Bad Mother Blues

Last Friday I published a post about my decision to keep using the stroller with my three-year-old son, even though I kicked his big sister out at the same age. To recap, my reasoning basically boiled down to:

  1. When I kicked Hannah out of the stroller I was three months pregnant, and I knew I’d need the stroller for the new baby.
  2. I wasn’t walking as much with Hannah at that age as I’m currently walking with Jacob.
  3. The primary place I’m walking with Jacob is to Hannah’s school. He’s not good at walking quickly, and I don’t want to be late to drop off or pick up my daughter on account of my son.

One of my awesome Twitter followers tweeted a link to my post, and one of her followers (someone that I don’t follow, and who doesn’t follow me) chimed in and said that she doesn’t like to see bigger kids in strollers. Her primary concern as I understand it is that it encourages childhood obesity, as kids become accustomed to riding rather than walking. Fair enough. But the conversation developed, and eventually it came to the point where I felt attacked, when she tweeted (and I’m paraphrasing) that I was justifying my behaviour, and that my decision wasn’t about my son as much as my personal convenience.

I’m giving you this background because I have read veiled allusions to arguments in blog posts, and they always leave me extremely curious. Hopefully, this will prevent you from suffering the same fate.

I’m a blogger, and I put personal details of my life up on the internet for anyone to see. In doing so, I understand that not everyone will agree with everything I do. I co-sleep, I breastfed my children well past their second birthdays and I have been known to feed my children fast food in a pinch. You may disagree with any or all of these decisions, and I’m totally fine with that. I was totally fine with the Twitter user who disagreed with my decision to use the stroller. But when I felt that she implied I was harming my son solely for my own personal convenience, suddenly everything changed. I felt like I had a big, flashing neon sign over my head: Bad Mother.

There is something about the label bad mother that causes me to react in a deeply primal way. I feel it in my gut. It makes me nauseous and shaky and angry and afraid. It’s the same kind of primal reaction I feel when I experience a near-miss traffic accident, or when I’m in a public place and I can’t find my kids. It’s not rational, it’s not reasonable, and I can’t entirely control it.

I believe that many other mothers have a similar reaction . When I read Catherine Connors’ Bad Mother Manifesto I see her taking a term that can be used to harm her and re-claiming it as her own. This is, in many ways, the same thing that the LGBT community did with the word queer. These are terms that are harmful, that cause us to feel afraid and powerless and attacked. If they didn’t inspire that reaction, there would be no reason to re-make them into something different. I can’t imagine, for instance, that anyone would feel the need to reclaim a label like cheerful.

As I sat in front of my computer, sputtering and vaguely ill, I thought that this must be what a mother feels like when her decisions around breastfeeding or childbirth are called into question. Especially because, so often, when other people pass judgment they’re not doing it from a place of knowledge. They don’t know us, and they haven’t lived our lives or had our experiences. This ups the ante of the bad mother label. In my case I didn’t just feel judged, I felt misjudged, and that may have been the worst bit of all. In my mind, I was being condemned for a crime I hadn’t even really committed.

Part of me is really tempted to lay out even more reasons for my stroller use. I want to explain myself, and make people understand. In the process, I suppose, I’m seeking absolution. If someone knew me, if someone really got me, they couldn’t possibly call me a bad mother. Or, more accurately, imply that I’m a lazy mother. In my head it all amounts to the same thing, though – that imaginary, flashing neon sign that makes me feel so ill. But the truth is I can’t make someone understand, so that would be an exercise in futility.

I suppose it’s natural for us to feel defensive when our parenting is called into question. After all, our children are very dear to us. So dear, in fact, that the phrase very dear doesn’t even begin to cut it. We would walk through fire for our kids, and we’re showing up every day – whether we feel like it or not – and doing our best for them. If someone else can’t see that, it hurts. If our best somehow isn’t good enough, it really hurts. This, I think, is why I reacted like a wounded animal to some sterile, typed words from a perfect stranger.

I’m not sure I’m ready to claim the phrase bad mother for my own quite yet. But I have a new understanding as to why someone would want to take the sting out of the label, and I think I also cultivated some compassion for my fellow mothers in the process. That may be the good that came out of a negative interchange online. And yet, quite honestly, I would still give anything to take it all back and go on about my merry way, without feeling the sting of judgment. This is why I try so hard not to judge others – because I clearly can’t handle being on the receiving end, myself.

Have you ever faced the judgment of strangers in your parenting? How did you handle it? And how do you react to being called a bad mother? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Edited to add: Something just occurred to me, which is slightly tangential to this post, but I wanted to put it out there. What if I was doing something solely for my own convenience? Is lazy parenting really all that bad? After all, parents have needs, too. Ignoring them completely and sacrificing ourselves on the altar of the “good mother” really serves no one. Martyrs aren’t much fun to be around, in my experience.

