Judgment, honesty, and what we're doing here
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader to my blog. She titled it "obese" (for a moment, I thought it was spam) and pasted in a photo of Everett I took when he was about two, and I had looked up his height and weight on a BMI chart and found him to be morbidly obese, according to the government's calculations. (He was, and still is, a muscular, healthy kid, who obviously just doesn't fit the chart for "normal.")
She wondered why I talked about healthy eating so much but had an obese child! She wondered why the police picked up my children all over the neighborhood (during the snow day, Everett was so excited that he ran ahead of pregnant me and slow Truman, towards the park, and was found by a policeman as I hunted for him a few feet away). She wondered how I could have three children when I couldn't even take care of one. In essence, she wrote all those things I think in my dark times.
She wrote all the worst invections I use against myself, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, out of control, so damned imperfect. She wondered why I "pretend I'm perfect."
It was a blow. But I've come across people like her before, on Blogging Baby, where I wrote several times daily for two years before moving into the role as editor of BloggingStocks, which has an equally passionate but much less judgmental audience (yay for that). And I didn't immediately question my role as a parent, or decide to take down my personal blog altogether, or even cry. I've developed a bit of a thick skin.
But not everyone has. In fact, moms as a group are some of the most susceptible to this sort of shrieking judgment. While most of us wanted to be parents, very few of us had any sort of real preparation for what life would be like. We read the pregnancy books, it's true, and we joined the due date forum on Babycenter. Maybe we started a blog, maybe we had friends or sisters who were new parents, who helped us acclimate.
Let's face it, though, there's no college degree, no job experience that really prepares you to be a mother. To be a mommy-mommy-mommy, to be needed 24 hours a day even if you have to work 6 or 8 or 12 of them, to have everything in your life and body change, to change your sig file from some funky quote from a beat poet to "Sarah, mama to Everett, 4.5, and Truman, 22 months! <3 :)" To have the way everyone in the world looks at you change; to have a constantly evolving challenge for which you're not ever sure you're qualified. Because no child is perfect, no parent is perfect, no family relationship is perfect.
That why we need a community that only supports, only helps, only loves, only tells the truth constructively. That never, ever judges people for their human-ness -- but is, at the same time, frank and useful. That's what we created at urbanMamas, that's why we love Portland so much (because we found you!), that's why we're able to get through some of our worst days, our nastiest emails, without deciding to throw in the towel. That's why sometimes, we'll remove comments that don't support this community, that rain down personal judgment to other mamas. Maybe I can handle it (sometimes). But maybe it's a hard day for you. Maybe you can't.
And if there's one thing we want to do right, it's that: to protect we mamas from the judgment that we're all too eager to bring on ourselves.
(This doesn't mean that we don't want negativity here. We love negativity, if it's appropriate -- if you tell me you had a bad experience at a restaurant, or if you want to throw your pediatrician in the reject pile, we support your frank yet compassionate reviews. That's also what we're about. Please continue to report the truth from wherever you are.)