You know, it’s not always other moms who are actively judging and making me feel like crap. Actually, 9 times out of 10, the other moms I meet are overwhelmingly supportive, rueful about their own mom-abilities, and as self-deprecating as I am, making our get-togethers a funny spiral of one-downsmanship that just degenerates into general hilarity before anyone can feel bad. The few times I’ve managed to be around moms (and nannies) who made me feel like a crappy mom, it came as a genuine surprise and stood out because, well, it’s just not the norm for me. Yet.
But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to judgment or feeling like crap. In fact, there’s a little panel of Nuremburg judges in my head, and they pipe up when I least expect to hear from them. The thing is, I don’t know who put them there.
Okay, for instance: yesterday morning, I was changing Abby’s little diaper (omg she has the cutest tush) and she was kinda kicking and fussing unhappily. “Eh, you’re going to be fine as soon as you’re in a dry diaper,” I told her, patting her little chest. It was damp. Just a little damp! But … damp.
“Are you cold, muffin?” I asked. She continued her uninterrupted streak of not answering.
“Eh, I think you’re okay,” I told her.
She gazed up at me, full of trust and wonder at this God-like creature who had just made her bottom feel nice and dry.
“Right? You’re okay? It’s just a little spitup.”
Still no answer.
This is when the Panel weighed in. My intention was to pick Abby up and proceed with our day, but then I had a sudden vision of being at the playground, and another mom noticing the damp spot on Abby’s jammies. Just a little spitup? Maybe. Or maybe they would be able to zero in on the spot, like on CSI, and calculate (a) that it had been there for more than an hour, (b) that it was layered on top of earlier spitup that was almost twelve hours old, (c) that it had soaked through to her onesie and her skin, all three of which were as damp and clammy as a San Francisco morning.
“This child is suffering from barf-atrophy,” they intone, whipping off their sunglasses and glaring at me.
I pull out the next pair of jammies and a fresh onesie. And, upon closer inspection, her onesie was a bit wet, and she would probably have been chillier if I hadn’t changed it. That’s right: the Supreme Court in my head just saved my child’s life.
Shame is awful. It’s discouraging, it kills your self-esteem, and it’s likely to make you depressed and therefore less useful as a functioning human being. Same with guilt (as opposed to remorse). But man, I feel like that’s what my inner judges were doing making me feel ashamed that I’d thought to leave the spituppy jammies on Abby rather than doing laundry a day sooner.
Were those voices external? Internal? Do they make me overdo it or keep me from dipping below acceptable parenting levels? I don’t know! But I don’t think they were there before I became a mom. Do you have them, too?