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  1. This is a great informative and nonjudgmental post Amber – thanks for explaining this and bringing up that touchy subject of feeling judged as a parent. This happens ALL THE FREAKIN time to me! For: having a child in daycare while I’ve been on maternity leave; having my baby facing the sun in the baby swing at the playground (“it may hurt her eyes, dear” said a “helpful” other mom/grandma/know it all); allowing my daughter to eat the same lunch every day; not being strict enough with bedtime; relying on takeout food several times a week instead of cooking despite being on maternity leave; letting my baby eat things off of the floor (“oh you don’t want her to put THAT in her mouth” say helpful strangers implying my low sanitation standards + my inability to pay proper attention to my child); hiking steep dropoff trails with a child on my back in snow (“one trip and your child dies” said a hiker that I passed one time with Megan on my back) ….. the list goes on and on. And on.
    eva’s last post … August 25, 2011. Eleven Months. Bittersweet.My Profile

  2. First I only skimmed the post, so I may have missed something. Second, I didn’t read your first post on toddlers and strollers. At around 22 months or so my daughter wanted nothing to do with riding in a stroller and insisted on pushing it instead. That can be frustrating on its own. I’m sorry that you’ve been feeling blue about that woman’s criticism. I don’t know if it’s only in my head or if people really think it, but I often feel criticized about raising my 2-year-old daughter bilingual. Most younger people think it’s cool and way supportive of it (I’ve found that generally there is a generation gap in the thinking.) But it’s hard for my own family because right now she’s mostly speaking the second language, not English. But it’ll pass and she’ll be speaking both languages quickly. Anyhow, I just remember that I know what’s best for my own family and luckily we are all able to decide that individually.

  3. My motto as a mom – do whatever works for you. I’m the type of person who can act like I don’t care what others think of me – but it still hurts. My sister is very judgemental of me and my kids. She is constantly correcting them and chastising them, and she ruining her relationship with them. She is 29, has no kids so of course she knows it all. She rolls her eyes when I say I kept my old dishes after getting new ones. She would have thrown the old ones out! Because of course she doesn’t have dinner parties with more than 8 people at them, so how could she understand the need to keep the extras? I guess my point is that it hurts when people judge and it always leaves me kinda of taken aback. It’s easy to judge from the outside looking in on someone’s life/decisions because there are always more than two ways of looking at things. And I personally think that anyone who judges or attacks someone elses decision probably have low self-esteem and they are trying to bring you down to boost themselves back up. Funny you should post this because I am going to see my sister today and was going to talk to her about how she’s been acting. Amber, if you want to use a stroller big deal. I used a stroller with Madelyn until she was almost 4. Why? Because her sister was born when she was 3.5 and she was jealous of her getting to sit in the stroller. Prior to that she had no interest in the stroller. So do whatever works.

  4. Oh Amber! This makes me so sad and angry that someone made you feel like a bad mom! One of the reasons I think your blog is so outstanding is that you write so clearly and honestly and openly about how difficult it is to be a parent and you really find common ground among mothers. That’s why so many people love to read and comment – you make it a welcoming, safe place. This is not an easy thing to do at all. I tend to avoid parenting groups/discussions/etc. because they are often so glibly divisive, but your blog never seems to be. I’ve only
    ever written one parenting-type post, and it’s about these kind of ‘misjudgements,’ as you so aptly call them – I don’t know if it’s a solution, but it works for me. Here’s a link if you’re curious:

  5. Barbara (@OttMomGo) says:

    We just read A Bad Case of Stripes last night and I’ll recommend it to you. It’s important to be true to yourself. The you that you are now needs a stroller. Good mothers teach their kids lessons like making their own choices and setting priorities. It seems you’re doing that.
    Barbara (@OttMomGo)’s last post … Lessons learned at Grandma CampMy Profile

  6. we all get judgey whether we care to admit it or not…but as said we parent and do things the way that works for us. Not for other people. I suppose people judge me for letting their dad DRIVE them to school in the am so I don’t HAVE to walk with Tara. We walk to pick em up. People are judgey that I bottle fed. That my kids watch tv and play video games. THAT is us. And I don’t think I am totally wrecking my kids.

    I caught myself getting judgey at a mom the other day..she has her kid in part time child care. She doesn’t work…so I was all huh…but hey..NOT my life…and I don’t know the story.
    Crunchy Carpets’s last post … Fresh Perspectives for the FallMy Profile

  7. I am so sorry you felt judged. You are anything but bad parent. Anyone who has read your words or knows you, knows just how natural motherhood is to you! I have felt judged and attacked over the years…mostly about breastfeeding. It sucks. And I used to feel the need to constantly defend further. But now I dont. I am me. I know me. And I know how great my kids are. Thats enough for me. I also keep reminding myself that opinions are like assholes – everyones got one.

