like those with the strongest opinions on parenting are childless folk or parents-to-be. Combine this phenomenon with my tendency to read way too many books and my appreciation of a good debate and you can imagine the kind of insufferable prick I was during those nine months.
I actually remember sitting with some of my traditional family members, gossiping about moms we knew who were harming their children permanently by “pawning them off” to strangers in daycare. How selfish to want the prestige of a job title and a career! And what kind of horrible parent would leave their child all day in one of those overcrowded, impersonal, godforsaken germ dungeons?
I was also known to rattle off statistics about the infant mortality rate in U.S. hospitals and why home birth was way totally superior to any other kind of birth scenario. Had I actually given birth yet? No. But I knew I was right. I KNEW it! Why? Because Ricki Lake and some important, smart-sounding people said so in a movie one time.
A good amount of my mommy judgment came from my childhood perception of the world. I’d heard more than enough about the importance of having mom at home for the first three years of a child’s life. Just recently my mom actually looked me square in the eye and said, “you were put on this earth to be a mother.” She meant the proverbial you, too, as in “all women.” So that’s what I grew up believing.
But I can’t blame the entirety of my judgey nature on my parents. During pregnancy I disagreed with my parents on lots of stuff, too. I criticized crib usage, talked up the benefits of babywearing and even dared to suggest that the reason my little sister is so stubborn is because she was Ferberized (left to “cry it out”) as a baby. I initially scoffed at my parents’ well-meaning gift of a cradle—they thought baby would be happy to be by herself for awhile. But I just knew that would be the first step to detachment and ensue in lifelong commitment issues and probably prostitution and a drug problem and prison time. Because Dr. Sears said something kind of like that in a book once.
Wanna know when it all started to turn? I’ll tell you: when I ate my placenta.
God, I kind of feel like I just admitted to having a third nipple or something. I can almost see half of you cringing or gagging into your sandwiches right now. I don’t blame you. I remember reading about Idina Menzel popping pills made from her placenta and thinking, EEW, what kind of Hannibal Lecter voodoo nonsense is this? Who does this?
Turns out, with a side of fava beans, placenta is quite the palatable dish. But seriously, I did eat mine—well, I swallowed small, frozen chunks of it over the course of a few days to help with postpartum bleeding and weakness. It really helped, too!
But eating my placenta was kind of a symbolic step for me, an admission that life is just one big mitigating circumstance and you have to be flexible enough to change your mind about things. And with that came the realization that judgment doesn’t do anyone good. I inadvertently pushed other women away by judging their parenting styles. Furthermore, when I came to the painful realization that some elements of attachment parenting (and other ideas I’d subscribed to) didn’t actually work for my family, I beat myself up about it.
So I’ve made a pact with myself to live and let live, for reals this time. You may do something I disagree with, like feeding your child McDonalds or requiring your child to attend church, but it’s not my place to tell you what’s right for your family. And if you want to have an intelligent discussion about it, let’s do it! I still love a healthy debate. But I’m done badmouthing and judging moms who do things I wouldn’t do.
Unless, of course, you’re beating your child or something. Then I’m going to judge the hell out of you.