The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

"don’t judge me, but I…"

Posted by on Sep 4, 2012 in Blog Posts, Uncategorized | 21 comments

To begin: things I never thought I would do as a mother…

1) let my six year-old get a pedicure, more than once (more below)

2) give formula to my baby. This is a nice article on the topic, from someone with more street-cred, since she successfully breast-fed two other children.

3)buy Legos that looked like these…

4) let her eat marshmallows or candy with breakfast on occasion

5) say, “Now, what part of ‘no’ did you not understand?”

6) let my home get so messy

I imagine there are things you do as a parent that you never thought you would do. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Now, don’t judge me, please… On the pedicures, M was a major toenail picker. They looked awful, hurt, bled, etc. I tried all kinds of tactics to help her stop, from silly-putty to keep her hands busy to outright nagging. Nothing worked, until out of real fear that she would get an infection or damage her nail bed permanently, I told her if she stopped, she could get a pedicure. And she did. That moment and forever more. Who knew? (I chewed my fingernails until I was 17…)

Still, and this is the part that I find interesting and sad, when I do things I think others would judge, like letting M have Cheetos with lunch, or getting a pedicure, I still care what other people think. I care what you think. I know I shouldn’t, and I’m working on it, but when I take her to the salon (where it’s between $8 and $15 for a mani-pedi, and there I go again not wanting you to judge me for spending too much money on a child’s pedicure…) I feel like I have to loudly explain, “Oh, your nails look so healthy now, I’m so glad you stopped picking.”

Because, alas, I know that I would have judged a mother bringing her child for a mani-pedi at age 6, There, I’ll admit it. I was judgmental (probably still am, but much, much less so…)

Parenthood has been (as the article on breast feeding above says) humbling. Before kids, I might have tut-tutted a mom snapping at her child. I know before kids and before delving into the research and working with families, I have judged parents for getting fast food, I was biased against fat people (as many doctors and lay people are), I didn’t understand or have sufficient empathy for parents of children with special needs. I just didn’t know.

I was struck when teaching a class recently, how many moms prefaced their questions with, “Don’t judge me, but I…” or, “I know this is so bad but…” while looking somewhat anxiously and sheepishly around the room at the other moms.

We are all doing the best we can.

As I have worked with families over the years, I know this to be true. Many clients “admit” to giving their children mac-n-cheese, or say, “We’ve been doing it all wrong.”

I feel grateful I found this work. I have so much more empathy for myself, for my child, and for other mothers. So much less judgment. Being a “good” parents means sometimes asking for help, sometimes letting your child eat marshmallows for breakfast, not because it’s the breakfast of champions, but because you know that for your child, helping her learn to handle “forbidden” foods is a gift.

That empathy means not torturing yourself or overcompensating when you sometimes lose your cool, and taking that opportunity to talk with and apologize to your child. It means eating take-out more than you want to because you are back in grad school, or going through a divorce, or eating more canned veggies because it’s what you can afford right now, or giving your baby formula, and not beating yourself up over it. It also means not judging others who do the same.

What do you think? What have you done as a mother you swore you would never do? What are you still struggling with? Has motherhood made you more or less judgey?

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  1. Nikki

    I saw a meme on Pinterest that said “of course I’m a good mother – they’re still alive aren’t they?”

    Parenting is the one thing that I know I’m good at, that I just don’t question about myself. Sometimes I do things I’m not proud of, like losing my temper and yelling from time to time. Other things I do that other people might criticize, like buying trans-fat, HFCS laden toaster streudel for a special treat for the 1st day of school. But I truly believe that the only thing that matters is that you love your kids and they know it.

    I think a lot of people search for assurances that what they are doing and that’s why they are judgmental toward others. But each child and parent is different, and just like everything else we can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. If what you are doing works for you and your child, keep doing it.

    • katja

      I agree! SO much if what I do, particularly with families who are struggling in feeding therapies that aren’t helping is to empower parents to stop doing what “experts” tell them to do when it feels wrong. If a child is vomiting and sobbing through therapy meals for 2 YEARS… this is not OK. I ask parents, “How does this feel as a parent? Is it helping?” NO? THen stop, trust yourself, find something else…IN fact, the “one-size-fits-all” approach trap is a section in chapter three in the book. Yes, your kids knowing that you love them is paramount.

  2. Ted and Tricia

    Yes, totally agree! Parenting is humbling. Parenting is just darn hard.

    It’s almost a cycle parents now seem to go through: judgment to humility, then more judgment and then more humility. The final stage perhaps is quiet wisdom where you actually do know a lot about parenting from all of your experience but are less inclined to judge by that time.