  8. Being judged for who you are extends way beyond mothers and parents… Folks of all sorts are judged for not “doing it” right. Not that it makes it any easier to get used to.

  9. Barbara-Ann Kubb says:

    Hey Amber,
    I, too, have felt that awful pang that comes with either being called a bad mother or being made to feel like a bad mother. In all of our dealings with Alex and the many professionals involved wit his care, I have come across two issues that just make my blood boil; being told I’m not doing enough for him, and being told there is nothing wrong with him and if I just disciplined him he would be better. What hurts more is when these comments come from family members.

    One thing I take pride in is that I am doing everything I possibly can for Alex to give him the best start in life. I initially thought I was crazy when I first took him to the Dr. to look at developmental delays, but professional after professional has told me that there is something definitely going on and it’s not just my imagination. That is the kicker though; we still don’t know what’s wrong. So I continue searching for answers and help for the poor kid who really just wants to be like everyone else. When questions are raised about my parenting I state (as you did in your blog above) “you don’t know what it’s like. You don’t have to live with the issues. You don’t see Alex at his worst, and you only hear what I choose to tell you”. This usually helps (a bit).

    I totally understand wanting to keep using the stroller. It sounds like you made the best decision for you and your family. Sometimes we need convenience in parenting. Otherwise we would go insane! Is it really wrong that my kids can spot the golden arches from a mile away? Well, we’re working on that one ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. I let my kids choose their own clothes that they wear (or even buy) every day. And while I encourage them to dress warmly, or put on pants, etc, they don’t always listen. I almost always let that go, but pack some sweaters, or mitts, or whatever with them. No one else on the street knows what is contained in their bags but me. And as a result, I’ve received countless comments from people on the street telling me that I need to put clothes on my kids, or that they’ll catch their death, or similar. Countless.

    My theory is that they kids will put their sweaters on when they want to put their sweaters on. I don’t feel the need to argue over this one matter. The first dozen times that I was confronted by people over what my kids were wearing, I wasn’t sure what to say, and on a couple of occasions I felt the need to explain that they had warm clothes with them if they wanted. Now, I don’t care. People don’t know the whole story, and if I spend all of my energy worrying about other people, I’m wasting my time.

    Worry about yourself and your family, and give everyone else the (virtual) bird. You’re doing what’s right in your situation. Once you know that and are *truly* comfortable with it, it’s very freeing.
    Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … The Wedding, Fourteen Years LaterMy Profile

  11. Ha ha, as if Mothers didn’t carry around enough guilt already! What a crazy thing to be criticized.

    It’s funny, sometimes people are so quick to judge. I’ve done it myself without thinking, even though I’m not proud of it. Especially folks who aren’t parents yet, oh the idealized parenting advice from people who aren’t parents, or people who didn’t take an active role in parenting their own children. Childhood obesity is a direct result of sugary, low nutrition foods and tv/ video games. It’s an epidemic. However, parents who walk with their kids are awesome! Stroller/ no stroller, kids learn from what they see, they adopt behaviour modelled primarily by their parents. So when they’re in the stroller, they’re actually learning to head around on foot. Keep up the good work, Mama!

    And, relaxed parenting is great. No stress required, take the easy way out. Model a stress free life for your children’s healthy future. Engage in bucolic wildness, a pastoral urbanity, a great peace of energy… those images make me smile.

    Now I’m going to get off the computer and model some behaviour I’d like to see in my child. ;-D
    Brenda Blakely’s last post … test postMy Profile

  12. Listen: sometimes we just need to do what we need to do. I have two children, they were born less than 18 months apart. I coped as well as I could, and sometimes that meant doing things solely for my own convenience. So what? My kids are happy, healthy, and well loved. Maybe if you never let Jacob walk, ever, but always put him in the stroller – well, maybe that would be unhealthy and conducive to obesity, but if you need to get somewhere fast and you don’t have time for a slow walker, who cares? I live a 20 minute walk from the school but I frequently DRIVE because a) my kids come home for lunch and it is a 55 minute lunch hour b) I live in Calgary and 20 minutes in minus 30 is not a good option.
    Nicole’s last post … StrugglingMy Profile

  13. Wow, wowzers, min-boggling-wowness. I read your stroller post yesterday & nodded my head along to it, then declined from commenting because I thought, geez, who wants to read my experience with being a mom doing, ya know, mom stuff? It’s a stroller. Pfffft.

