You know you’ve done it. Let’s be honest, we’ve all done it. Because we’ve all been childless at one point or another.
We’ve all sat across the table from another mom, cringing in secretive judgment as they bribed their toddler with Oreo’s to put on their shoes. Or poured formula into their infant’s bottles when they should have been breastfeeding. Or (gasp!) served their six-year-old macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets for the umpteenth time in one week.
We’ve also quietly taken note of how much weight “so and so” gained when she was pregnant or how annoying that other friend is now because all she can talk about is her baby’s poop. We may have even thrown our coworker under the bus for always being late and leaving early because of her kids—after all, kids shouldn’t be an excuse to carry less weight around the office.
I admit it—I was the absolute worst kind of judgmental mom because I hated what birthing little people did to so many of the big people I loved. The truth of the matter is, I resented what being a “mom” stole from them—their freedom, their interests, their passions, and their careers. I hated that they suddenly cared so flipping much for one tiny little person that they no longer seemed to care at all about the things that once defined them—their friendships, their personal pursuits, their passions, and their dreams. It always felt to me like the women I knew were hanging up their entire identities to become “mom” and I never could understand why. How could that make them happy? Didn’t they want more?
That choice was in such opposition to everything I believed in…. Strong women with big dreams, empowered to do it all and have it all. And, most of all, to have a real authentic relationship with themselves. It took me more than three decades to have that relationship with myself, and I was not going to be the kind of woman who traded all that in for anything. I was not going to change. I was going to still be me…. the same as I was before.
And so my “would never” list began. Through four-plus years of infertility struggles, I observed all my best friends became parents, while I silently sat back taking notes (aka: making judgments) of the following Things I Would Never Become: Controlling. Disheveled. Stressed. Overwhelmed. A stay-at-home-mom. Consumed. Obsessed. Uninformed. Out-of-shape. Uninteresting. A bitch. Boring. Routined. Structured. This was quickly followed by the list of Things I Would Never Give Up: Passion. Music. Freedom. Alone time, Concerts. Travel. Shopping. Feeling stylish. My creativity. Sex. Sleep. My career. Connection with my husband. Cooking. Dancing.
And then you can imagine what came next…. I gave birth to twins.
THE EMANCIPATION OF THE “WOULD NEVERS”
After vowing I’d breastfeed for one year, at minimum, I fed both babies formula after only four months. I gained 80 pounds when I was pregnant, and I still haven’t lost 15 of them because I don’t have time to cook and I barely work out anymore. I went back to work eight weeks postpartum with every damn intention of leaning into my career just like I’ve always wanted to and…. I hated it. I haven’t watched the news or read the newspaper, or opened a single one of the dozen or so books I bought that have now traveled to three cities with me without having a single page turned.
Two tiny little people have consumed my entire life, and I have become that obsessed mom who really has very little else to talk about these days. The babies’ routines dictate my every move, as I spend virtually every single day doing the exact same thing, at the exact same time, in the exact same order, over and over and over again (it’s seriously like “Groundhog Day” around here).
I’ve been a controlling, bitchy, out-of-shape, stressmonger who’s completely overwhelmed and dishelmed (don’t even ask how many times in one week I loose my keys). I have essentially given up the majority, if not all of, my personal time. I have barely made it out of the house for five date nights in seven months (they’re supposed to be weekly) and I have just started dancing again after almost 15 months of not physically being capable of doing so.
In short, I became—almost exactly to a T—the mom I judged, the mom I didn’t understand, the mom I would never become.
So how could I make that choice? How could I give up so many things that defined me? How could I transform into this completely different person, who was so far removed from the “me” I had known?
And the answer is…I simply don’t know.
TO EACH HER OWN JOURNEY
Nothing in life costs so much to our identities and obstructs so many of the things we value and love so drastically—and yet simultaneously brings so much meaning and joy to our lives. I suppose the same biological and maternal pull that compels penguin mothers to march 125 miles in the ice and snow to bring food back to their young compels modern day mothers to do and give up whatever it takes to care for their babies. It’s one of life’s great mysteries, I suppose.
But what I do know is this. You cannot judge another mom until you have walked in her shoes. You have no idea what kind of mom you will be, how much you will change, or how much it will devour your identity until you hold your own crying, naked, and completely vulnerable new life in your arms. There is no way to predict what you will be able to keep up with or balance or what will need to change until you begin to navigate your own parenting journey.
And at the end of the day, no two journeys of motherhood look exactly the same. There is no one right way of doing anything. When your baby is sick, or your child won’t eat, or your milk wont come in…. you may just surprise the hell out of yourself with what you will resort to for 20 more minutes of sleep or one argument-free meal with your toddler.
So let’s make a pact with one another: Stop judging one another and instead support each other in whatever we need to do to make our lives work for us. Even if that thing is plopping our kids in front of “Dinosaur Train” for just 10 more minutes of blissful quiet.
It’s true that Judgy Wudgy is now a mom….but she used to be an asshole.