So there was this Wall Street Journal article that went a little viral over the last few days (at least among the mothers I hang with online) all about Mother Madness, celebrity moms, what’s wrong with the modern mom and how we modern moms are making “prisons” for ourselves. To me, it wasn’t anything earth shattering. My first reaction was that it was yet another article trying to diagnose what ails us, and putting people into pretty little, easy to judge boxes while they were at it.

Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.

Okay, I’ll admit I was actually a little offended by it… because I think this author would try to put ME in that little box she seemed to be judging- the mom who baby wears, makes her own baby food, cloth diapers and breastfeeds, the mom who, she seemed to imply, is making motherhood so difficult for other moms who don’t choose to do these things. So yes, it’s possible my initial take on the article was a little tainted by how I felt she was judging ME, accusing ME of creating a prison for myself out of these CHOICES I’ve made on my path through parenthood.

Sure, there are some days this motherhood thing can feel a little prison-like, but please don’t go thinking that would change if I used disposable diapers, formula fed, and kept my kid in a baby swing all day (*note- this is not me judging those choices). What would make my life a little less prison-like from time to time would be:

a. Not being subjected to the torture that is a 5th Fresh Beat Band episode in one day

b. Not having to eat bland food like a cold cheese quesadillas AGAIN because it’s all the toddler will eat and I don’t get a chance to scarf mine down until he’s down for his nap

c. Not having to wipe shits the size of a grown man’s from my son’s ass after he has another poop incident in his Buzz Lightyear undies

d. Not having to do ANOTHER load of dirty dishes only to make ANOTHER dinner, thus producing ANOTHER load of dirty dishes

I mean, those are *my* prison-like conditions around here.

For a while I contemplated getting deep on here about it, breaking down the article, asking you all questions, but that’s been done, and I’m tired, and really, after letting it simmer for a few days, I can see past the offensiveness that is putting down a whole “type” of parent and get to the heart of what I *think* (hope?) she was trying to say. Well, she did say it… in the very last paragraph.

We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.

So let’s just go from there because I bet we can all agree that that statement is a pretty great one in and of itself.

I was going to name this list the 10 Commandments of Motherhood, but that would imply that I’m God-like when it comes to this, and I’m certainly not anywhere close to perfect. And I know we all agreed there should be “no rules” so how about we call it…

10 Things That All Sort Of Contradict Each Other But Might Make Mothering Less Stressful If You Do Them
but I’m not making any promises and it’s possible I’m pulling this out of my ass because I’m very, very new at this, too and really suck at some of these

1. Educate yourself– read books, read *reputable* websites, get various opinions, talk to your doctors

2. Don’t always trust your doctor– blindly, that is- sort of goes back to the whole educating yourself thing- YOU are you child’s best advocate

3. Trust your gut– even though sometimes it will tell you the exact opposite of every other member of your family- these are YOUR choices to make

4. Own your choices– no matter what it is you decide to do, if you’ve educated yourself and analyzed your situation enough to trust your gut to make a decision, what more can you do? Own it. It’s the BEST YOU CAN DO.

5. Don’t let other’s choices make you feel any less or more of a mother– THIS. IS. HARD. To be honest, I struggle with this one every day- on both sides.  Just remember you are doing the BEST YOU CAN DO and so are they… hopefully… but that’s really none of your business… unless they leave the kid in the car with a 10 lb bag of crack and a rabid dog… then intervene because that is some shitty parenting and I encourage you to judge, judge, judge.

6. Cut yourself some slack– I’m serious. This is another one I struggle with a lot. Caring for another, smaller human doesn’t make us superhuman. We are allowed to feel tired, sick, annoyed, stressed. We are allowed to let all the balls drop, to just sit on the couch while the house is falling apart around us, children jumping off of couches with sharp objects in their hands, dirty dishes piled to the sky in the kitchen, small animal sized dust balls blowing across the floor, and not GIVE A DAMN. I challenge any one of you with a kid over the age of 18 months to tell me this has not been a scene from your life at some point or another. It happens to ALL OF US at some point. Yes, even that perky, put together, pearl-wearing mom who’s always perfectly pressed for the play date, it happens to her, too.

7. Allow yourself to change– So you did your research and you owned your choices and now you’re not so sure about them. You know what? No big deal. So staying at home didn’t work out and you want to go back to work. Fine! So you thought you’d never, ever, ever let your kids watch TV, but now it’s the only way to get 15 minutes of peace. That’s okay! Motherhood is all about being flexible and eating all those words that started with “I will never…”

8. Stick to your guns– Sometimes you *think* you need to cave on something you felt so passionately about, but doing so would compromise your values and the example you want to set for your children. Another confusing one, I know, because while motherhood is all about being flexible, it’s also about knowing which battles are worth the big fight and then fighting them.

