As a species, women are quite hard to understand. There, I said it.
We fill the complete spectrum with our differences, yet at our basic core, we are not all that dissimilar. We all have basic needs of love, acceptance, belonging and so on.
Why, then, do we bash each other, berate each other’s viewpoints and pile on guilt where extra isn’t needed?
Now, understand, I am a natural-birthing, breast-feeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, attachment parent, stay-at-home mother who chooses natural remedies over standard medicine. I wear these labels with pride, because being and doing them all successfully is hard work. But does that give me an automatic starting point for thinking I’m â€˜better’ than the next woman?
I understand why people sometimes feel they can’t do these things or be these types of parents. I am fortunate. I am in a supportive marriage, I have a good husband. We have had to tighten our belts to near suffocation for me to stay home, but we are doing it and so far, I am at home. I don’t have family around, and my friends are all working girls (not in Pretty Woman way, mind!), so most of these decisions and their successes or failures have been down to me.
Admittedly, mothers who follow trends without doing any research irk me. More so do those who simply believe that profit-seeking companies or bonus-seeking doctors really have their baby’s best interests at heart.
But it’s generally none of my business. And for the most part, if they knew how much they didn’t know, they would try to find out more too – though I’m sure the same is true for all of us to a greater or lesser extent.
I often have to bite my tongue when I hear mothers say things or see them follow practices that the slightest bit of research would change. Carrying a preemie baby will help them develop and grow better than having them in a pram, for instance. Or lying a colicky baby on its tummy for a while. It won’t kill them. And if you’re that worried, sit by them.
But no matter how right I believe my way to be, it is my way and I can’t expect others to do the same.
Of course, should someone ask my opinion or want to know what I suggest I will tell them. If someone is struggling and asks for help or information, I will share what I know.
But if there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that people often don’t want to know when they’re doing something wrong because either they don’t think it’s wrong, or they want to avoid the responsibility knowledge inevitably brings.
I know that I don’t breast feed in order to be better than the next person. It’s so that my daughter can be healthier. I don’t baby-wear to show up the pram users. I do it to keep my daughter close. I don’t co-sleep because it’s the new ‘in thing’. I do so because I sleep better when I can hear her breathe.
I didn’t work hard for a gentle birth so I could rub it in anyone’s face. I did it to show my female kin that it was beautiful and natural, and to bring my baby into the world peacefully, and to reclaim a power and belief in myself.
I did it for me. And therefore I don’t need to judge anyone else, or look down on them, or speak out against them. I don’t know their circumstances. I don’t know their lives.
Most of us will have made the choices that we’ve made for the sake of our babies, but have become so caught up in the politics of the ‘mummy wars’ that we don’t even remember what we did it for in the first place.
We are all mothers, sisters, daughters, wives or friends. Surely we are our greatest support network? The wealth of experience in our play groups, streets, neighbourhoods, towns and cities is enough to revolutionise our generation. But for any positive change to happen we need to stop pointing fingers at each other, to stop trying to better each other and to become the support system we require.
I challenge you to look at why you have made the choices you have, and then live and let be accordingly. I challenge myself to do the same.