Judgement is swift

criticsIt begins the moment you see those two blue lines. As you prepare yourself for motherhood, you also become the target of unsolicited advice, judgement and criticism. At no other time in your life, are your choices as scrutinised as when you become a mother.

Earlier this week the Australian media and general public has been in a spin since Chrissie Swan publicly “confessed” that she is still smoking during her pregnancy. For the benefit of my international followers, Chrissie Swan is a high profile radio presenter and television personality. The country has been polarised by her confession. Many people are horrified by her admission and have condemned her for committing the “unthinkable”. But there are also a lot of people expressing their support and empathy. After all, smoking is an addiction and nicotine is more addictive than heroin. It is never easy to give up, pregnant or not.

Not surprisingly, this story has unleased media frenzy and it seems everyone has an opinion about her actions. For me, it is just another example of how as a mother you are under continuous assault about your decisions.

You hear constant refrain that guilt is synonymous with motherhood. I wonder if the blame is self-directed blame or if guilt is being driven by others people’s expectations of us. The opinions and interference from professionals, family, friends, and even strangers on the street overwhelms parents with guilt and confusion. In Chrissie Swan’s case, condemnation is coming from people who she has never even met.

There is an undercurrent of judgement one learns to navigate when becoming a mum. Sometimes, it’s not visible but you can sense it hiding behind the veneer of another mum. And there are times when a comment is classic criticism masquerading as “advice.” This one, I’ve got good radar for. Then there are times when it’s more transparent and it’s this judgement that is particularly hurtful. The simple truth is that no one has the right to tell anyone how to parent and every mother in entitled to the freedom of choice. I am not for one moment denying the risks associated with smoking, but I wonder how many of us can truly claim we have done everything ‘by the book’ since becoming pregnant.

We are advised to give up soft cheeses, cured meats and lots of other tasty morsels. For my first pregnancy I washed my lettuce vigorously and abstained from gooey cheese. For my next two pregnancies I was more relaxed and I gave in to the odd bit of Brie cheese or slice of smoked salmon. We are also told to give up alcohol but I allowed myself an occasional glass of wine and I didn’t feel guilty about it. The list of “should’s “ goes on. We “should” have our sleeping baby in our room overnight but all my children slept in their own bassinette in their own rooms from birth.

There is always someone with an opposing view but when it morphs into judgment and criticism then it is plain cruel and sadly it can tarnish a woman’s experience of motherhood.

The Chrissie Swan story brings into sharp focus a familiar tale – that no other role in life is as scrutinised as motherhood. Judgement seems to be part of the mothering landscape and it needs to be stamped out.

Do you find yourself being scrutinised and judged as a mother? How do you handle it? All comments and opinions can be freely expressed here without judgement.

 

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6 thoughts on “Judgement is swift

  1. Great post! A reminder to us all to give us mums a break! Parenting is hard enough without the constant pressure to ‘please’ everyone and all their opinions. First time mums are particularly at risk of feeling immense pressure to do things ‘right’.

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  2. Thanks Hannah. You raise a good point about first-time mums too. Certainly, for me, I care less and less about what people may think about my mothering techniques and style as the years (and babies) tick by…..

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  3. When you’re feeling frail (emotionally) any little comments can really hurt – I can’t imagine Chrissie isn’t already feeling the guilts and worried about her babies health (she’s not living in 1970). I think celebrity mums have it pretty tough – remember when Jackie O crossed the road with her baby and horror of horrors she was multi-tasking! People get out of control with their comments and it’s plain old bullying. I guess it’s human nature to protect babies and this is possibly the place it’s coming from (I know my first thoughts were for the baby’s health as my aunt smoked when pregnant and both my cousins had awful health issues) but it’s not our business, it’s between her and her doctor – and rather bullying, perhaps if you really can’t keep your nose out of others business extend a friendly hand and offer to help? BTW my obstetrician had me drinking a glass of red wine a few times a week and eating milo out of the tin when I was pregnant – you know why I went back to her for my second child!!!!

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    • Yes, it’s so true what you say about emotional fragility and sleep deprivation is a big trigger! If I ever need an OB again (which is unlikely :-)) I will ask you for a referral. Wine and milo – that’s MY kind of OB!!!!

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  4. one of the great malaises of modern motherhood – the scrutiny, the judgement, the uninvited opinions. I have one little theory that the increase in this collective sense of being judged is partly borne out of our knowledge of how diverse motherhood now is. Once we pretty much all did it the same, or more accurately, only spent our days with people who did it the same; now, you can be up close and personal with someone, related even, to a mum who’s choices are very different… and this somehow leads to all this negativity.

    Very thought-provoking post!

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    • I like your theory and can definitely see how this relates to negativity and judgement. My mum often says that there was not as much pressure and expectation on mothers back in her generation. Most women approached about motherhood in much the same way. Now, we have a lot of choice but we also seem weighed down by it. Instead, we should be celebrating diversity and the choices available to us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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