There was a time when I was a mum judger. I looked at women openly breastfeeding their babies in public and thought, "Lady, it's not that hard to cover up," wondering why she wasn't embarrassed to be so exposed. I saw toddlers running wild in restaurants and stores and blamed their mothers for not being able to control them. I judged mums who put their newborns in daycare (the germs!), pregnant women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight (undisciplined!), women who fed their children candy and junk food (gross!), and mums who lived in yoga pants (lazy!).
And then I had kids of my own. It was so easy to judge others when I hadn't walked in their shoes; not so much after I had joined their exhausted, just-trying-to-survive ranks. Today, as a mother of a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, a mother who gained 45 pounds with each pregnancy, who regularly bribes my kids with candy, and who's wearing yoga pants while I write this, I realize that all those women I was directing those negative thoughts to were just doing their best. I was the assh*le, not them.
Yet I don't really blame my pre-mum self for judging those women. I just didn't know better. I had no idea how hard motherhood is every single day, how challenging it is to control a toddler, how impossible it can be to control how your body responds to pregnancy, or how much work it takes to breastfeed your baby at home, let alone in public. The mum-shamers I do blame for their judgment and shade throwing? Actual mums.
Here's the thing, ladies. None of us are doing this whole motherhood thing perfectly, and if you think you are, you're lying to yourself. There is no such thing as perfect. We all have days when we struggle just to make it to bedtime, when our kids don't put a single vegetable in their mouths, when we lose sight of our little one for just that split second that it can take for something tragic to happen. Maybe your motherhood faults are totally on display. Maybe they're hidden behind your closed doors. But I promise you, they are there. So why in the world wouldn't you stick up for the mums who are out in the open, struggling?
It's not hard. You see a woman being shamed on social media for a decision she's made for herself and her children? You shame the shamers. Call those cowards out. You witness a mother who's being criticized because her children are crying on a plane or running away from her in the grocery store or digging in the dirt at the park without her immediately noticing? You stand up for her. You have her back, even if you don't know her name or her background or if she's the best mom on the planet or a totally average one. And if she's your friend? Then, by all means, make your defence even louder.
The reason for that defence is simple. She needs your support, just as you have, at some point since you've become a mother, needed the support of family, friends, and kind strangers, people who saw when you were struggling to care for your children and — instead of shaming you for that struggle — helped you overcome it. It is your turn to pay it forward to another mum in need.
They say, correctly, that it takes a village to raise a child, and the best way to create that village is for us mothers to join together to create a community that is supportive, non-judgemental, and fiercely loyal to one another. Just think about how great that would be. Now go make it happen.