    Look, I’m a running & hiking mom (whose children run 1/2 & 1mi runs along with us every week, and have hiked 7 mi in one shot along with us) attachment parenting, babywearing advocate (who has owned far more slings & child carriers than one person likely needs) who ALSO has owned several different strollers – including a double stroller, which, I have used with my children as late as last year (just removed it from the trunk of my car this summer, from disuse) at the ripe old ages of 4 and 6. And I don’t feel one bit bad about it – AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU, Amber.

    Moms (and Dads, ahem), use strollers when they choose to use strollers. When they need to use strollers. When their kids want to use strollers. Sometimes it’s safer (I consider an international airport or along a road very prudent locations in which to use a stroller). SOMETIMES it’s just. more. convenient.

    Bottom line: if your child is happy in a stroller, and it can help you, use it. Period.
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Why Not Peace?My Profile

  14. You are a person too. Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you are not. Sometimes it’s best for everyone when you look after your own needs. A worn out, stressed out mother is no mother at all.

    Although I’m not huge on using strollers when they aren’t necessary, I’ve been using one with my 2.5 year old more lately because I need to get more exercise on our walks. His health is important, but so is mine!

  15. It’s easy to judge a person on a mere fraction of their day. Maybe the mom who walks with her toddler to school tries to get him to take a nap he doesn’t really need anymore when she gets home, while you sit and colour with your son. One mom spends the afternoon at the park with her kids and gets fast food for supper, the other leaves the kids to their own devices while she prepares a healthy home cooked meal. One mom makes the kids take a shower and do their homework before bed, another skips that and lets them watch a movie that keeps them up too late. One mom gets up and makes pancakes on Sunday morning, another gets up just long enough to flip on the PS3 and goes to bed for another hour. I’ve been all those moms, every one. It’s normal and healthy to opt for convenience at times and ‘good parenting’ other times. What do kids learn from a ‘bad mom’? It’s OKAY to give yourself a break, you don’t NEED to do everything perfect, no one is at their best ALL the time. Those are important things to know.

  16. I got stroller judgement the other day from a new mom of 1 itty bitty baby. I’m just thinking,”Really,chica?Really??” I don’t have a car,therefore we walk everywhere. Am I really supposed to make my 17 month old walk the miles we cover in a day? Crazy.

  17. Argh, yes, I love that. It’s my favourite thing: being judged as a mother. I no longer care. It still hurts though at times. My choices on how I raise my child has been judged, condemned (yes) and ridiculed. The fact that my child goes to bed at just gone 6pm seems to irritate most people, for goodness sake she is tired, she falls asleep and later bedtime result in fretful child and why would I want that… The fact that I have no issue with glitter, glue and paint and let her use oil paints, acrylics and stuff has been sort of seen as reason that my house is often a tip…
    Mel’s last post … Competition timeMy Profile

  18. I am going to try to be an optimist and hope that in this particular instance this twitter user was just coming off badly in her written 140 characters. The problem is, that all too often, that isn’t really the case.

    It frustrates me to know end that we (as a society) continue to be so judgmental of others, especially when it comes to motherhood. Do anything, say anything, and there will be somebody there to tell you you’re doing it wrong. Most of the time it can be easy to brush it off due to generational differences, or a knowledge that you are doing the best for your child, but the times it stings? Those that sit in judgment are the ones doing it wrong.

    I will admit that before kids I once judged a family for letting their 5 year old ride in a stroller and while I still wouldn’t make that choice myself, I can recognize that my judgment was coming from a place of ignorance (just as that blog devoted solely to kids too big for strollers). It is not my place to decide how old someone else’s child should be to be able to sit in a stroller, or anything else for that matter.

  19. That’s absurd, you’re a great mother. I walk the kids to school in the morning, and for afternoon pick up. With my youngest being 2yr, and still very much in need of a stroller, I used our double (bike style trailer) stroller. My son Cedric (3yrs) takes up the second seat. Is this for my convenience, yep. Absolutely. I have to get 4 kids (my 3 plus a friends a kid I help with in the mornings) ready and off to school. Sure he could walk, but it would take double the time. Not only would we be late for his preschool class, but he’d be exhausted and grumpy (he is not a morning kid!). So I utilize the stroller instead.

    If this was purely for convenience, we would have drove. Then my children would not have the benefit of the fresh morning air, and the influence of seeing their mom set a good example by trying to get healthy. The stroller may be temporary, but the experience of our morning routine will last a lifetime.

    As for being judged. The one’s that bother me the most are those with passive aggressive insults. I tried to write a few examples, but I kept erasing them. It seem’s they still get me all worked up. Mom’s with hate-ons suck.
    Laura’s last post … Wordless Wednesday: Shake your Pollinator!My Profile

  20. I have to admit that (before becoming a parent) I used to judge parents pushing their big kids in strollers, thinking the kid should be walking. But I realise now that I hadn’t really thought it through at the time. Now I have a 2 year old who looks at least 4, and I feel that it is often a healthier choice for me to push him in the stroller than for us to drive. It would be nice if we had time to get everywhere at a 2 year old’s pace, but truth is we don’t. He also doesn’t yet have the stamina to walk as far as I’d like to so the stroller is really a necessity if I want to walk. I like what Brenda said above that it is modeling getting around on foot, even if we use strollers.

