Hey moms. Have you heard the FAKE news? You’re to blame— for everything! Everything that can’t be “fixed” in your child, that is.
First blame seeds itself in your life through parenting books with covers containing phrases like “What To Expect” and “Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby.” The assumption? You will know EVERYTHING before your baby is even born (or you’ll be blamed for not knowing.)
Then blame appears at the toddler playground. “I bet Jimmy still sucks his thumb because his mom never breast fed him.”
It echoes in the teacher’s lounge. “The child doesn’t listen! I don’t know what that mom lets him get away with at home.”
Blame emerges from therapeutic sand boxes and inkblots at the psychologist’s office. “Jane is clearly depressed because the mother coddles her.”
Blame sputters from the lips of Auntie or Grandma or Sister. “My kids were as sensitive, hyperactive and defiant as Timmy, but they knew I wouldn’t put up with that behavior, so my kids behaved.”
Blame even feasts on the constantly evolving brains of us MOMS. We might think things like “Jane’s shirt is covered in yogurt. Why can’t I get her to eat more carefully? Or, “Ben was fighting at school. What did I do to allow this to happen?”
But we weren’t the one slurping the yogurt. We weren’t the one who threw the block. Still, some of us assume that we should control— everything.
If you’re a mom, you might hear:
1. If your baby has (another) cold, you’re to blame. You should feed him more fresh vegetables. And let him eat dirt. His immune system is weak because you’ve been too clean.
2. If your kid tantrums at the restaurant, you’re to blame. She senses you aren’t confident today. She’s testing you, and you’re failing! You don’t take that girl out enough. Or maybe too much. What are you doing in this restaurant with a four-year-old anyway?
3. If your child is a picky eater, you’re to blame. You didn’t introduce the right foods by age three. You didn’t enforce rules at the table. You acquiesce too easily. Let the boy starve. Then see if he learns to eat!
4. If your child is clingy, you’re to blame. You shouldn’t hug him so much. You should have left him in bed crying all night. Your marriage isn’t strong enough. Or, the problem is— you work…What’s that? You stay at home? You’re around waaay too much.
My personal favorite:
5. If your child has special needs, you’re to blame. His special needs are all in your head. Or, if he really does have special needs, then you’ve made them worse. When he bangs his head against the floor, tears his room apart— you shouldn’t react! When he cries, you over-nurture. When the school calls for the fourth time in a week, you get too anxious. When he refuses to leave the house, you don’t push enough. And that year you convinced him to try karate, swimming and yoga? You were trying too hard.
6. You can be blamed for your child’s anorexia, depression, anxiety or addiction even if research states otherwise. You tried too hard to be a good parent. You called your daughter “pretty” too many times. You didn’t say “I love you” enough. You failed to let your child fail. OR maybe you let her fail far too much.
Sadly, these messages of blame can prevent parents from getting needed help.
According to popular mothering news, you’re also to blame if your child lacks empathy, teases, bullies, or is shy.
The MOTHER is the reason the child can’t kick a soccer ball (didn’t she know to enroll him in lessons at age two?)
Many moms, like me, haul these conflicting, ludicrous, hypocrisies to school to the dinner table, and to sleep, killing relationships, stunting personal growth, and at times destroying parenting and personal joy completely.
BUT if you’re “lucky” like me, the weight of judgment eventually overtakes you. And you topple. The shell that has thickened, preventing you from trusting your instincts, from forgiving yourself for imperfect parenting, finally breaks. You’re left to discover, accept, and finally to love your unique journey of motherhood.
If you’re like me, weeding through untrue statements helps you uncover what is true for your child and your family. You might even find that parenting books and experts and relatives don’t know you, don’t know your kid on this day, in your home, in your family dynamic, with your genes, nearly as well as you do.
You might learn that:
1. You have pretty good resources, right there, in your own heart.
2. You aren’t the creator of your child’s journey. (Moms aren’t Gods.)
3. You don’t control everything your child thinks, does, says. (Repeat: Moms aren’t Gods.)
4. Your child’s journey is laid beneath his or her feet. It doesn’t actually belong to you!
As I see it, the REAL news reads like this: we moms are flawed mortals responsible only for loving well and trudging our best along our individual mothering journeys. We will fail. We will triumph. We will get stuff “kinda” right. We will plod and trip and skip at times on the path of our motherhood, sculpted from footprints fitting only our own toes.
As mothers, we’re each bound, like no other, to our totally imperfect, beautiful child. We are connected to him or her by history, by womb (or sometimes not,) by love, anger, tears, laughter, disappointment, success, joy and failure— NOT by blame.
So let’s look beyond the fake story of blame. Seek TRUTH. Praise lessons found in valleys of imperfections. Uncover answers radiating from wisdom and experience, overshadowing cultural myths of motherhood.
Let’s continue along our ever-changing imperfect mothering paths— without blame, but with gratitude.