Judge Dread

Before becoming a Mother I was never bothered what people thought of me. I was happy, confident, friendly and outgoing. I was not fool enough to think that everyone I met would like me, but I knew I was a good person with my heart in the right place. I had no reason to care what others’ thought. As long as I made myself, my family and my friends happy then everything was fine with me.

Fast forward to having a baby, my self-confidence was shattered. Not in how I looked particularly, but in myself as a mother. I felt like a complete imposter. Who trusted me with the responsibility of keeping this small person alive, teaching him how to be a good human and everything that goes with being a Mother? What qualification did I have that made me capable of the most important job of my life? This was the one thing I had wanted to do most in my life, the pressure I felt was immense.

Reading parenting books only served the purpose of making me feel worse. It seemed whatever I did there was a book to say I was doing it all wrong. I was either ‘spoiling’ my baby, or not giving him enough love. Crying won’t harm him,  or crying causes ultimate distress. My ‘routine’ was inconsistent,  or my ‘routine’ was too constricting. I was totally in love with my gorgeous boy and wanted to be his perfect Mother. How in all this was I supposed to know what to do for the best? The pressure of the task of being Mum and the weight of this love was all-consuming. My usual logical though process and common sense went out the window.

Then there were the seemingly innocent questions from strangers; Isn’t he small? How is he feeding? Is he a ‘good’ baby? Is he sleeping? These questions seemed loaded with meaning.  Each question seemed to strike the core of my insecurities.  My baby cried a lot; did that mean he was a ‘bad’ baby, because ‘good’ babies don’t cry?!  What kind of Mama can’t get her baby to sleep! In my sleep deprived mind the questions became loaded with meaning. I was oversensitive, my mind was working overtime and I took too much notice of what were really just passing comments. I began to dread conversations with people where I would feel my parental decisions were being questioned.

Sometimes it felt that everywhere I looked I was being judged; breastfeeding in public, how I dealt with my crying baby, how quick I was to responded to his needs. As the years passed by this moved on to how I handled tantrums, how I negotiated and encouraged good behaviour and how I taught my boy right from wrong. Was I being too harsh? Too soft? It seemed whatever I did there was a disapproving eye somewhere watching, judging my every move. As I grew in confidence as a Mum I began to care less. The more parenting situations I had to handle the less I began to care who was watching. I knew my own child best so I dealt with all that parenting threw at me to the best of my abilities and was happy with that. Once my second boy arrived I barely had time to remember my own name, never mind give a thought to the opinion of others. But there was still the odd occasion where I would feel disapproving eyes watching and my confidence as a Mother would become a little shaky. I would remind myself that I was doing my best and none of us are perfect so I would just keep on Mothering  in the best and only way I knew how; by trusting my instincts. Ditching the parenting books was my best ever move.

I have read that judgments can be like a mirror image of the expectations a person sets for themselves. Perhaps in my early days as a Mother I was so desperate to do everything ‘right’ I was setting my own expectations too high. When I couldn’t meet the standards I was setting for myself I saw the judgement of others as critical, when perhaps I was just being oversensitive and lacking in confidence. There were times when I felt judged whilst breastfeeding in public, but was then told what a great job I was doing by the very same person I thought was judging me. Similarly, when managing a difficult toddler tantrum another Mum came along and told me “we’ve all been there,” with a sympathetic smile, even though the watching eyes had seemed judgemental just moments before. As my experience and confidence as a Mother grew the judgements of others seemed to abate, but perhaps I was just judging myself less harshly.

Recently I went to a Christening and in the Church there was a notice which read “Don’t worry if your children wander around or make noise. People will turn to look but they will turn because they heard, not because they disapprove.” It struck me how lovely and welcoming this sign was. The essence of the sign is ‘you are not being judged’. Where babies and children are present people will always turn to look. Those looks aren’t always of disapproval; they may be because they heard; they may be because the person is remembering when they had small children; or because the person is hoping for the day they will walk in your shoes. For all the new Mamas out there struggling to find their feet, or the more veteran Mothers having a confidence crisis, remember this and feel your confidence soar.


6 thoughts on “Judge Dread

  1. Another fab blog Han, love this! I could have totally written some of it (not as well – but the content really strikes a chord!) Over time my children have actually given me a gift of release from a lifetime of worrying what people think, as I have come to realise that there are so many conflicting views on parenting (and life in general!) that you’ll never get it “right” in everyone’s eyes.

    Ps what IS that question about whether they’re “a good baby” all about?? what does a “bad” baby get up to??

    1. Thanks Shel. There is definitely something about coming in to your own as a Mother and not caring about what people think….perhaps it’s the concentration of worry shifting to keeping the kids alive! Surely a baby is just a baby! Cracks me up! Xx

  2. Lovely Hannah! I always felt inadequate in the early days. I wasn’t aware of judgement but I think that’s because it was 35 years ago and people were less judgemental. You might get an odd look from the older generation of that time. It is easy to feel sensitive – you have no idea what to do with this baby of yours and it is scary, the responsibility. Then you realise everyone else seems to be fine once past those first weeks and realise you too are managing well . A slim handbook would be good rather than ploughing through loads of books!Ma xx

  3. And this is why I am so glad I had you to help me through the whole process! We have to stick together and support eachother the best way we can.

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