    I feel as though using child harnesses is a similar situation that is often judged. I have one and have used it in certain situations (e.g. hiking in the mountains with an 18 month old – he needed to get out and stretch his legs every now and then and I felt it allowed me to let him explore but keep him safe). But I feel that parents should feel free to use harnesses without judgement in many situations. People don’t seem judge each other for strapping our kids into car seats and driving them about, and unless the child is starting to look “too big”, people usually don’t judge for stroller use, and although using a harness is actually allowing the child more independence than either car or stroller, it seems people think that harness use is too controlling.

    With parenting, it seems as though every decision big or little can be judged by others and I think that since we invest so much into parenting and it is so deeply personal, that judgement can really hurt.

  21. Childhood obesity? Please, do tell that little tidbit of information to my three year old son who weighs 30lbs and rides in a jogging stroller every day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My youngest son does still ride in a stroller daily primarily, because it is safer for him to do so (we live in downtown Vancouver) and secondly, because I like to get my oldest son to school on time. Both my kids spend on average three hours daily at the playground running and getting lots of exercise and fresh air. I suppose if I felt that the use of the stroller was in some way hindering my child’s development or acting as a sort of crutch in any way, I might feel differently. As it stands now, I’ll be happy if he rides in the stroller until he’s closer to four years old. I realize that might sound ridiculous to other families who walk very little (we walk EVERYWHERE) or who spend a lot of their time playing in their house or in their backyard (we have neither, so we have to walk to playgrounds or go to friends homes to play), but I’ll take a walk with my three year old in a stroller over riding in a car and sitting in traffic any day of the week.

    ps. I also make it a practice to not care what others are judging me for – at the end of the day, I could really care less what other people think of me, and fortunately for me, I don’t have many Judgy McCast-a-stones in my circle of friends and family. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Erin’s last post … toss it tuesdays: Ekco 123 garlic pressMy Profile

  22. You’ve laid it all out so nicely, I don’t really have anything to add. Except:

    I twigged to the same thing as you, though: so what if it’s for your convenience? Would you be a “better” mother if you forced him to walk, dragging him up the road by the hand? Eventually he’ll start hollering “You’re MEAN TO ME” and then someone will call the cops on you. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We *never* know the whole story. I don’t think it’s possible not to judge at all, for me anyway, but it certainly is possible to keep that judgment to yourself.

    We took our buggy to the PNE this year, for my 3.5 year old (and to carry all our stuff around) and at one point, I jokingly offered my 5 y/o a ride. He took me up on it and I quite enjoyed the silent judgment I perceived from the people around me. Let she who is without a bag of mini donuts cast the first stone, right?

    • Mmm, mini donuts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      And I totally agree on the judgment. We all judge, on some level, without even meaning to. We just don’t need to share that with the world – or the person we’re judging. The problem with social media is that it seems to remove basic standards of behaviour. We’ll tweet things to someone we would never dream of saying if they were right in front of us.

  23. That last thing you said is bang on – we all judge, even unconsciously. The difference is some of us take the time to examine those judgements and realize where they come from and that they might not be fair, and others are comfortable firing them out into the world without regard for who it affects. Oh wait – now I’m judging the judgers. Sigh.
    allison’s last post … Mondays on the Margins: Book Review – Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan AuxierMy Profile

  24. I try to let other people’s advice roll off my shoulders. I hear it, I consider it, and I take it for what it’s worth. This might be a bit easier for me since it’s often my mom who is giving the advice. I know she doesn’t think I’m a bad mom, but I know she disagrees with many choices we make.

    I say, look at Jacob. Is he looking a little chunky? If he is, let him walk. If he looks healthy, keep pushing that stroller. He’ll walk when he’s ready. Otherwise, I’d assume she had good intentions but bad delivery and move on. Megan Francis from The Happiest Mom wrote another great post about dealing with criticism. In it, she said, รขโ‚ฌล“Has this person earned the right to shake my peace?รขโ‚ฌย Totally worth a read.
    Casey’s last post … I am a runnerMy Profile

  25. ?????

    This is … just baffling!

    What about when your two and a half year old gets tired and lays down on the sidewalk and refuses to walk? And you’re stuck someplace so you have to pick him up and haul him, kicking and screaming, down the street? How is that better? A lot of three year olds can happily walk a ways, but the way home may be too much. I take Joe for walks a lot, but it’s good to have the back-up plan. I have learned this the Hard Way.