    Seems to me it’s a function of the high expectations we set for ourselves these days, both in parenting and in life. I know my own parents never considered parenting something they had to “master” and “be good at”. Perhaps it’s a good thing that we try harder these days, but at the same time, we have to remind ourselves that most of us are in fact doing it for the first time in our lives. For all intents and purposes, we’re all complete novices at this.

    • katja

      I like the idea of quiet wisdom. By the time we’re grandparents we may have some wisdom to share, but I’m sure our kids will think we did it all wrong, and they’ll have their own ideas anyway 🙂 It is hard, and we are all learning on the job :)I also like a podcast series called Mom Enough. Lots of reassuring advice. Also, I spend a lot of time in my upcoming book looking at all our worries and anxieties, particularly around food. The more we worry and fret about the process, it invites pressure and counterproductive feeding into the equation, and ironically the harder we try, the worse things get! I think so many parents really love the message, which is, yes, you do have responsibilities with feeding, but ultimately there is much you can’t control. I help parents figure that out (I also did a “Serenity Prayer” for feeding…)

  3. Maya Naumann

    I really like your posts, they are refreshing and honest! I am expecting a little girl any day now (am 39 1/2 weeks) and her name is going to be Katja. I so like seeing sensible lovely stuff coming from someone called by that name!

    I am a dietitian and cannot believe that I have bribed/cajoled my 20 month old to do what I want her to with candy. She naps in the afternoons (VERY precious time for me, especially being pregnant), and sometimes when I put her down refuses to go to sleep until I bring her something sweet…and I do!

    Thanks for your great work

    • katja

      How neat! Congratulations, and good luck! I will admit that we tried candy with potty training. If you are otherwise feeding well, and it’s in the name of sanity, I am guessing your daughter will be just fine 🙂 Thanks for the kind words!

  4. erylin

    I always swore i would answer every question no matter what, because that is how you would create inquisitive, smart children. Lol little did i know kids ask like 12446685451656 questions a day…and some are REALLY hard to answer, let alone boil down to a 5-7 year olds undertanding….

    stuff like why is that man holding a sign on the corner?…but WHY does he have to beg mommy? But why cant he find a job mommy? lol how do you boil that down?

    OR “why are those people being so mean to that horse? (to something seen on tv) how do you explain animal cruelty to a child?

    not only that but sometimes i just cant TAKE the questions anymore. its tiring. i have no space to think formyself, i am just acting like a big old computer that looks up stuff and then translates it to child-eese

    • katja

      HA! Love this. yes, it is tiring. I really struggle with how to talk about begging, and homelessness, and mental illness, alcohol etc. I had a half a frozen margarita the other day, and M says, “Mom, you drink too much alcohol.” (I have been trying to explain being drunk, or alcoholism when it has come up…) Hope that one doesn’t get repeated at school. (I drink about 2 half drinks a week. More than that puts me to sleep!) I also swore I would always swim with my child, not matter how cold the water was, and that I would be a playful mom. However, playing, the pretend kind, where I am constantly directed and interrupted, “No mommy, your girl is a spy, and she throws the other guy in jail, no, not like that…” Ack. I have also actually said on more than one occasion, “Go finish your TV show:)”

  5. Lisa in Boston

    I swore I would not scream at my child (I’m talking SCREAMING as opposed to yelling), but I have done it. At least a couple of times. I screamed in response to complete meltdowns my daughter had when she was 4 or 5. These meltdowns happened regularly at my most vulnerable time of day (5-7 PM when I reach the nadir of my energy) and a few times I Just. Lost. It.

    Thank you for sharing about the pedicures! Little girls getting spa treatments is something I have been completely judgemental about right up until I just read your post. But you know what? I picked my nails horribly as a child (I still have relapses as an adult) and my mother shamed me about it which (surprise!!) only made it worse. I WISH she had offered me a manicure to help me stop. I think that was a brilliant intervention and I will remember your story when next I get “sniffy” about another parent’s choices. Thank you Katja!