9. Don’t box yourself in– You don’t have to be any “type” of parent. You don’t have to abide by every rule in any book. You should always make the choices that work for you and your family, even if, in this world that loves to put groups of people in uniform boxes, those choices seem to contradict each other. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a hybrid parent, and for a long while it kind of bothered me. Was I an Attachment Parent? Was I a Modern Parent? Was I a Traditional Parent? Why did I have to be any one of them? I was just… me… just doing what felt right, and while I can associate with a lot of different “types” of parents, I don’t feel the need to wholly belong to just one.

10. Love your children– If every choice you make is with the love you have for your children in mind, how can you go wrong? Just love them in the best way you know how, and try to get better at it every day. Know that there will be some days that are harder than others and be OKAY  with that.

None of those had anything to do with the manner in which you transport your baby around or what you use to collect their poop. Make the educated choices that feel right to you, own them, allow yourself to change your mind and just roll with it- I think that’s what it all boils down to.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my prison-like existence and go set up the cloth diaper drawer in the new baby’s room.  Don’t mind that noise, it’s just the chains around my ankles, prepping me for another round of breastfeeding and baby food making.

Kendall is 2.5 and I’m 34 weeks pregnant (and just wait until I tell you all about this pain in my crotch… stay tuned)

35 thoughts on “My Take On Mother Madness & 10 Things That Might Help It”

  1. Bravo! Especially number 5 – sometimes it seems that all mommies do is judge each other – when none of them can truly know each other’s situation and circumstances. There are SO many endless debates – how ’bout we all just worry about ourselves, mmmkay?

  2. Oh, preach to me about the crotch pain. I CAN’T DEAL WITH IT ANYMORE. Ahem.

    The only thing on that list that I wasn’t able to do was breastfeed, and I beat myself up over it when I finally gave up at 6 weeks. Like, hardcore Mommy Guilt. It sucks. I’m definitely going to try harder with this one [there were a lot of things going on in my life that were hug stressors, the least of which was my dad was living with us at the time and after dealing with my screaming infant (who had reflux the doctors didn’t believe me about at 3 weeks old), I caved and gave forumla. Mucho bad idea.]

    Love your honesty here. Absolutely adore it, and the fact that you’re just like the rest of us [even those who hide it]: you have no real idea what you’re doing, either.

    :high five:

  3. #4 is HUGE. I’ve found, that if you look and act like you don’t know what you’re doing, then people are much more likely to give you unsolicited advice. Be PROUD of your decisions, and know that doing things that work best for you are what divide good mothers from GREAT ones. A mom happy and content in her own motherhood means everyone is happy.

  4. Thanks for writing this, I know a lot of people needed to hear it. And the pain the crotch, varicose veins??? ME TOO! I’m 34 weeks and wow, not fun! Exercise has helped me a lot, just not walking b/c that seems to make it worse. The elliptical is much better for me. Good luck!

  5. AMEN! I have struggled with so many things and finally #7 came into play. I breastfeed and when I went back to work I pumped. My supply has dropped to almost nothing and I have tried a few things to increase it but there comes a point when it is like “OK, while formula wasn’t originally in the plan it is now”. And I make my own baby food because I enjoy cooking. It is that simple. But when we go, I packed jared food for convenience. It is all about the compromise to keep my baby happy and healthy and me sane and happy.

    My OBGYN told me before we left the hospital that “Remember, if you don’t bend you WILL break” and that has become my mantra.

  6. I read that article when you tweeted the link to it. And after I got over my rage at her position that AP is a prison, I realized that the rest of her article contradicted itself and rambled on and on. Thus, I concluded that she was spouting a lot of hot air.

    I think your list can be boiled down to one statement: Parent from your heart.

    If we love our children and we genuinely seek the best for them in all situations (not THE BEST as in designer duds, but the best for them–cloth or sposies, formula or breast) and we OWN our decisions, we can’t really go wrong.

  7. LOVE THIS. I have the hardest time trusting my gut and standing behind my choices – especially when the hubs disagreees with me.

    I do have to say about #1: I did so much reading early on that it made me confused. Because for every book that says “A” is the answer to your dilemma, there are three books that say “A” is the worst thing you can do for your baby. So yes, educate yourself, but realize that each expert opinion is just that…someone’s OPINION. Because unless you’re feeding your kid lead paint chips or letting them drive the family car, your way probably works well, too.