    So I’m just scratching my head. I don’t get it!
    Inder’s last post … Golden Girls.My Profile

  26. I think as parents/mothers criticism is just all around us. But no one can make you a bad mother. Perhaps the conversation touched a raw nerve? or the part of you that is a bit uncomfortable with using the stroller? It may be worth examining how you really feel about the stroller use and consider whether you are actually feeling bad because you are not comfortable with your decision. And if you decide you are, then whatever, just let it slide. In any case, people will criticise, but who cares? If you are ok with your position, then just move on. But if it has made you upset, then it’s good to reexamine our own reactions.

    • I am actually totally OK with my stroller use.

      Quite honestly, I am just hyper-sensitive to criticism. Disagreement is fine, but when it becomes a personal criticism I have an anxiety reaction. It’s my issue, and I’m working on it, but even when I’m doing something that I have complete confidence is right for me, I can’t stomach perceived negative judgment from others.

      Social media just exacerbates this, as I said in some earlier comments. People will say things on Twitter that they would never say in person. Partly because they can’t see you, partly because it’s just much harder to communicate eloquently and compassionately in 140 characters.

      • This is a totally tangential thought Amber, but I’m the same way and I feel like it’s because I was raised to be uncomfortable with anger. I have trouble with my own and that of others. I too, am working on it because I don’t want my girls to be like I was and burst into angry tears when someone yells or uses a firm voice with them…at the age of 18 when it is doubly humiliating to be that old and instinctively react in that way.
        Audra’s last post … Little SibsMy Profile

        • This is me to a t. I am uncomfortable with anger, mine and that of others. When faced with a confrontation I often cry.

          I hate being judged by others. This summer I had a conversation with my mom where I told her it was important that I not be judged by her because as mothers we are constantly judged by strangers. I was proud of myself for telling her how I felt, yet it took tears to do it.

          Amber great post. I can relate to your feelings. I agree it is easy to judge others when we don’t know the story or the situation, when we are not living in that person’s shoes.
          Lisa’s last post … Wordless Wednesday- Sibling Love Part DeuxMy Profile

          • I get the thing of being uncomfortable with criticism, it can be a hard to thing to stomach, and it’s a good thing to work on.

            On a related but separate note, I was thinking that some of the criticism was about how stroller use at that age is bad because it is all about your convenience. But, the way I see it, stroller use IS all about the adult’s convenience in the first place, whether they are little or big. So that criticism really doesn’t hold much water for me.

  27. Hi Amber! I haven’t had time to comment lately, but this post has me fuming! How dare this mom assume she knows anything about you! You are certainly doing the right thing for your family by deciding when your little guy needs to be in his stroller. He’s only 3, not 5! What is wrong with people these days? The fact is, some people are just not nice, in person or on Twitter. I say just delete her comment and move on. Clearly, she’s not worth your consideration.

    For the record, I do the same thing when walking my first grader to school. If we have extra time, I’ll let my little guy walk, but if we are in a hurry, he goes into the stroller. I think this is normal? Anyway, completely off topic, but I love the days when we don’t have the stroller and we get to enjoy the leisurely walk home after dropping of his sister. We walk home hand in hand, and I feel like that is one of the moments when I’m fully present, enjoying moment of his toddler-hood.

  28. You are a good mom Amber and a great role model for many others out there. I think we all aspire to be as open and honest as you. Life is too short…

    My child turns 4 this month…she’s tall, and skinny, and very energetic but also very distract able and VERY VERY slow at walking to pretty much anywhere, anytime, any day! We walk her sister to kindergarten everyday and everyday my 4 year old rides in the stroller (sometimes she even wears shoes but rarely do they match…) then we continue on 3 days a week to daycare and I walk home pushing an empty stroller (thinking I must look crazy).

    We tried walking afterschool to pick up her sister from school without the stroller and our 8 minute walk became 35 and I had way more grey hairs, wrinkles and a HUGE headache from attempting to get her to hurry. It wasn’t fun…so we take the stroller…we talk…we laugh…we search for gnomes and fairies and enjoy our time together…to me that makes the stroller worth it. Yes perhaps it is for more my own good too. My piece of mind and sanity…but hey I think I deserve it once in awhile and I think YOU do to!!!
    Brooke (siayla)’s last post … A week of firstsMy Profile

    • I’ve been there. Once a ten minute walk home from the park took over a half an hour. My husband actually came to get us in the car. I didn’t have my phone with me and he thought something awful must have happened.
      Audra’s last post … Little SibsMy Profile

  29. I think that the best question in your post was the last one: SO WHAT if you use a stroller for your own convenience? Martyrs are NOT fun to be around and no one wants a martyr for a mother. It’s why I don’t like Thanksgiving. My mother insists on cooking too much food and knocking herself out despite the fact that no one really wants her to because she feels like she’s “supposed” to. I was actually born a week or so early because she insisted on cooking Thanksgiving dinner when my dad and everyone else told her not to. She did it anyway and made herself sick. Martyrs create unrealistic standards for their children to live up to and then the children feel bad when they don’t achieve to the extent that they feel they are “supposed to.”

