It begins the moment you see those two blue lines. As you prepare yourself for motherhood, you also become the target of unsolicited advice, judgement and criticism. At no other time in your life, are your choices as scrutinised as when you become a mother.
Earlier this week the Australian media and general public has been in a spin since Chrissie Swan publicly “confessed” that she is still smoking during her pregnancy. For the benefit of my international followers, Chrissie Swan is a high profile radio presenter and television personality. The country has been polarised by her confession. Many people are horrified by her admission and have condemned her for committing the “unthinkable”. But there are also a lot of people expressing their support and empathy. After all, smoking is an addiction and nicotine is more addictive than heroin. It is never easy to give up, pregnant or not.
Not surprisingly, this story has unleased media frenzy and it seems everyone has an opinion about her actions. For me, it is just another example of how as a mother you are under continuous assault about your decisions.
You hear constant refrain that guilt is synonymous with motherhood. I wonder if the blame is self-directed blame or if guilt is being driven by others people’s expectations of us. The opinions and interference from professionals, family, friends, and even strangers on the street overwhelms parents with guilt and confusion. In Chrissie Swan’s case, condemnation is coming from people who she has never even met.
There is an undercurrent of judgement one learns to navigate when becoming a mum. Sometimes, it’s not visible but you can sense it hiding behind the veneer of another mum. And there are times when a comment is classic criticism masquerading as “advice.” This one, I’ve got good radar for. Then there are times when it’s more transparent and it’s this judgement that is particularly hurtful. The simple truth is that no one has the right to tell anyone how to parent and every mother in entitled to the freedom of choice. I am not for one moment denying the risks associated with smoking, but I wonder how many of us can truly claim we have done everything ‘by the book’ since becoming pregnant.
We are advised to give up soft cheeses, cured meats and lots of other tasty morsels. For my first pregnancy I washed my lettuce vigorously and abstained from gooey cheese. For my next two pregnancies I was more relaxed and I gave in to the odd bit of Brie cheese or slice of smoked salmon. We are also told to give up alcohol but I allowed myself an occasional glass of wine and I didn’t feel guilty about it. The list of “should’s “ goes on. We “should” have our sleeping baby in our room overnight but all my children slept in their own bassinette in their own rooms from birth.
There is always someone with an opposing view but when it morphs into judgment and criticism then it is plain cruel and sadly it can tarnish a woman’s experience of motherhood.
The Chrissie Swan story brings into sharp focus a familiar tale – that no other role in life is as scrutinised as motherhood. Judgement seems to be part of the mothering landscape and it needs to be stamped out.
Do you find yourself being scrutinised and judged as a mother? How do you handle it? All comments and opinions can be freely expressed here without judgement.