Juggling Judgment & Jess
Eating habits and approaches are a difficult topic throughout our lives, so it’s not surprising it’s such a minefield as a mother. Can you truthfully say you have never judged another mum over what or how they’re feeding their child?
My daughter has always been an excellent eater. I say excellent, but that’s a total lie. Like most kids she has a repertoire of about 5 meals I know she’ll eat and again like most kids, when she was two she used food to show her control – I’m sure there is more of that to come as she grows older 🙁 I remember the biggest battles we had with her were when baby#2 was about to pop out of my belly – most mealtimes would be a big drama, take at least an hour and typically end up with her sat on my knee being fed. I remember wondering how on earth I was going to do this with a baby around.
So when I say excellent, I mean excellent compared to her younger brother. He has always been a complete nightmare! More detail on his eating challenges another time, but lets just say that a massive part of running back to work when I did was to avoid spending 3 meals a day being screamed at :-/
We all have a different relationship with food and how, what and when we feed our kids. Most mums have a strong natural instinct to want to feed their kids and see them thrive, but we all have a different approach and style – whether it’s breast or bottle, traditional or baby-led, lots of small meals or 3 big ones – sometimes due to preference, sometimes due to need. Most of us have some level of worry going on about food – are they eating enough? Too much? The right stuff? And most of us are beating ourselves up about something. However, some of us stress more than others about getting something in their belly – whether it’s the weight gain, the worry about their sleep or their mood – there’s normally some kind of driver behind our stress that others may not see or understand.
I remember visiting an acquaintance we didn’t know very well when my daughter was about 10 months. We were 4-5 months into weaning, which had been a really positive experience for us so far. They had two kids aged 3 and 6 – giants compared to our little one. The mum told us that their 3 year old was a difficult eater and would only eat in front of the IPad. This really shocked me and stuck in my head. I am ashamed to say I judged them. I thought it was ridiculous. Surely this was just weak parenting?
I am now that mum. My son will only eat in front of Postman Pat. Judge me all you want, but I can honestly say we’ve been through so many battles with his eating, this is one I don’t have the energy to fight right now. I would rather he ate a nutritious meal in front of Postman Pat, than nothing at all. He had bad silent reflux when he was little, so we’ve never known whether his screaming and refusals to eat has been pure stubbornness or due to pain and discomfort. The truth is it has probably been a bit of both at different stages in his life – which has made it all the more difficult to decipher. Now he’s older and more robust and on the right meds, I know it’s mainly stubbornness – he will often polish off his meal with the right distractions. But maybe he needs the distraction to overcome some discomfort? Who knows?! Having been through enough of these types of challenges as a parent, I know it wont last for ever, but it doesn’t stop me from carrying around a whole lot of guilt at the same time!
I’m sure we’ve all judged another parent at some point in our lives. And I’m sure there are times when we were right to. But next time you find yourself judging someone, remember that most situations have a story behind them that you can’t see – and most likely a struggling mum or dad at their wits end. Every child is different and every parent is different – with their unique values, worries, challenges and personality traits.
If you’re that struggling mum and you’ve given up on the fight and found your hack, but are now beating yourself because it goes against your nature or beliefs about parenting and how it should be, then give yourself a break. We have to pick our battles and sometimes take the hack to keep us sane. Try not to feel guilty about it. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – when that guilt arrives, recognise it, greet it and wave it hello. It really does make it easier to bear.