    I’m reading a book called “Raising Happiness” and one of the first points the author makes is that you’ve got to “put on your own oxygen mask first.” As a figure of speech, it’s a little cliche, but so true. A happy mama= a happy child and it is IMPOSSIBLE for a mama to be happy when she is NEVER able to put herself first.

    Anyway, I’m sure Jacob is happier in the stroller than trying to keep up with you on the way to pick up your little girl. i walk quickly when I’m headed somewhere with a purpose and my girls would rather stroller it than try to keep up. Your son is in no way obese. You are awesome. You don’t need to justify anything.
    Audra’s last post … Little SibsMy Profile

  30. Amber,

    I felt oh so bad about that incident. I actually was really hoping you wouldn’t see the twitter exchange at all, because I knew it would make you feel bad. Which you shouldn’t at all- but I agree- as mothers we just can’t help but feel that way when we feel criticized. Parenting is so personal.

    To your last point about what if we did something for our own convienence- TOTALLY. I 100% believe that a happy mom makes for a happy kid. Parenting is hard. We find a balance. But there has to be some room in there for ourselves. Which may not neccessarily be the case here- but in general…. I think our society is too obsessed with ‘perfect parenting’, which is, of course, impossible.

    Anyway- you rock!
    Kathleen (amoment2think)’s last post … Don’t Hate Me; Potty Learning UpdateMy Profile

    • Don’t sweat it. I’ve done this for a long time, and that reaction came out of left field. I’ve posted about WAY more controversial topics without a peep. You just never know what’s going to set someone off, and you’re certainly not responsible for someone else’s reaction.

      Honestly, I appreciate that you shared my post. That’s the take-away that I hope you’ll keep. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. it’s so sad that some women/mothers can be so judgmental of other women/mothers – it’s a reflection of the lack of value society puts on staying at home/parenting/raising a family; one way up in the pecking order is to put someone else down ๐Ÿ™

    i do think it is time to reclaim the ‘bad mother’ label – we all strive to be a good-enough mother to our kids, well why not aim to be bad-enough too? i’m drawing reference from the current media attention given to helicopter parenting and the entitled generation, caused allegedly by over-attentive parenting. maybe we do need to start ignoring our kids a bit more, attending to our own needs, and discarding the martyr role which modern motherhood has imposed on us? for the good of our kids – i’d like to hear what being bad enough as a mum is
    pomomama’s last post … wordless wednesday: what a (networking) viewMy Profile

  32. Oh, that bitch can shove it. Strollers alone aren’t causing childhood obesity, especially in your breastfed child who sees you walk rather that drive every day. Three is hardly a ‘big kid’ to me. I don’t think I’d think twice seeing Jacob in a stroller.

    ALTHOUGH, we saw a much bigger kid in the front of a shopping cart yesterday and it had one of those soft baby cover things on it, and we (my husband and I) totally judged.
    Janine’s last post … Cheap meal tip: Bags of frozen fruits and vegetablesMy Profile

  33. Oh, the interweb. It offers such beautiful anonymity to any comment, judgment, or criticism that many people would not have the nerve to say face to face. I had a horrific string of incidents (face to face and online on my blog) about a year and a half ago involving my adopted son and myself. It nearly cost me a close friendship (I mistakenly thought it was my friend commenting instead of some stranger, and I let loose on her, and she got hurt because she was like, OMG, I would never ever SAY that, and OUCH! How could you say that to me?!, rightfully so.) And Oh. My. GOSH did it sting. It hurts like mad. It still festers, after a year and a half.

    Just a few weeks ago on FB I responded to a friend’s post about rear facing past 12 months: my son was 34 lbs at nearly 7 years old and I was pointing out that poundage alone should not keep a kid rear facing because my kid was nearly SEVEN, and far too tall to rear face, and another mom pounced on me that she was horrified that anyone could have a 34 pound SEVEN YEAR OLD, her kid was 45 pounds at 4 years old and she said, “I’m horrified. How could anyone allow their child to waste away like that, you should be reported.”


    Le sigh.

    You’re an awesome mom, and a wonderful member of the online community. High fives to you, and middle fingers to *that mom* who made you feel like shit.
    Melissa Vose’s last post … Sleep, Sleep, Bab(ies), SleepMy Profile

  34. p.s. my three year old rides the stroller to the big kids’ school, too. AND he’s a skinny twerp. =)
    Melissa Vose’s last post … Sleep, Sleep, Bab(ies), SleepMy Profile

  35. Wow, I’m late to the game. And you’ll notice that this post is written at 5:37 am so it might be kind of disjointed.

    I have a kid who often refuses to ride in her stroller or wagon. She also refuses to hold hands. This is particularly worrisome in parking lots and walking along sidewalks. I try to make her stay on the inside of the sidewalk but she is Two.

