Do you pass judgment on other moms for their parenting choices? Life as MOM contributor Deanna shares her story and reminds us that we make choices based on where we are on our parenting journeys.
I remember that day as if it was yesterday.
I was kneeling in the church nursery in front of my daughter. She was ready for her snack, and I was holding her snack of choice these days, a strawberry yogurt.
As I maneuvered the difficult task of making sure she had enough support to eat while feeding her without soiling her outfit, I heard the voice behind me.
“Oh my goodness! I can’t believe you’re feeding that to your child! Do you know how much sugar is in that yogurt? Why would you give it to your little girl?”
It took me a second to realize that the voice proclaiming judgment was talking to me.
I looked down at the yogurt and didn’t know what to say.
I thought about the day my daughter was born and how they wouldn’t even let me try to breastfeed her because her muscle tone was so low and she was so sick. It just wasn’t a physical option for her.
I thought about how they wouldn’t let me give her a bottle of pumped milk because they were afraid she would aspirate milk and get pneumonia.
I thought about the tube that ran either down her nose or throat, depending on which was less raw that day, giving her sustenance.
I thought about the day she had surgery to place a g-tube into her stomach so that we could continue her feeds and bring her home.
I thought about the doctor saying to me “You know, the pleasure of tasting food is one of life’s simple pleasures. Hopefully someday she will have that too.”
I thought about the hours and hours of therapy in which we taught her to use a bottle without liquids pooling out of the sides of her mouth.
I thought about the many procedures she had in those first few NICU weeks that were so painful that they gave her sugar water (as a gentle sort of pain med) to help her get through them.
I thought about how we used the sweet tooth that she picked up in the NICU as a motivation to get her to put in the hard work to eat food on her own.
I thought about our graduating from a bottle to such foods as yogurt and other baby foods, still without her aspirating anything and what a huge victory that was.
I thought about the yogurt I was holding and what a big deal it was for her that she would eat this yogurt, but only THIS particular brand of yogurt, after hundreds of hours of work and fighting on both our parts.
While I was beaming with pride at her progress- thrilled to be at the point where I was FEEDING HER A YOGURT, another mom felt the need to cut me down because of the sugar content of the yogurt I was putting in my daughter’s mouth.
At the time, I mumbled something to defend my choice. But since then I have thought a lot about this. For the longest time this memory stung in a painful sort of way that I couldn’t even put into words. But then it melded into one of those distant past memories that allowed me to get some perspective.
It has been 4 years, and I have grown a lot as a mother, and my daughter has grown a lot in her ability to eat food. I now have 3 children, and I too have become very sensitive to the amount of sugar in the foods that I give my children. I have graduated to a point where I have the luxury of doing so because they are physically capable of eating food easily, giving me the ability to choose food quality over “at least they are eating at all” stage.
My daughter’s diet has improved immensely, mostly because of her physical growth and ability to eat all foods with much less effort than it took her in the early years.
But I learned something that day in the nursery.
That mom who made the comment was a bit ahead of me in the journey of motherhood, and she honestly was making the comment from the point of view of a mom who worked hard to make sure her kids ate healthy foods, just as I do now. But remembering how much that comment stung, how much that mom didn’t get everything we had been through to get to that moment, I learned that things are not always what they seem.
Watching another mother’s choice from afar makes it really easy to think that we know best. But watching from afar doesn’t give us the inside track to the process that she has gone through to get to that point.
Making choices in motherhood is a lot like shoe shopping. Some buy awesome high heels in bright pink. Some buy new running shoes. Some buy special orthopedic shoes. Some buy flip flops for a trip to the beach. Some buy dressy sandals. Some buy practical winter boots. Some buy stylish rain boots.
But just because you’re buying winter boots doesn’t mean that someone else buying hot pink high heels is making a bad choice. It is just a different one- with a different history, different event to go to, and even perhaps different weather for said event.
In the shoe store, do you hear people say “I can’t believe you’re buying those running shoes! They’re going to look way out of place at the wedding that I’m going to this weekend!”
We all have different stories.
I’m thankful for my motherhood seasons, and the appropriate seasonal footwear to go along with them. I am thankful for those friends who got it, even when they were in a different season than I was, making different choices than I had to make. I’m thankful for a daughter who has grown so much from that sick, sick little girl who came to me.
And I’m thankful for what’s to come.
Deanna is passionate about special needs advocacy and new motherhood- two things that go hand in hand for her right now. Three kids four and under, the oldest of which has Down syndrome- keeps her quite busy. But there’s always enough time left at the end of the day to write all about the insanity at her blog Everything and Nothing from Essex. And to laugh- always, always there is time to laugh. Technically labeled a “special” mother, Deanna really finds nothing special about herself. Truly, special needs parenting is just about taking it one day at a time- enjoying the highs, sloughing through the lows, and stumbling through the mundane while drinking too much coffee. Read all of Deanna’s posts here.