Overcoming other people’s judgment

Overcoming other people's judgment
When I was pregnant, I imagined taking my new baby out and about, happily pushing the stroller and  cooing at him as any proud new mom would. I couldn’t wait to take him to the park, maybe lay out a blanket and sit with him under the shade of a tree.

Then the baby was born. And I didn’t realize how much my baby would cry. Especially in a stroller.

We didn’t take him out on a stroll for the first few weeks for fear of another crying fit. But finally my husband and I decided, “Okay, we’re ready! Off to the park we go (insert high-five)!” We packed the stroller with every imaginable item we thought we would absolutely need: diapers, changing pad, wipes, toys, books, blankets… never mind that it takes all of five minutes to walk there. So out we went.

And the crying began.

The crying differed: on some days it was quick and we were able to pretend we were still having fun, and other times it’s all we heard during the whole walk. But most of our strolls were not the peaceful walks I had imagined with my new baby. What happened to all those rumors we heard about babies falling asleep in a stroller?! Apparently my baby didn’t get the memo.

And here’s the worst part: I was so scared to be out on a stroll not so much because my baby would likely cry, but because other people—especially other moms—might notice. I couldn’t bear the thought that they might think I’m a bad mom, or that I didn’t know what I was doing. Even the thought that they “could relate” because they were once in my shoes irked me, because as of that moment, they weren’t me, they weren’t in my shoes and they didn’t have a baby that cried all the time. Especially on strolls which apparently can knock every other baby but mine out into sleep.

I remember the first time I pushed the stroller by myself. I was grabbing hot chocolate with my husband at a shop that happened to be near a park. “You go ahead and order the drinks,” I casually told him. “I’ll walk around the park.” In reality I was shaking inside, nervous to be pushing the stroller on my own. There was a group of moms and nannies playing at the park, their little babies and toddlers happily smiling and crawling. And of course right when I walked in front of them, my baby—as if on cue—cried loudly. I was so embarrassed and assumed that they were judging my apparent lack of stroller-pushing skills.

Another time, I decided to drive to the library and pack the stroller too so that I could walk around the area with him. Once I arrived and managed to lug the stroller out of the trunk, I couldn’t figure out how in the world to unlatch the darn thing so that it would fold out. Meanwhile, my baby was crying in the car seat, still inside the car. I called my husband nearly in tears, frustration choking my voice, just so he could coach me on how to open the stroller.

I easily laugh now thinking about those scenarios considering that I can now flip and switch that stroller in two seconds flat, but in that moment, that fear of not knowing what I was doing, or of being judged, was very real. On one hand, I was too confident for my own good, and that confidence didn’t allow me to cut myself some slack and say, “Hey, you are a new mom, and you’re allowed to make mistakes and look like a fool trying to unfold a 30-pound stroller. And if you have a crying baby, you don’t have to look calm and collected while inside you’re reeling with embarrassment and fear of judgment. It’s really okay if you don’t know how to do everything, especially with motherhood.”

And it is. Suffice it to say my toddler now likes (or at least doesn’t mind) being in a stroller, and I have since mastered the art of the one-handed stroller fold down (take that, stroller). When I see moms of newborns, I try not to patronize or assume that they must be going through what I did, because they may not. I’ve also accepted that I’m always going to be a new mom dealing with new experiences as my child grows—if I’m not pushing a loud, crying baby in a stroller, I’m carrying a loud, crying toddler throwing a tantrum. And I don’t have to worry about what people think. Even if every mom is looking at me.

Did you have days when you felt like the new mom or the new dad? What advice would you offer new moms and dads from your experience?

p.s. Check out our Facebook photo album page to read the stories behind the blog’s photos.

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14 thoughts on “Overcoming other people’s judgment

  1. So true! I wonder if wearing baby would have worked better? My mom insisted on me buying a big huge monstrosity of a tandem stroller and I rarely use it because I’m almost always wearing someone. It is nice though on longer walks…but yeah the wrap has saved me from that embarassing fear of people judging me for the crying kid.

    • You know weirdly the Moby wrap actually didn’t cause as much problems for my newborn as the stroller. I think part of it is that we kept him in the carseat part of the stroller whereas we could have tried just laying him in the carseat flat like a bassinet; he never really did like that carseat.

      And I think the Moby wrap was so comfortable for him that he didn’t mind being in there!

  2. I remember feeling the same way. When you have a young baby you garner a lot of attention – some good, some bad. Sometimes I felt like a celebrity with all of the coos that my son elicited. Other times I would be embarassed when I felt inadequate and people were staring! It’s funny, my son is the oppposite, he loved the stroller as a baby and often fell asleep with the motion. Now he is 2 and a half and I can’t pay him to get in a stroller!

  3. I’ve always had trouble with figuring out how to open strollers; I can’t even blame it on sleep deprived mommy brain! And I’ve definitely felt embarrassed by it before.

  4. Oh yes! Pre baby I would think “Please shut you kid up!” Ha Ha. I was so naive! I totally remember being there and I can look back at that and laugh! And now dealing with a crying toddler, my confidence has grown tremendously. I can stay much calmer!!

  5. My baby had reflux so yeah, I’m with you on this one! Luckily we live in a country where people LOVE babies so they would stop and try and comfort her/ give me advice. It still made me ever so uncomfortable that I had to explain my baby had reflux. But it was a great conversation opener and many people told us(all this over the baby hollering) they had experienced the same thing. We now try and talk to people when we see their babies are crying, just to give them a chance to offload and feel they’re not alone in the situation.

    • Oana you bring up a good point about how mothers interact with other mothers when there’s someone with a fussy baby. One time I was walking by a couple strolling a crying baby, but I didn’t feel right going up to them to see if they needed any help. Maybe it’s because they didn’t look like they were struggling; they sort of were just going about their walk. It’s almost like I don’t want to step on their toes or think that I know better than them.

      But if I saw a mom clearly struggling with a fussy baby and literally needing a helping hand, I’d like to think that I *would* help her out, even just to hold the door open for her or keep the stroller from rolling, for instance. Seems like you live in a really friendly area!

      • Yes, people in Northern Ireland are really friendly. It took me a while to get used to it when I moved here, I couldn’t understand why everybody called me “love” 🙂

  6. This so reminds me of the first time out with my so. I had to see a lactation consultant and was almost late for the appointment due to still taking forever to feel like he was strapped into his car seat safely. Then I get to the parking lot across the street from the office building. Eli’s crying, I can’t think straight and the stupid stroller won’t open! I can’t just carry the baby seat because I’ve just had a c-section and also have tendonitis in both wrists. I see all these other mothers driving by in their minivans and SUV’s and I just wish one would stop and show me how to open the dang thing. Finally after 20 minutes and some over the phone coaching from my husband I get it open and make it to my appointment, but i will never forget the frustration and how flustered I felt.

  7. I had B in November so it was too cold for strollers & by time it was May and warm enough, I felt a little less like a “new” mom & felt like I could handle it.

  8. I still feel like a new Mom. I’m learning how to balance school, work, family, and mother hood at the same time. Most of the time I feel like a suck, but everyone around me keeps telling me I’m doing such a good job. If I had any advice it would be to give yourself a break and never tell yourself you can’t do something. The mind is so powerful; you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. Give yourself CREDIT. You deserve it!

  9. Haha. I’ll try with the k’tan carrier/wrap thing when he gets a bit older and it gets warmer. But, the first time I tried, he cried so much before we left that I knew he would hate it and didn’t want to put us through it.

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