Don’t Be Mean to Mama

This morning, as I was walking with Jake bundled on my back, like I do every morning, I got called a “dumb-ass”.  More specifically, I got yelled at for being a dumb-ass, by a lady parked on the street.  Apparently, she thought it was too cold for us to be outside, even though we were both bundled up to our eyebrows. 

It really bothered me.  A lot bothered me.  Enough that after about two hours of stewing, I had to sit down and think through exactly why it bothered me.

I realized that I can take people saying stuff to me about my personal appearance, the state of my clothes, looking askance at my nose ring, saying it’s “dramatic” in that really snotty tone of voice for me to have blue hair, and on and on.  However, if someone makes a comment about Jake or my parenting skills, it really, really hurts.

Every mom that I know struggles with this very thing.  We get upset and angry, offended and teary-eyed when people are critical of our parenting skills.  I have no idea why some people are so free with their criticism to young mothers, and since I only desire to have one break-through at a time, I’ll have to deal with that later.

I hurt a thousand times more when someone is critical about Jake or my parenting skills because it is my heart and I have sacrificed so much to have this life.

This is not the martyr section of this essay.  I am passionate about what I do with my life.  I don’t love everything about my life right now, but I believe in it whole-heartedly.  So, please understand that I’m not whining in this next bit.

I’ve always known that when I had kids, I wanted to not have a job.  I wanted to be with my kids and raise them myself.  So, when I had Jake, I got a job that enabled me to stay at home.  Losing that job set into spiral a string of events that landed Greg and I in Colorado, a thousand miles away from all of our friends and family and everything familiar, so that he could have a better job and I wouldn’t have to work. Having only one income is tougher than I thought it would be.  We haven’t been out to eat in months.  I shop at Goodwill for my clothes (ok, I actually like thrift storing, but I would have to shop there anyway).  I clip coupons and do our grocery shopping very creatively every week.  There have been a few times that I’ve had to see what we have in the cupboards and be creative on meal planning because we couldn’t afford to go to the grocery store.  Our vacations will be camping and a financial “splurge” for us is buying a $4 bunch of sunflowers.  And, I know that every family with one income can match me story for story.

Being a stay at home mama in a new place is very lonely.  It’s hard to make new friends.  Most of the people I should be getting to know right now also have small children and trying to find a time to talk coherently while everyone is playing nicely is almost impossible.  So, that leaves a lot of time with Jake and I hanging out together, which is alternately fun and mind-numbing.  I do try to read good books and think smart thoughts, but since it all has to be crammed in before Jake gets up, during naps or when he’s being quiet, it’s tough to have a thought beyond, “What is that banging noise and where is it coming from?”

Then there’s Jake’s health problems.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, once again by total strangers, that I don’t feed my kid, that he’s too skinny, that I should just make him eat, or told to just relax and he’ll eat when he wants to.  Then, there was the time I let Jake fall when I could have caught his arm, but would have dislocated his shoulder if I had (Jake has a condition that makes his joints very soft), and was told that I shouldn’t have “let him fall”.  I have prayed over Jake, fought for him at the doctor’s office, tolerated doctors who told me I was a bad parent, spent hours with Jake working him through wanting to barf when he was scared of his food, been consistent about his therapy and would pull out my own teeth if it would make him well.

To boil it all down?  I love my child intensely, and even though it’s tough sometimes, I love my life and I love what I do.  More than I thought I ever would. 

Maybe I’m the only mama who gets irrationally angry when criticized.  Based on the times I’ve seen young mothers burst into tears at the slightest provocation, I don’t think I am.  It makes me want to step back and watch my own critical spirit and not be or say the one thing to another mama that pushed her over the edge.   

In my constant desire and goal of being more Christ-like, I know that I need to be more gracious, loving, and kind towards those who are critical, angry and lash out like the “dumb-ass” lady did this morning.  I’m not really sure how to do that yet.  If you know how to do it, let me know and if I figure it out first, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I think we should both say “good job” to the next mama we see!  Deal?

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7 Responses to Don’t Be Mean to Mama

  1. Rebecca says:

    Absolutely!

    And good job.
    You are a *great* mom–
    you work your ass off for your family,
    and you’re willing to admit your faults.

    I’m still working on keeping my eyebrows in check
    when I see a screaming kid in a grocery store,
    because, truth be told?

    I have NO idea what is going on with that kid or that mom.

  2. Mom says:

    good job, good job, good job, good, good, good, good, good job!

  3. Michael says:

    I have been very impressed with how you have coped–and more than coped, continued on–through difficult times. As I have said to my Mary many times, you need to be you, not what other people say. Strength comes from within, not from what is outside.

  4. Dyann says:

    Oh. Christlike. That’s way better than the “You have no idea and even less right to an opinion” attitude that I generally adopt.

    Good idea to give praise. I’ll start.

    Mary, you’re doing a great job with the amazing little guy that you’ve been given. You’re the best mom that you possibly could be, and exactly what he needs.

  5. Ramona DiVera says:

    Everything you write seems to touch me emotionally. Warning: another Iain story… First, you are not alone. At 3 1/2 with Iain in language pre-school, he had his first asthma attack. He was in the hospital for 3 days. At that time the treatment of choice was Albuterol. He was like an insane amphetamine addict! The biggest impact this medication had on him was making him not want to eat. So, I feel your pain. My son was little, thin, and looked, okay, I’ll say it, a gaunt. Yes, I used to get those looks, and an occasional comment. My son grew up on Pumpkin Pie & homemade bread because that’s what he would eat. Well, that’s until he found Happy Meals at age 5. We always ask, “is there something more I could be doing?” So when those comments are put before us, it hurts so much because it (at least for me) makes us second guess ourselves… and hurts that what we do is not more visible or more obvious to others. And lets face it, you’re working so hard to be the best mom you can!

    I’m betting the “dumb-ass” lady had her own share of criticisms. This is how I look at them. Anyone who feels they are entitled to give criticism to others, especially people they don’t know, have got to have issues! There is only love and fear, she was working out of some fear. Go forth mom… and be a great one!

  6. Seriously. Good Job. I am constantly second guessing myself, even if nobody is looking at me askance. All of a sudden I am the annoying lady at the grocery store with the screaming kid and I find myself judging a lot less. Ah, but how do we stop getting upset when others criticize? I don’t know. Pray for wisdom in raising your kid and KNOW that God will provide it.

  7. Becky says:

    I’m with Ramona. When someone can’t give grace to you, it’s because they can’t give grace to themselves.

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