So, here’s the thing. You and me…we’re not going to agree on every single thing when it comes to parenthood.
And as free thinkers, that’s how it’s meant to be.
I don’t run Raised Good to be popular or to give you a set of prescriptive instructions for how to parent your child. There are no rules. This isn’t a club.
I’m here to share my experience. And boy does that take a shit ton of vulnerability on my part, but I appreciate that it does for you, too.
It takes vulnerability to willingly to read a story that may not fully align with your own and say, that’s ok.
To not go so easily down the shame path that we’re conditioned to take and blame another person for our own choices.
We don’t need to let differences divide us, rather we can invite similarities to unite us. We don’t need identical stories to find solidarity on this journey.
So, when I write about breastfeeding, I’m not saying I don’t support formula feeding mamas.
When I write about homeschooling, I’m not saying I don’t support families who go to regular school.
When I write about bedsharing, I’m not saying I don’t support families who sleep separately.
The fact of the matter is, I don’t know your story or your child. I don’t know what your personal circumstances or support network looks like. I don’t know what the best choice looks like for you. Only you do.
One thing I do excel at, however, is forging my own path…unapologetically.
That, I can help you with.
Your path doesn’t need to look like mine though – it needs to look like yours.
We are on this earth for such a short time and we have to live our own truth.
We have to find the courage to stand up and say what we believe in without diluting it or trying to make it so politically correct, so vanilla, so muted, that it offends nobody because it says nothing.
I try to do that with humility and sensitivity. But sometimes, I’m sure I miss the mark and for that, I ask for a little grace from you. Believe me, it isn’t an easy task to distill complex concepts and highly emotive and deeply personal topics into thousand-word blog posts.
One thing I ask of you in return is to take responsibility for your choices and to own those choices – remember empowered women empower women. And also, be kind to yourself as you appreciate that sometimes – a lot of the time – we’re not in control of how life unfolds. Yet staying stuck in the grief of unfulfilled expectations robs us of the flexibility we need to ride life’s waves and fully enjoy the present moment.
You see, I wanted two kids. But I have Stage 4 endometriosis and I’m lucky to have worked through three years of fertility struggles to have just one healthy, happy little boy. And so when I see posts in my Facebook group or articles online suggesting that the perfect number of children is 2 or 3 or 4, my ovaries ache a little and feelings of unworthiness and guilt and longing start to simmer below the surface.
But, not for one second do I believe that anyone else is trying to shame me. Not for a second do I want others to dim their lights to brighten mine.
When feelings of shame start to rise inside of me, rather than shooting messengers or becoming defensive because life simply had other plans, I become my own best friend. I approach the emotion of shame as a visitor with a message, not a resident I’m inviting to stay.
I challenge myself to accept the as is of the right now.
I see those emotions for what they are and replace them with gratitude for the gift of my incredible son. With love for my body that fought with everything it could to make my miracle baby a reality. With appreciation for the 30-something girl who month after month pulled herself towards the light, rather than falling into the depths of depression. I simply never gave up.
I also wanted a natural birth. I took hypnobirthing classes. I meditated. I wrote a birth plan. I exercised. I had a midwife and a doula. I learned about natural birth hormones and the impact of the medicalisation of birth.
I did all the things, and still…I ended up having a belly birth at 42 weeks following an induction. Certainly not the plan I had in mind.
Yet, when I read about the countless benefits of natural births for both baby and mama, I don’t believe the author is judging or shaming or trying to make me feel lesser than. She’s just delivering facts. She’s informing and empowering.
It’s up to me how I respond to that information. And so I acknowledge it, but I choose not to take it personally. At the same time, I give myself permission to celebrate my own story. I acknowledge that I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time. (And I’d make the same decision again, in a heartbeat.)
Then, I move on. Because that moment has passed. And, in the present moment, my son needs a mother who isn’t lamenting an unfulfilled expectation, but a mother who accepts reality so that she can be here with him now, giving him what he needs now.
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” Anne Lamott
So, my message to you is to not let other people’s journeys minimise yours. Celebrate your story mama, and don’t be afraid to cheerlead another mama whose story may look completely different than yours.
Surrender to life’s strange sense of humour, especially when you don’t understand it.
Let’s rise above the idea that other people have power over our internal worlds – we can’t ever fully shame-proof ourselves but we can become mindful of strategies to help us become resilient to shame.
There isn’t a person on the planet who could shame me for my conscious choices; for breastfeeding well beyond toddlerhood, for continuing to bedshare through childhood, for refusing to use conventional discipline, for homeschooling…for the countless choices I make as a parent.
Do I think I always get it right? Of course not. I’m fumbling and stumbling, growing and evolving, while acknowledging past mistakes with compassion for the person I was when I made them. They were merely steps on a path leading to better choices in the future.
Take what inspires or empowers you from other people’s stories and leave the rest. Protect your soft heart while remaining open and vulnerable. Find your safe space where you can speak your truth and be met with empathy.
Your story may end up looking very different from what you imagined. Be careful not to hold on so tight that you don’t let the beauty of your motherhood unfold. Let it breathe. Be flexible. Laugh and cry. Draw outside the lines. Dance often. And love fiercely.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Brené Brown (perhaps the world’s leading expert on shame research) that I keep close at hand and heart when I need a little reminder:
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”