    • katja

      I didn’t put my most shameful parenting moment(s) in that post, let’s just say it involved screaming and potty training…Another area where we did much better when we gave up trying to control the process and followed her lead 🙂 We parents need to acknowledge it’s hard. I think kids can handle the occasional flip-out, if it’s not berating or violent, or habitual and if there is a talk after. We are not superhuman. “I’m sorry I screamed, I was really tired and upset, but I’ll try better. Mommy’s are still learning too.” Something along that line? I was raised in a home that didn’t yell or fight, we just went along like everything was fine, and were told to shape up if we were moody, etc. I think learning that you can be upset, that you can argue (I try not to scream, and do it rarely) and that you can make up and talk and still love each other is powerful. I still find conflict terrifying. I think learning that the people you love will still love you after a spat or a melt-down is a valuable lesson to learn.
      I too was super judgy about salon treatments for little girls, seems like it reinforces that beauty is what’s most important, and I resent them being marketed to girls as fun, while boys get to imagine more active adventures. Another learning moment for me 🙂 I am so happy how it worked out for M, but won’t be offering a spalon party any time soon 🙂

      • Lisa in Boston

        Apologies go a long way. I did apologize for my screaming, and have apologized for other mistakes I’ve made with my daughter. I think apologies from the “all powerful” adult can be very very validating to children and are great role-modeling. And yes, learning how to fight constructively is also an important life skill!

  6. Lisa

    Mani-Pedis are all the rage where I live. Girls as young as four can have their nails done at salons dedicated to them and it cost $20.

    My sister who is not a mother loves to give me parenting advice. I usually just nod and say I will try that. The fact is you never know what kind of kid you will have and what you will do to parent that child. I have let my son, who is four, run to the bathroom (at Chik Fila) barefoot, because I was afraid it would take too much time to put on his shoes and he would wet himself. I think the best thing we can do as mothers is forgive ourselves, because then we are more forgiving of our children(and other mothers).

    The only thing I do judge a little is when I hear other parents berate their children(not snap but yelling and calling them names like stupid). I cringe because I know what a lifetime of that can do to a child. I tell myself maybe they were just having an off day.

    Love this Blog.

    • katja

      THanks for the kind words! If you’re on facebook, there’s lots more going on there! Feel free to “like” the feeding doctor! Yes, the berating is not OK. It’s one thing to shout or even swear, but to call a child “stupid” or “ugly” or “bad” is a terrible thing. I try to remind myself that those parents were once children who were also berated more likely than not…

      • E.

        That doesn’t mean they should berate their children. In fact, if they had encountered a sympathetic adult when they were children they might not be yelling at their kids horrible shit. It’s important for a kid to know their parents are not right to treat them that way.

        • katja

          ABSOLUTELY! It is not OK for kids to be treated like that. Agree. It is a very tricky issue. I have very rarely heard a parent berate a child publicly. Have you ever stepped in? I’m sure there are resources out there about how to do that. Family violence, poverty, etc is often generational, and I think remembering that is helpful.

          • E.

            I once stopped a guy from pulling his kid’s ear. Actually I just needed to yell “hey!” and he stopped. It’s like I snapped him out of it. I was a teenager myself, didn’t really know what to do, it was just pure instict. I think he was out of control and I made him realize that. We didn’t say anything to each other. We just went on separate ways.
            I haven’t encountered anyone berating their kids. Maybe the closest has been “don’t be stupid!”… It’s also illegal over here to smack your kids, yet I have never done anything about the stresed parent swatting his/her kid. Tricky business. I feel we all could do a better job of protecting children.

          • katja

            So fascinating! There are books and curricula out there to help kids not be bystanders when other kids are being bullied. Funny that we are afraid ourselves to stand up to a child being bullied by a parent… Just got me thinking. I like, “hey!” I’ll have to think more and do a little reading on this topic. Just hit me that we expect kids to stand up for other kids, but it seems more complex to stand up to another adult to protect a child…

  7. Amy

    I always have Lunchables in the fridge and Pop Tarts in the pantry. I have tried to not have them in the house but if you knew how many food “fires” those items put out… They’re not an every day thing but they have saved me on more than one occasion.

  8. Kate

    I’m not a parent, but that doesn’t really stop me from judging others parenting decisions, though I try to keep an open mind.

    I’d NEVER judge a decision to use formula. A friend of mine just couldn’t breast feed despite her best efforts and she stopped talking to her friends because she thought they’d judge her and it breaks my heart that she went through that.

    I wouldn’t judge you for getting your kid a mani/pedi, a tattoo yes, but a mani/pedi, no.

    • Kate

      I thought of a reason I’d judge you for getting M a mani/pedi; if she was a super tomboy and you were trying to turn her into a girly girl, then I’d make the judgmental Marge Simpson groan. 🙂

      I had a friend who had her daughter in a private school and they dry cleaned her uniform, which I thought was crazy, but the little girl wanted her uniform dry cleaned and the deal was if she kept her grades up, they’d dry clean her uniform.