    1. That’s so true. There is such a thing as book overload. It’s another one of those gray areas of parenting, I think. Don’t over-think things, but definitely do think about them. *Sigh* None of this is easy.

  8. #2 and 4 are SO important.

    For #4, I had the first grandchild on both sides. Let me just say that I paved the way for my sister-in-laws. I was criticized for breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc. Everything I did was judged and questioned. I stuck to my guns and never gave up. Now my cosleeping 2 year old (who weaned from the boob at 19 months) has proved to them all that everything I did was right for us.

  9. “considered myself a hybrid parent” Jill, you are a GENIUS. I have been struggling with this for so long.”But I believe that this (huge issue) is wrong so (this smaller issue) is wrong, too.” And since they’re connected, I can’t give into the smaller. Hybrid. That’s what I have to remember.
    On a different note. In the past 4 days I have recieved no less than 6 Christmas magazines. Every.single.one of them has had a whiskey set in them with ‘whiskey stones.’ Really.

  10. I (think) I wrote several long, ranty posts in my first days as a new mom about how I didn’t fit into ANY of these parenting styles and how frustrating it was for me. I am probably 85% Attachment Parenting but because I didn’t have a med-free birth or cloth diaper I felt shunned from the AP community. Which is RIDICULOUS, because I have read the Dr. Sears baby book cover-to-cover and NO WHERE does he say mothers should cloth diaper.

    But now, 19 months later, I feel much much better. I don’t feel guilty for any of my choices, and hen I make a mistake I let it go and vow to make a better choice the next time that situation arises. I feel very zen about it – at least I do until this sort of article starts stressing me out.

    At least the Fresh Beat Band doesn’t judge me, right?

  11. We need to stop feeling the need to apologize and add qualifying statements when someone makes an “observation” about us. A mom should be able to say “I feed my baby formula”. That’s it. Just give an honest answer to a question and be on our way. Not this “I formula feed……….but, but I tried to BF for 6 weeks and it didn’t work out. I tried to BF, I swear”.

  12. I agree with everyone that says that the original article is a jumble of contradictions. I wanted to applaud this part: “We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.” but the rest of it was a bunch of junk.

    Anyone educated about attachment parenting knows that you’re not catering to your child’s every whim. And there’s nothing in the 7 AP tenets (Defined by Dr. Sears) that says anything about making baby food or cloth diapering. There’s a lot of crossover in the AP & “natural parenting” communities but there certainly are RULES.

    Regardless, you nailed it with #4. Own your decisions. Every parent is different, every baby is different and there isn’t just one right way to do ANYTHING. Do your due diligence and make the best choice for YOUR family. That’s it! (too bad it isn’t that easy)

  13. hooray for the non-conformists! 🙂 I wore my naturally-birthed kid for 7.5 months before sending him off to be “raised” by a day care while I work outside the home (so selfish!) in a cubical that feels more like a prison than being with him ever did. now he’s 17 months and his huggie-wearing butt is still breastfed. quick! what’s my label!?!?

    in all seriousness, though, I think it’s a sign that I am often too hard on myself when someone writes something like this and I get all choked up. thanks for continuing to be a source of support for all mothers.

  14. AMEN! Thank you for putting this into words. Doing the best that you can with what you have is all that is required, especially if it’s out of love. That can mean that the dust bunnies are so big they pay rent!

  15. This is great.

    I’m not going to read that article, because I think it’ll make me pretty angry based on the quote you posted. I’m sick of mothers attempting to provide a healthy and natural experience for their baby being portrayed as anti-feminists, setting women back socially.

    Like you said, we’re doing the best we can.

  16. #6 is definitely me right now and I don’t even have any kids yet! With work, school, and packing up to move I don’t have time to sleep, let alone put away the clean clothes that have been sitting on the couch for 2 weeks! But apparently I have time to read blogs…guess it’s time I go put those clothes away!

    Love your post!

  17. This was great to read. As my due date rapidly approaches, I think more and more about the “standards” I’m already trying to meet. Will I be able to have a birth without interventions? Will I be able to breastfeed exclusively? Will not doing these things be “failing”? It’s hard not to judge ourselves when so many people out there seem to be judging–from every direction. So yeah, we’re all just doing the best we can. But I definitely understand your initial reaction to that article. My choice to work part time next semester is in large part driven by my desire to be a mom who breastfeeds, cloth diapers, and eventually makes my own baby food. I don’t think that’s a prison–I think that’s a fully informed choice I’m able to make thanks to a supportive spouse. I recognize not everyone gets that choice or makes the same choice in similar circumstances, and that’s fine. But I still don’t want someone making me feel bad about what I’ve decided is right for me.

