Written by guest blogger Kimberly Kalani
It's a Tuesday morning, my wife is away with the military, and it’s grocery shopping day.
It’s taken me more than an hour to change our one-year-old twins, feed them, and get them dressed, loaded into the car, and off to the grocery store just down the street. I had thought many times this morning that I would just wait one more day because I was already exhausted after getting everyone ready and out the door. But I had to face facts: I ate peanut butter on a tortilla and my kids’ star shaped puffs for dinner last night. This trip is urgent.
As I arrive at the store, I start to unload the twins from the car and into our enormous double stroller. I grab a large shopping cart because I know I have to stock up on everything. Pushing the double stroller with one hand and dragging the cart with the other, I attempt to move us through the crowd in a bold attempt to get everything on the list. As I struggle to make a turn into the next aisle (literally knocking all the chips off the shelf on the end cap), a woman looks at me and declares, “Oh man, I am so glad I don’t have twins. You have your hands full.”
As she walks away casually and carefree, not thinking to offer to help me pick up the dozens of chip bags, both babies crying, me anxiously tossing the bags back onto the shelf, I muster up all the class I have inside of my soul and say, “My heart is even fuller.”
I leave the store. I do not check out. I walk quickly to my car, load up the girls, and start to cry.
That day, I felt beyond defeated. I felt alone. I felt like I had failed. But most pressingly, I felt a tremendous lack of support from my fellow moms. I thought out of all people, a fellow mom would be able to empathize with the struggles that come along with raising kids.
As a first-time mom—especially as a mom of multiples—I hear these comments often, and yet each time I am shocked that they come from fellow mothers. Sometimes I hear comments that are even worse, because they’re critical. What are these comments I am talking about? Mom-shaming.
Mom-shaming is criticizing or demeaning a parent for their parenting choices because they are different from the choices the shamer would make. Mom-shaming has become so prevalent these days, online and out in the world. I started hearing them when I was pregnant, and it continues to this very day:
“You will never be able to breastfeed two babies at once. You should just start them with formula.” (Fifteen months strong of breastfeeding twins here, thank you!)
“You will never be able to cloth diaper twins.… You’ll see—you will give up fast when you have to do extra laundry.” (Also fifteen months strong of cloth diapering twins, babes.)
“Twins?! I am so glad it's you and not me. I could never do that! Your life is over.” (I’m glad it's me, too! Were you planning on giving one back if you had twins!?)
…and my personal favorite, “Did you know that over half of all marriages fail after having multiples?” (It takes real effort, but we are stronger than ever.)
During my pregnancy and when my babies were new, I rarely heard how lucky we were or how blessed we are to have two healthy, happy, and thriving babies. Instead of other moms building me up, encouraging me, supporting my choices… they tore me down with these constant comments. I always felt like I was making the wrong choices. It got to the point where I stopped sharing with other people what parenting choices we were making, because I always felt anxious about their responses. I was afraid of the judgment that would follow. I constantly felt on the defense.
This issue affects almost all moms at some point in their lives and can be truly devastating. If you have felt the judgment and anxiety while trying your best to raise your kids, you are not alone. Mom-shaming feels to me like it has become more and more common, creating a society of mothers who are constantly anxious about the parenting choices we have made for our families.
And parents seem to be struggling with their parenting decisions more than ever. The worst part is that we are, in many ways, struggling alone. It seems like a paradoxical situation—we yearn for the support of other mothers and parents, but fear their judgment all at the same time.
A very wise friend, a mother of triplets, once told me, “I try to be gracious in response to all the comments, but one thing that I have had to explain many times is that parenting multiples involves two major things to keep in mind. One, I have to do what is best for my babies. Two, I have to find a balance there and also do what is best for me while I am managing multiple babies.”
While this advice rings especially true for moms with multiples, I believe that it is very true for EVERY parent. We need to come together as parents, because we are all juggling, and it’s a tough job! Some days are grueling, exhausting, demanding, and straight-up defeating. We need to support each other. We need to encourage each other. Most of all, we need to be there for each other without judgment. This is the only way we will be able to gain a true support system. We will only rise as parents if we lift each other.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes that I try to live by as a parent:
“Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.” -Dave Willis
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