When I had my first child, I was scared. I was in my twenties and never had to worry about anyone except myself, and then there was that tiny human who needed everything from his first breath on this earth. I had complications during childbirth, so everything went very fast as I drifted in and out of consciousness in an epidural haze. The nurses wrapped my baby in and took him out of the room to intensive care. I cried and wondered what I had done wrong.
Most people do not realize that as a mother I constantly condemn myself. I face hundreds of agonizing questions every day, but most of them revolve around the central theme, "Am I good enough?". I'm tragically aware of my humanity and people are flawed. My biggest fear is that my overly human mistakes somehow rub off on my kids.
Every mother I have ever spoken to shares these fears. Fending off this kind of self-deprecating thinking will eventually become easier as we see our children go out into the world healthy and happy. That's why Mama's shame is so damaging. I occasionally ask my skills as a parent; Most healthy mothers do it. If someone else, especially a stranger, questions my abilities as a mother, this insecurity is only compounded. It can do more harm than good.
"I occasionally ask my parenting skills; most healthy mothers do that. "
Meghan Markle is no stranger to this kind of criticism. Last May, the Duchess gave birth to her first child, Archie, with her husband, Prince Harry of the British Royal Family. She recently brought her little son to a charity polo, and photos of Markle hugging her baby as she entered the venue quickly spread on the Internet. In the social media, the young mother was quickly criticized, from her post-baby body to the way she held her child. Although their followers had quickly teamed up in their defense, the negative comments painted an ugly picture of criticism external observers exert on mothers – especially newcomers – who are doing their best to get away.
The truth is that there is no perfect mother, simply because there is no perfect person. But there are good mothers and even great mothers among us. Besides, it is impossible to judge what kind of mother a human being is when observing an event from the outside. The behavior of children can be curated, but not controlled. For example, my children are very respectful children. They are curious, polite and nice, as anyone notices who knows them in any way in the long run. The woman who watched me fumble my 2-year-old beating under the couch in the waiting room while we were in urgent need of treatment because of my 7-year-old's recent asthma attack? She could not have a similar assessment.
Mama's shame does not help anyone. Not the person who judges, not the mother and certainly not the children. Imagine how harmful it would be to an angry child if another adult questions the authority of his parents? If this stranger does not respect his mother, why should they do it?
For mothers, shame in some form means only additional stress for their already emotionally and mentally exhausting job. We have much to fear without putting public opinion on the list of things to think about. Embarrassing a mother has the potential to distract this mother from doing what she needs to do, which is to educate her child to the best of her ability. If I had a dime every time someone challenged my parenting skills, I would take CoinStar out of business. If I tried to correct everything I was ever ashamed of as a mother, I would spend more time changing for others than raising my children.
"Any shame only helps to strain our already very emotional and mentally exhausting job."
So here I am happy, dimeless, flawed and human with two great kids. I hope that our society comes to a point where ordinary people like myself or extraordinary people like Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, can love our children and ourselves in peace.