The Anti-Bullying Meme I Think All Special Needs Moms Could Benefit From
A popular anti-bullying meme has been making the rounds on social media for a while now. Several variations of it exist, but usually it begins something like, “That girl you just called fat?… She is overdosing on diet pills,” and then continues, “The girl you just called ugly?… She spent hours putting on makeup hoping people will like her,” and so on.
Mostly, the meme relates to high schoolers and the cruel judgments teenagers force each other to endure. But as corny or simplistic as it may be, its message relates to all of us: Before casting judgments on other people, stop and think about what they might be experiencing. To “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is a cliché we’re taught from the time we’re children just developing empathy, but it’s one we can forget far too often as adults.
Before I was a mom, I thought I knew all about the parenting decisions I would make. I remember hearing a story about a mom who went away alone for a weekend in order to fully wean her child from breastfeeding so that she could have surgery. How cruel, I thought. I would never do that to my child — surely she could postpone her surgery or manage to breastfeed through it anyway.
But that was before I became a mom, and it was before my chronic pain condition worsened to the point that it greatly affected the parenting choices I was forced to make. And I know without a doubt that if I wasn’t living every day in the amount of pain I have now, I would have no idea about the amount of pain others with chronic illness face.
In the same way, I cannot possibly understand what mothers facing poverty, divorce, or domestic violence are experiencing, because I’ve never had to face these difficulties in my adult life. And if I had placed judgment on someone in the past because I was ignorant of their situation, surely judgments I make now could be misguided, too.
I had been wrong before, many times. And I will be wrong again.
So if we rewrote that meme for the mom world, it might go something like this:
That mom you just called selfish because she’s not breastfeeding? She might be a sexual abuse survivor and breastfeeding triggers traumatic memories for her.
That mom you just called indecent for nursing in public? She may have nearly lost her premature baby and battled supply issues during her baby’s lengthy hospital stay.
The mom you just called neglectful for keeping her baby strapped into a stroller all day? She may suffer from an autoimmune disease that weakens her muscles and prevents her from holding her baby.
And the mom whose kids are screaming in the supermarket line while she pays for her groceries with food stamps? She might have lost her job and is going to school full-time to earn the degree she needs to get a new one.
The mom you just accused of spoiling her baby because she’s had him strapped to her chest in a carrier all day? Her baby might have colic and scream uncontrollably every second he isn’t held.
Of course, maybe we don’t need to know someone else’s situation. It’s not OK to pass judgment on another mom (or human being, period). Assuming that a mother needs to have a specific reason for the choices she makes is akin to saying she needs to meet X, Y, or Z criteria in order to escape our judgment. Frankly, I believe the circumstances surrounding another mom’s decisions are none of our business, except in cases of abuse or true neglect.
But we can probably rest assured that, for the majority of moms, parenting decisions come from the same place: the desire to do the best thing for our children, however we are able.
Follow this journey on Mothering With Chronic Pain.
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