Being in public, amongst a sea of strangers, with a kid in the middle of a tantrum does not faze me one bit. But, being around moms I know makes me self-conscious. What’s the deal? My mama gut suddenly goes radio silent and I can feel beads of sweat begin to form. This is what happened the time I didn’t follow my mama gut.
The time I ignored my mama gut
Here’s the scene: My 3 year old daughter was having a full blown meltdown at a family-friendly event (crafts, pizza, cake, what’s not to like?). Her meltdown was completely irrational to the tune of “taking a bite of food when she was not sure it was food” (when do they ever make sense anyway?)! I completely forgot this is a time to teach my daughter a lesson (because, to me, tantrums are teaching moments). I knew I should do planned ignoring but I just couldn’t bring myself to follow my mama gut. I knew all the moms at this event and I didn’t want to seem like I do not care about my kid by ignoring her behavior. So instead, I caved into my own peer pressure to “make it better.”
Where was my head?!
After much thought, talking to my husband, and consulting with my girlfriends (yep, via email and over coffee dates for those I’m lucky enough to live a short distance from), I realized in the future, I’ll stick to my mama gut guns, or seek social support from my husband who was doing what I should have done – ignore my flailing, teary, and LOUD child because I was just fueling the fire by giving her more attention for her behavior. Would it have just been better to remove her from the situation and let her scream her face off in a secluded location (like the hallway)? Yes. Even so, there are times I feel like straight-up ignoring is not going to work. As my daughter gets older and her comprehension capabilities increase, having conversations about problem-solving in the situation are a new tool in my parenting toolbox, but she was beyond reproach in this case.
Why do I care what others moms think of me?
So, the bigger question here is why do I care what other moms think of me and my parenting skills? Why does it matter when I am the one who has to take my girls home and live with the aftermath (for the record, she was a complete angel the rest of the day)? How do I explain, on the fly, to a mom who is trying to be sympathetic, “This is how I parent; I’m purposefully not paying attention to her bad behavior.”
While emailing with one of my girlfriends about this debacle, she shared, ‘I always feel judged, and it is so stupid. I think maybe there is a difference between how you want to be perceived around people who know you only as “Esther, Miriam, and Ilana’s Mom” versus how you feel around those of us who know you as Michelle first, Mama later. You know? Like, if I was with you and you let the girls work their way out of the moment without coddling, I’d know what you are doing and we could continue on with whatever we are doing. Maybe you at some level feel like the other Moms won’t get it?’
Reading my best friend’s words turned on a lightbulb. For those people I have met in “mom mode,” meaning I only know them because we just so happen to have kids around the same age or we have some parenting situation in common (like we both have multiples), they don’t know me as anything BUT a mama. Being a mom is my absolute favorite role, but there is so much more to me than just mom. Most recently, I started learning Spanish, I love blogging (something I don’t advertise in most conversations unless someone else brings it up), I am working on a book, I love my profession in public health, I’m studying Buddhism… there are many layers!
Yet, when I feel like my identity is only “Mom” in any given situation, I want to rock it! Then, when I feel like I’m totally failing in the moment… I want to make it stop any way possible and/or crawl under a rock and never come out. Clearly, all logic and rational thought goes out the window!
And then I remembered a great quote, “What someone else thinks of me is none of my business.” Sometimes the hardest moments are when you really have to stick to your morals, values and conviction and I need to live my truth and answer why does it matter what they think of me? Why does it matter if they don’t understand what I’m doing? The answer: IT DOES NOT MATTER.
No one is perfect. And how my children behave is not a direct reflection of me. We all have less than stellar days, but every day is a good day because I remind myself of what really matters. If this means I let my kid throw her tantrum to raised eyebrows… it’s doesn’t really matter. Every single person on the planet has their ups, downs, and challenges in between. It’s definitely harder to live these challenging moments in a public setting (I do not envy celebrity moms in the tabloids!), but this tantrum will pass. Worrying about what these moms think of me doesn’t really make a difference in my life, and my one responsibility is to live in the moment and be the best Michelle (and mama) I can be.