    One thing she will do is wear a backpack. This particular backpack is shaped like an otter and she often ASKS to wear it. It also has a loop to attach a leash to.

    So yes, I leash my kid. I figure it’s better than having her run into traffic or get backed over by a car that doesn’t see her in a parking lot.

    At least that’s what I told the mother in the mall who said something to me (because my tot ASKED to wear it and handed me the end of the leash). Then she got mad when her husband nodded in agreement with me.

    I admire men who live dangerously ๐Ÿ™‚
    Nicole’s last post … The New-ish Job and the INTJMy Profile

  36. Lately I have been stewing over how incredibly hard the setup of society makes things for parents. Yes, I think the convenient choice is okay and sometimes best, especially when parenting more than one child. You have to balance the needs of one child with those of another. I really can’t believe that mothers who oppose this NEVER make any short-cut, convenient choices for their own children.
    Jenny’s last post … Need a good reason to buy a serger?My Profile

  37. Someone once said, as you climb the blogger chain, you need thicker and thicker skin. That is one of the reasons, I find blogging so hard. When someone “attacks” me on Twitter, I typically get super polite because Twitter is so ripe for misunderstanding and a terrible place to debate anything. I was called a CUNT (seriously) for unfollowing a very unsavory “person,” who I mistakenly followed for about a week. I just RT’d her tweet so every one of my followers could see how horrid this “tweeter” was.

    Anyway, As you know, I find it hard to believe that as a walker yourself (and therefore modelling walking/nature) that using a stroller causes any harm whatsoever. It’s CARS that are the EVIL transporter (and of course I drive all the time ๐Ÿ˜‰
    harriet’s last post … A few of his favorite thingsMy Profile

  38. Wow, great post amber! I’ve learned as a mom — slowly lately that no matter what choices we make, somehow they will always come into question, whether from a good friend, our own mothers, aunts, or family members, neighbors– everyone has an opinion and you are correct. It does make you feel like defending the natural right and territory to which you so gracious put all your wonderful efforts into daily — loving your kids. We are not perfect. Kids don’t come with manuals, though often I’ve thought of writing a parenting for dummies LOL mind you it will be a blank book, kinda color and draw for each parent to fill in themselves, because even I, myself am not perfect.

    Trace has CP though it’s mild and when his legs get tired he whines, cries and basically sits down where he is. He also has Asperger’s and he is who he is and likes things a certain. I’ve heard it all from I’m lazy, giving into him, should spank his arse, spoil him, to he looks so normal and I’m making it all up in head there even being anything wrong with him, because heaven forbid — to them he just doesn’t fit any mold of a person with any sort of special needs. Does it make me angry? Hell yes. It’s a mother’s innate right to protect her offspring, something bread into many of and a job we not only enjoy but also one where we don’t love every moment of and yet somehow admitting that makes us bad.

    So what can we do? Listen, learn and try our hardest not to give into the bad feelings others corrupt into us. Again none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Letting Trace shove french fries up his nose then asking him to pose for a picture because it made me laugh so hard — yeah probably not my finest mommy moment. But hey! It was darn funny at the time! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Jodi Shaw’s last post … free community movie day at cineplex for the starlight foundationMy Profile

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  1. […] I did not think about happy things. Instead, I did a bit of wallowing after a dust-up on Twitter left me feeling judged. My intention with that post was not that all of […]

  2. […] The problem is that I feel we have a lost art of debate in our culture. It is very very difficult for most of us to disagree and not take it personally. I mean, as mothers, we give everything to our children. Many of us litterly grew them inside of us and sustained them nutritionally for many months afterwards. All of us would lay down our life for them. I think, given this, it is very very hard to engage in a discussion with someone who has an opposing view without taking is personally. Possible. But difficult. Being a parent, is, by definition, personal. Amber actually wrote a great great post a couple days ago about what had happened and I think she did an amazing job of explaining that personal reaction we feel when it seems our parenting is being judged. Check it out. […]

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  4. […] two years or so – trying hard to be good enough. But then my fabulous friend Amanda left a comment on my blog suggesting that we should strive to be bad enough. It really hit a chord with me, and smashed what […]

  5. […] When I get press releases urging me to watch TV shows about childhood obesity, or accusations that allowing my three-year-old to ride in a stroller is contributing to childhood obesity, or yet another sheet full of handy tips for avoiding childhood obesity, it feels like the same […]

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