One of the hardest things about being a mother, I’ve found, is the certain knowledge that someone somewhere is judging you and finding you wanting. In the age of social media, where our actions and interactions are scrutinised daily by random strangers, there will always be somebody waiting in the wings to tear you down. To tell you that your kids aren’t eating the right things, that they should be sleeping more – or less -, that you shouldn’t let them do this or have that and why the hell are/aren’t you still breastfeeding them? It goes on and on and round and round. They’re sitting at their keyboards right now just itching to make you feel like shit because they don’t like your choices.
And this isn’t confined to the Internet either. This happens in real life too. I’m sure it’s probably happened to every mother at one time or another. It’s the people who tut in your direction when your kids won’t behave themselves in a restaurant. It’s that person who shook their head at you when you stood just a little apart from your toddler and let them have the tantrum they’ve been threatening to have all the way around the supermarket. It’s the mother with older children who tells you, when you dare to confess that you’re tired because your kids just won’t fucking sleep, “oh, my children were such Angels. They slept 12 hours a night right from being a few weeks old.” Especially her, actually. She can piss off.
I know that one day somebody will stop by my blog, read my post and dish out some judgement. I’d like to say that I’m prepared for it because I’d like to think that I am, but I know that I probably won’t feel very prepared on the day it finally happens. But the thing that I’ve discovered is this: Judging people is easy. When you only see a snapshot of somebody’s life, it’s easy to assume that you know what the bigger picture looks like. When a child runs out in front of your car while a mother looks on in terrified horror, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that she hasn’t taught her child how to be safe around roads. Who knows? Maybe she hasn’t. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s having a really fucking awful day and her child is being a total brat (because kids are sometimes, aren’t they?) and made a break for the road out of sheer bloody mindedness. Hell, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching O about not crossing the road without an adult, waiting for the green man and never running off when we’re in a busy car park. Guess what? He hasn’t always listened to me and sometimes I’ve had to run after him. Does that make me a bad mother?
I spend a lot of my time as a mother feeling guilty about stuff. Not taking my kids out enough, losing my temper with them, not being able to persuade O to eat green stuff. That’s just the tip of the guilty iceberg. I judge myself harshly enough that I really don’t need anybody else to throw their judgement into the ring too. In fact, I spend so much time beating myself up for my failures and worrying about how everyone else perceives my parenting that I don’t really dedicate any time to celebrating my successes. Actually, nobody likes it when mothers succeed at stuff. Everybody just loves to tear down a successful mother. We just can’t win sometimes, can we?
But do you know what I’ve found? Since I started blogging I’ve found this wonderful community of parents who DON’T judge each other. These women – and men – have been there with a virtual high five during a particularly shitty morning of pissy children and festering sleep-deprivation. They have given me the strength and confidence to be honest in my writing, to admit to having made huge, glaring mistakes in my parenting and not worry about being judged. Blogging has provided me with a safe space to write about the worst challenges that motherhood has thrown my way with the knowledge that somebody I’ve never even met will nod along in sympathy somewhere and leave an uplifting comment for me.
So do you know what I’ve decided? Thank fuck for the bloggers and the people who stumble on my blog, read a few posts and have something nice to say. Thank fuck for them. Without them, I don’t think I’d still be bothering to put my words out into the world.