Sunday, January 28, 2007

Perception vs Reality

I was just reading an article someone emailed me about being a "good" vs "bad" mother. The authors basic point was that different does not equal bad. By her definition the only bad mothers are those who neglect, abuse, and abandon their children. Formula feeding moms are not bad moms. Co-sleeping moms are not bad moms. Vegan moms are not bad moms. Junk food moms are not bad moms.

When I was a new mom, I actually had a friendship fall apart over this. Perception is a powerful thing. My friend was a breastfeeding, make your own baby food, co-sleep, baby wearing mom. I was the exact opposite. I bottle fed, happily supported the folks at Gerber, stuck my baby in her crib from the first night home. Neither of us were sure we were doing the right things so suggestions sounded like criticism. When she said, "Just stick with it! Breast feeding is so much better for the baby than formula." I heard "You selfish wuss. I didn't let it get to me and my baby is better off than yours." What's not at all what she meant, but that's what I heard. When I would say things like, "Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel like you need alone-time with your husband?" She heard, "Your marriage is going to fall apart because your baby sleeps with you." We both felt hurt and judged which led us to just stop talking to each other.

Lots has changed in the 8 years since I became a mom. I am much more comfortable in my decisions which has led me to be more comfortable in my friends' decisions. I know I am doing what is right for my kiddos and I know other moms are doing what is right for theirs. I have also learned to take what someone says at face value. Yes, breast milk is the best food for babies, but my babies get formula and I am OK with that. I no longer dissolve into tears when someone asks me why I don't breastfeed. My kids go to bed early and I have friends who kids stay up late. Big deal. When a friend asks me why I do or don't let my girls do certain things, I generally offer a brief explantion or simply say "Because that's what works for us." And I hope that when I say "Caroline really needs 11 hours of sleep." my friend does not hear "Your kids are sleep deprived brats."

This also becomes an issue as your kids get old enough to notice differences in families. Just recently Caroline has discovered that our close friends' kids have a TV in their room. I explained to her that is a choice each family has to make and we have made a different one. We are not better because we don't allow a TV in your room and they are not better because they do. (Well, cooler maybe, but not better.) Every mom has things that "push her buttons" A girlfriend and I have shared a good laugh over our inconsistancies. She forbids Kool-Aid because it's too high in sugar but her kids eat fruit snacks all day long. I don't have fruit snacks but my kids can drink Kool Aid til they have a permanent stain on their faces. It just is a "thing" for each of us.

I think as women and especially as moms we tend to read too much into the sub-text of conversation. I always say I don't offend easily but I guess that's not the best way to say it. I know that when I say something and it's misconstrued, it drives me nuts. I figure it probably drives others crazy too. If someone says something that rubs me the wrong way, I usually try to figure why, what were they really saying, and did it really have anything to do with me? Often what I heard, was not what was said.

And in case you were wondering, my friend and I did make peace. We are not close buddies but we have talked about it and both see that we were being way too sensitive at a hard time in our lives. We chat on occaision and I do consider her a friend. :-)

8 comments:

Carol said...

Great post! I can't judge what what someone else is "intending" through a statement and so I shouldn't try to "read into" it, either. "What works for me" and "This is what I'm comfortable with" are great boundary statements.

i am not said...

one of my favorite ways to temper these kinds of discussions is to tell the person I'm talking to that I have enough problems trying to make decisions for myself and my family, I would never want the responsibility or assume that I should make decisions for someone else or their family.

Kary said...

Well. . .I think your kids eat entirely too many vegetables.

Mommy said...

Just so everybody knows...I'm the cool friend.

Heaven Sent said...

Great post. I think as parents we are automatically on the defense when it comes to our kids. My one and only run-in with my mothe-in-law was over our different parenting approaches, and I think my perception played a huge part in it.

In the end, it all comes down to being confident in your ability to care for your kids... and I Am Not is right, that takes enough time and effort to keep us all busy!

Heaven Sent said...

Great post. I think as parents we are automatically on the defense when it comes to our kids. My one and only run-in with my mother in law was over our different parenting approaches, and I think my perception played a huge part in it.

In the end, it all comes down to being confident in your ability to care for your kids... and I Am Not is right, that takes enough time and effort to keep us all busy!

Heaven Sent said...

Great post. I think as parents we are automatically on the defense when it comes to our kids. My one and only run-in with my mothe-in-law was over our different parenting approaches, and I think my perception played a huge part in it.

In the end, it all comes down to being confident in your ability to care for your kids... and I Am Not is right, that takes enough time and effort to keep us all busy!

Heaven Sent said...

Great post. I think as parents we are automatically on the defense when it comes to our kids. My one and only run-in with my mothe-in-law was over our different parenting approaches, and I think my perception played a huge part in it.

In the end, it all comes down to being confident in your ability to care for your kids... and I Am Not is right, that takes enough time and effort to keep us all busy!