I recently wrote about the so-called Mommy Wars and, though my feelings remain somewhat the same, I felt I needed to write about an evolution in my thinking regarding the topic.
While I was previously irritated at the condescension that comes with being a new mother and the patronizing things people say to the obviously pregnant girl at the grocery store, I have since realized that I have been responding in a largely defensive way. Obviously, I always smile and nod when someone says something to me, but in my head I’d think of some snarky remark and wonder what made that woman think she was such a genius in the first place.
The truth is, I think most women just want to pass on what’s worked for them or things that had been enormously helpful and they didn’t learn until later on. I think most women probably do have very good, generous intentions! These aren’t the bossy, type A mothers, whom I’d assumed just wanted to show me how knowledgable and better they were than I; they were simply trying to offer kind advice. The reason I responded in the negative, defensive way (at least in my head) I did was because I didn’t really know anything about what they were saying, and figured I was smart enough to figure it out as I went along. Once I did more thorough research in all different kinds of areas (from birthing to sleeping), I could narrow down what seemed like the flexible, tentative, best plans for me and have logical responses to what people were saying. This is not to say that I think I know everything! From what I can tell, motherhood changes every time you have a subsequent child; all children are different!
St. Ignatius said:
We ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it. Beware of condemning any man’s action. Consider your neighbor’s intention, which is often honest and innocent, even though his act seems bad in outward appearance.
In other words, always giving people the benefit of the doubt is going to lead to a much more optimistic and happy life than constantly being irritated at the things people do or say. Assuming you misunderstood, or the person was having a bad day presumes that the person is doing his or her best and isn’t out to get you. This helps release you from grudges and resentments. It takes way less energy to assume something was miscommunicated then to spend days dwelling on why the person has conceived an elaborate scheme to make your life as difficult as possible. In my life, this is most relevant when it comes to strangers who like to tell me how to raise our child, but it’s really a lesson for all aspects of life. If you begin with what Ignatius calls the presupposition (that everyone has good intentions), your life will be a whole lot more peaceful.
I had written previously about how I hoped the victor in all of the debates and opinions on things would be independent thinking. Well, an independent thinker should be open to all viewpoints, always be willing to hear new ideas, and shouldn’t be threatened by outside opinions. I am most experienced in the realm of debating religion and politics, and it’s always fairly obvious who in the group knows absolutely nothing about their own ideology, since all they can do is say negative things about the alternative ideas. The same, it seems, must be true of things like motherhood. I didn’t know anything, which is why I was so quick to reject everything and not be open minded.
This all being said, there are mothers who try to force things on you and, I won’t lie, that does get pretty annoying. At times like those, I’ll try to remind myself how that passion about a particular technique must translate to a passion that woman has for her child and her family. Now, how could I possibly be against that?