I Used to Be a Judgy Mom -- Here's Why I Stopped

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Before I got pregnant, my husband and I had pursued adoption. That's when I first learned about attachment parenting, as a way to help adopted children bond. It seemed like the only sane way to parent any child. Who wouldn't want their kid beside them all the time, wrapped to their chest? That’s what our ancestors did.

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No one likes to sleep alone, especially not a baby -- the night is dark and full of terrors. Of course, moms should breastfeed, because of all the good antibodies and superior nutrition and bonding, bonding, bonding. Clearly, disposable diapers are killing the environment and have to be replaced with cloth. And the website Daycares Don't Care raises the question how can a daycare love?  

So when I finally became a mom, I breastfed and co-slept and babywore and stayed home with my precious rugrat.

And I judged you. Probably every single one of you.

Well, that's not quite true. First I'd try to convert you. "Have you ever tried putting him down in your bed?" I'd ask a sleep-deprived mom. Never mind that she might need to use a crib because she slept heavily, or because she slept so lightly that she woke every time the baby stirred. Never mind that she might be formula-feeding, and according to James McKenna, head of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame, it's unsafe to co-sleep unless you're exclusively nursing, because you aren’t as physically synched to your baby. The other mother would stammer. She'd offer some lame excuse. And I trotted off, head high, knowing that at least I was doing what was best for my baby.

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I'd start the same thing with people I saw dragging babies around in car seats. "Did you know it's recommended that car seats stay in the car, and children stay in them for as little as possible?" I'd ask. "You should get a baby carrier. It's soooo much easier and your hands are free." Here, I would throw my arms out and wiggle my hands, even as my son slept on my chest. "I have a carrier in my car if you want me to show you how to use it. Then you can borrow it until you get your own." Talk about pushy.

Pushier was the time I conned a mom into borrowing my newborn cloth diaper stash so she'd stop using sposies. "They're just so bad for the environment," I said. "And they have all these chemicals in them that are lying right up against their boy parts and probably deforming their developing sperm. Here, I'll bring you some cloth. Then you can see how awesome they are."

She returned them about two weeks later, unused. She was sheepish. I was offended. How dare she refuse my free cloth diapers, how dare she decide they weren't for her! Well, keep throwing all that shit in the landfill, lady, and see where that gets us in about 50 years.

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Then there was breastfeeding. I never covered up while I nursed, and I nursed everywhere from a pew at Mass to the middle of the mall food court. My babies latched immediately, blissfully, and easily. Sure, they all had reflux and intolerances, but that only lent me more credibility: If I could nurse and give up all dairy, including cheese, they couldn't manage to latch a baby? I offered a million fixable reasons nursing sucked for them: tongue ties, reflux, hypospadias breasts, the need for nipple shields, the need to get off nipple shields. I was a one-woman La Leche League meeting of advice.

Secretly, I scorned moms who went back to work. Not single moms, not moms who couldn't afford it, but moms who had a four-bedroom house in the suburbs and a nice car? Yeah, they got my side-eye. Make some sacrifices for your kid, eschew the annual vacay, and maybe you can afford to raise your baby yourself instead of shunting him into a subpar daycare facility (and all of them were subpar to me because daycare doesn't care).

I was a sanctimonious mom bitch.  

And then, somehow, somewhere along the way, something happened. Slowly, I became less of an asshole. Maybe it had a lot to do with my mom friend Melissa, who physically couldn't nurse her daughter. I'd shiv anyone who harassed Melissa.

Maybe it had something to do with my friend Catherine, who was so sleep-deprived that she had to let her daughter cry it out. I observed closely afterward; her little one didn't seem more upset or less bonded to her mama. And Catherine seemed less like she was mainlining coffee for sheer survival.

My kids grew out of diapers and one of them grew into pull-ups, which I found gross, but I didn't see an alternative. Now I understand how you could use sposies full-time.

As for baby carriers -- well, I still think they're easier, I still think they're better, but I've come to realize that some moms need their space, and better a happy mama than a miserable one.

Finally, I met more daycare kids, kids who were sweet and normal and not obsessed with Pokemon and fidget spinners, or curious about pornography, all by the age of 3.

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Over the years, I've learned an important lesson that I've been the first to take: Shut the fuck up. Because you don't know what someone's story is, what she's been through, and what she's tried already. You have absolutely no idea. If she wants my advice on my baby carrier or my cloth diapers or my co-sleeping, she'll ask for it. Until then, I just smile and STFU.

Now I find common ground instead of division. I've met some of my best mama friends that way. One sends her kids to daycare. Another carts her kid around in a car seat. None of them use cloth. None of them use carriers, except for ones I've lent them. They tease me for being a hippie, and I laugh. They know I nurse my 3-year-old, sleep with my 5- and-7-year-olds, and still drape amber teething beads around my youngest son's neck, mostly because it looks cute. They don't care. They give me much more grace than I'd have given them. And I'm grateful for it. 

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