  18. I was offended by this article when I first read it, but then I figured, “hey! she’s entitled to her own opinion.” Motherhood is a lot like politics and religion in that it’s a very touchy and sensitive subject.

    Your list is fabulous!

  19. I wrote a whole post about the “I will nevers”. I’m pretty much breaking all of them as I go along.

    I never tried to nurse and I went back to work after 7 weeks. I kindof got the feeling from some people that I should have stayed home. I didn’t stay home for two reasons. One being that we need two incomes so we can give our son everything he needs. Two being that I love working and I think I would probably be the worst stay at home mom ever.
    So, I think before we start to judge other Moms, we should really think about WHY they made those decisions. Some of them may have been made for them.
    If I were to ever have a second child, I would try to breastfeed and considering cloth diapering. Not bc I feel guilty but bc now I have much more knowledge then I did with my first one. Plus, before blogging, I didn’t even know that cloth diapering was such hit nowdays.

  20. I love, love, love your response. The original commentary seems to commit the same crime she is railing against – judging mothers for their choices and “yelling” at them, trying to tell them she knows better.

    Your response is just amazing. Even-handed, SECURE, not one bit defensive, mature, reasoned, and caring – caring about other moms. I love it and I love you for writing it.

    I will forever be indebted to our old neighbors for introducing us to the concept of Good Enough Parents. And when you can’t muster that, some days you have to settle for Better Than Nothing, or my twist, Better Than Wolves. 🙂

  21. AMEN! I love this post 🙂 When i had my first child and quit breastfeeding after the first 6 weeks i felt like the biggest failure ever! I cried and battled PPD. With my 2nd it wasnt as bad and by the time i had my last son i was like screw what everyone else thinks i am a good mom no matter what.

    All my kids were breastfed for only 6 weeks, they use(d) disposable diapers, they get shots, i never carried them in slings, i stay at home and my husband works, i let them stay with other people over night so i can have a night alone with my husband, i let them watch tv so i can have 15 mins peace, and sometimes i give them dessert before dinner so i dont have to listen to them whine. And guess what?

    They are healthy and both my school age kids are at the top of their classes. I am proud to say my choices have been the right ones for me and for them. That is what matters most.

  22. I hate the poop underwear accidents. I never know what to do with the poop. Do you toss them undies or flush the poop and rinse them out, and, and, and. Ugh!

    Anyway I couldn’t agree more with your list. Life for realz. I had first had experience with not always trusting your Dr and trusting your gut.

    And its hard not to feel like your in a judgey mom box, but I’m learning that every mother has a different level of “I’m a good mom” what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

    None of this probably makes sense. Sorry. I’m tired.

  23. Just wanted to comment on the pain in your crotch. Wow! Let me tell ya, that was an unexpected pain that hit me about 35 weeks along with my second pregnancy. It felt like someone hit me in the “gina bone” as hard as they could with a bat or I just rode a bicycle with a man’s seat for 30 miles. I asked my doctor about it and he just said your muscles are weaker the second time around and have trouble holding up all that weight. I hate to say it that it just got worse, but I survived it (what other choice did I have). It was always worse when I sat or laid down for a long time and then went to get up. I would have to give myself a second to let the pain settle before I began to move.

    Nothing real motivating/positive in this post, just letting you know you are not alone. Hang in there.

  24. I just wrote a post about this that was probably a little too ranty and totally counterproductive because I just couldn’t help myself.

    I like yours much better, in that you’re not really responding to her but rather telling moms what things actually matter. Jong did have a few valid points buried in there and I think you expounded on those really well. But she was horribly inarticulate and offensive in the way she presented them. Did you read Granju’s response on the Motherlode blog and the letter Jong wrote with the comment about mom bloggers? I’m with whoever commented earlier that she’s full of hot air, or maybe smoked too much grass back in the day . . .

  25. Jong’s article was SO contradictory and confusing. I kind of regret blogging about it. It was just like a dog chasing its tale. Anyway I like what you did instead. The ten commandments kick ass but sadly a lot of these are just SO hard for women and I do not know why. They allow themselves to get run over by people who have no stake in their children’s future which leads to second guessing themselves. Its annoying. Women need to have more balls for lack of a better term. Kick ass post sweets. xo

  26. I love your 10 List. And good for you, taking something positive from that irritating article! This may sound like a quirky comparison, but it goes for religion and parenting alike (in my opinion): Take what speaks to you and leave the rest.

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