Having a baby made me lonely. I don't think I'm alone in this, although it's a fact that very few moms talk about. It is a very lonely and isolating experience. In the early weeks, I spent hours by myself: during the day while Danny was at work, Forrest too fragile and sick (and my pumping schedule too messed up already) to leave the house; during the night when Forrest wouldn't sleep or when he ate every 2 hours. I was desperately, painfully lonely, sad, and sleep deprived.
Thankfully, technology has blessed us (and potentially cursed us) with the invention of mommy groups on Facebook. I joined all kinds when I was pregnant: due date groups, breastfeeding groups. After Forrest was born, exclusive pumping groups, lactation cookie manufacturer groups. Recently, formula feeding support groups. If nothing else, I had someone to ask questions (when I felt bad texting my mom for the 100th time that day) and people to talk to. It got less lonely.
However, I've began to notice this tendency, especially in these groups, but occasionally on Facebook as a whole, for people to correct others on both their opinions and feelings. It's not just Sanctimommies telling you how wrong you are about your parenting choices anymore: it's emotion policing. It's complaining about your child waking up every 2 hours during the night and having someone reply, "But it could be so much worse! You are so lucky to have a baby!"
"Don't you know it could be worse?" they chirp, from their pedestals carved of gold, cherishing every moment.
The posts about "your child only has 900 Saturdays before COLLEGE!" and appreciating every ding-dong little detail abound.
The lines have been drawn: if you complain, someone will tell you to "cheer up!" or "it could be worse!"
And you know what? That's no one's job and it's completely unnecessary
It's not anyone's job to police my feelings. When I vent about my son not sleeping or my husband forgetting to let me sleep in or my dog puking, I don't need to be told it could be worse. I know. I know it could be worse. But that doesn't stop my feeling right now in this moment and it does not mean that my feelings are not valid.
There will always be things I want to change about my pregnancy: I wish I hadn't gotten preeclampsia; I wish I hadn't had Forrest so early; I wish he had been admitted to the NICU so we could have better cared for him in those early days; I wish I had better educated myself about breastfeeding; I wish, I wish, I wish. Saying these things--and feeling these feelings--does not mean I don't appreciate how healthy Forrest is now. I do. And honestly, the reason he is so healthy now is on me: I did that, no one else did, I sweated and bled and pumped and washed and rocked. I did that; I told myself I would make him better and I did. He is my child and my feelings about his care and life are mine.
No one has the right to tell me I can or cannot feel a certain way. It's no one's job to follow me around and say, "Cherish this moment!" when I'm mad or angry or frustrated. It's no one's job to say, "But aren't you sooooo glad he needs you?" when I complain that we are still co-sleeping. It's no one's job; it's honestly no one's business why I feel the way I do or how I raise my child. If anyone thinks differently about the way I feel about something related to my child, they have two options: they can scroll past and say nothing (ideal!) or they can say something like "it could be worse, you know! You should cherish every moment!" and have me reply with, "My feelings are valid and they are none of your business." And if the latter makes them mad, that's not really a me problem.
That's a them problem.
I don't need to "cherish these moments"; I already do. And it's okay for me to also say, "Man, today is shitty. I can't wait for my kid to sleep." And it's entirely possible for me to complain about the little things (co-sleeping, diapers, blow outs, laundry, whatever) and still cherish and appreciate them. It's funny how humanity has an array of emotions and I can feel multiple things at once.
I don't need anyone to butt in and say otherwise. It's no one's job to tell anyone how to feel, to repeatedly remind them to see the bright side or be more positive. That's not a personality trait; that's not seeing the bright side; that's being annoying, dismissive, and rude. I have the right to be able to express my feelings somewhere. I have to be able to say how I feel.
No one is perfect. Everyone deserves to have their feelings validated and heard and appreciated. Everyone experiences motherhood differently and invalidating the emotions of other mothers is potentially the lowest form of being a Sanctimommy.
The "cherish every moment!" slogan of apparently perfect moms everywhere is grating for one reason: it makes mothers feel as if their feelings are bad or as though once you become a mother you are not allowed to feel negative or complain ever (because someone somewhere has it worse than you, apparently). As if feeling guilty or sad or angry or upset or just plain tired are feelings that mothers should never have.
And if there is one thing I know for certain, mothers are too often told how to feel or what not to feel; we're told how to feed our babies and how not too; we are lectured on car seats and cribs and SIDS and hundreds of other things; we are sent home from hospitals blubbering piles of sadness and leakiness and pain and rawness and expected to just morph into happy little Stepford wives overnight. Our opinions and decisions are judged and second-guessed at every turn. Mothers--and women, as an entire group--do not need to be guilted or invalidated for having real human feelings as well.