I am not sure what it is about motherhood that invites judgment from anyone and everyone.
It Starts Immediately
It seems that once your baby bump becomes apparent, people ramp up the unsolicited advice. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss comments and walk away without another thought. Many times though, it’s not so easy to move on from what we’ve heard.
When I was younger, I lived in a world where I easily dissolved into tears, my stomach in knots, afraid to venture outside my comfort zone—all because I was easily crushed by what others said, or even just receiving what I thought was a side-eye.
But through receiving the wisdom of other women and in a shift of my own perspective, I no longer live in that walled off world I “protected” myself with. Sometimes, I’m still injured by what others say. But I bounce back much more quickly and am much more able to take less than glowing feedback in stride.
When faced with comments I initially hear as critical, I walk myself through the following steps and am usually able to move on:
1. Always Assume the Best
Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where people always heard what we intended to say? I have stuck my foot in my mouth an embarrassing number of times and I’m sure I have offended people.
Knowing I’ve unintentionally wounded others with my awkward words, I do my best to assume the best when others say things that take me aback.
2. What Susie Says of Sally Says More About Susie Than Sally
Let’s be honest, sometimes people’s hearts are not in the right place. How many of us have dealt with mean girls? Middle school was hard enough and some people never matured out of their mean girl ways.
My initial reaction is to wither and hide. But that isolates me. Instead, I try to put myself in the mean girl’s shoes.
Maybe she’s vocal about breastfeeding being the ONLY way to feed a child because she has worked so hard to breastfeed her little one, fearing that she could be easily replaced by a bottle.
Perhaps she’s adamant about co-sleeping because she was terrified of sleeping by herself as a child and wants to spare her little one that anxiety.
Or maybe she is being mean because her self-worth is so low she only feels better about herself if she thinks someone is beneath her. What a sad, insecure world that would be to live in.
3. The Offending Party May Not Have All the Information
When my daughter was a pretty little peanut, one day she fussed in Target. A stranger suggested that I give her a pacifier to calm her down. My kiddo did not like pacifiers.
In my head, I went into the parenting death spiral—does the fact that my kiddo won’t take a pacifier make me a bad mom? If I was a good mom, couldn’t I keep her content during a quick trip through the store? If I can’t even get my girl to take a paci, what other fundamental things am I messing up in her short life?
And then I paused to consider the source. This woman had seen pacifiers work for a lot of infants and had no idea my daughter has never liked them. She probably wanted to help out a frazzled mom and did it in her own awkward way. I could dwell on my inadequacy as a mother. Or I could consider that this was probably a well-meaning person who lacked critical information to offer informed help.
4. “Thank You for the Feedback”
I love this phrase.
It acknowledges that you received unsolicited advice, but doesn’t commit you to doing anything about it. In a way, it de-personalizes what the other person has said. It’s almost like an Amazon review for a product rather than something critical about you.
5. Take Ownership of Your Decisions
Chances are, you put careful thought into everything you are doing for your child. You have most likely researched and agonized over many things and are doing your best to raise a healthy, happy, productive member of society.
And then someone will come along and criticize your decision to feed your child applesauce before peas because they say you’re encouraging your little one to only like sweets.
I’m not saying hold on to all of your decisions with an iron grip, but in the end do what you believe to be best for your child and your situation.
6. Like Water Off a Duck’s Back
When all else fails, consider what was said, process why it bothered you so much, and then move on.
Treat those comments like water off a duck’s back and shed the emotion associated with the inflammatory words. We are all too busy, worn out, and stretched too thin to spare energy worrying about poor communication skills or uninformed comments of other people.
Do you have any tips or tricks for moving on from words that hurt? Help a mama out!