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Please, please mama… how can we help you?

Oh boy.  So I just read this article by The Milk Meg entitled ” Please, please mama… pick up your crying baby.”  Meg, by the way, is an amazing breastfeeding supporter and I generally love all her articles.  She’s blunt, well-spoken and evidence-based.

So I was disappointed to read this article, where in her opening Meg writes:

“I have written this blog post to all of the women out there who have crying babies in their prams, those who are so exhausted and feel as though they cannot possible hold them again that day…”

And she goes on to make plea after plea for every mama to pick up her baby, no matter what that mama is going through.  For example:

“If you have had no help today, no break to pee, shower or eat without sitting down…

Please, please mama… still pick up your crying baby.”

CRINGE.  I understand that Meg is trying to inspire these tired moms to pick up their babies.  She has 3 kids of her own – she knows what exhaustion looks like I’m sure.  I just find this post a bit troubling and sad for a few reasons:

1) It judges and shames moms by saying that moms can overcome whatever aspect of motherhood to just “pick up their baby”

We can’t know why any particular mother doesn’t feel the need to pick up her baby when they cry.  It’s possible mama has back spasms and literally cannot pick up her kid.  Maybe she hasn’t read the recent research on secure attachment and responding to your baby.  Maybe she is in a compromised state i.e. totally exhausted or has postpartum depression.

Meg says she knows what it’s like… but can she really know what it’s like for every mom?  Some of us have a harder time with school and some of us have a harder time managing our weight… do we go up to people who weigh more than we do and say “if I can do it so can you!”  Well, maybe some people do.  But the research on obesity is increasingly showing that it’s harder for some to lose weight than others.  I don’t think I need a source for the fact that parenting is harder on some of us than others.

There is an unfortunate effect of pleading for moms to do something in the face of an adversity you think you understand; you are making them feel bad for being unable to do what you could push through and accomplish.  It could be viewed as privileged and arrogant, really.

 

 

2) It simply isn’t an effective way to address the issue of mothers not picking up their crying babies

I suppose some moms could be motivated to pick up that baby by reading that “I get it, it’s tough… BUT JUST DO IT.”  Nike styles.  But the problem here is that the root cause of the problem – why the mom isn’t picking up the baby – is completely ignored.  So often we focus on how mothers are treating their babies… but it is how mommy is doing that determines how baby is doing.

A better method of inspiring mothers is showing them that you understand why they can’t pick up their babies and offer some actual suggestions to help them or dig deeper into the root causes of this issue.  Telling moms who are already low that they need to place their own needs after baby’s isn’t just unhelpful and illogical… it’s downright hurtful.

They say you need to fill your own cup first.  Nowhere is this more true than in parenting.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if your baby crying isn’t motivating you, Meg’s post really is just going to piss you off and/or make you feel bad about yourself.  The commenters rant about how hard it is to hear other peoples’ crying baby and how amazing it feels to follow their instincts.  Ugh.

And it’s great that Meg doesn’t intend to judge you or shame you, but why does that matter if that’s how you feel?

Perception and how writing is perceived is just as important, if not more important, than your intentions.

And no, I’m not trying to say that Meg is being judgmental to silence her

One individual alluded to this article that discusses how contradictory opinions in parenting are not judgment.  I agree.  Crying “judgment” can for sure be used as a way to try and silence the side you don’t agree with.  But this article isn’t a contradictory opinion.  To me it reads as a backwards plea to exhausted mothers to please pick up their crying baby.  At best, it is meant to help you pick up your baby… but it inherently disparages any mom that doesn’t pick up that baby.  You’re disappointing that poor helpless baby.  That’s a bit judgy I say.

And so yes, I think I can say this writing has the potential to offend and effectively “judge” some mothers and make them feel even worse than they already do.

How about we focus on helping moms who don’t pick up their crying kid by focusing on the moms.  I think they could use a bit a bit more focus on themselves.

Here’s a re-write of Meg’s plea.  When she writes:

“If you are a single mother or your partner has been away, you feel as though you have no strength left to mother and parent on your own…”

I say:  Please, please mama… You’re doing the best you can so don’t be hard on yourself.  Let’s try and get you some help.  Is there some family you can call?  Friends in the community you can reach out to?  How can we build your support network?

 

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