By Anita Doberman
I remember, after having my first child and dropping out of the work force, really the adult world, feeling isolated. Of course, the fact that my military husband was often gone didn’t help, but many mothers I have spoken to over the years have shared the same sense of isolation, no matter what their husbands’ professions.
I knew I was at an all time low when my mother-in-law tried to get the phone number of a woman with a baby — a complete stranger who happened to walk by while we were at the grocery store — telling her that I just moved to the area and didn’t know many people. The woman politely smiled and keep walking, but it was pretty embarrassing.
I decided to take matters in my own hands and signed up for mom’s groups and mommy and me classes with high expectations of entering a dream-like environment where everyone would be nice, supportive and fun to be around. Some moms and support groups were exactly like that, and I made wonderful friends. Unfortunately, at other times I found a judgmental and unsupportive group and felt disappointed and even more isolated.
For example, at a baby group with my first daughter, then 2 months old, all hell broke loose when some of my “mommy and me” friends found out that I wasn’t able to breastfeed her. Not enough milk, double mastitis, tough c-section recovery, I gave up and fed my precious baby formula out of a bottle. In the eyes of many of the other moms I had gone to the dark side. The mommy police were notified, and they deployed the “breast Nazis” for whom it was boob or the fast-boat to hell. They stared me down when they saw me prepare a bottle at a baby group or at a friend’s house. How could I have not been able to breastfeed? Certainly I was of the inferior mommy population, the inadequate/potentially imperfect ones. But let me tell you, no matter how many times I squeezed my boob into a sandwich there was no latch and not enough milk for my daughter.
My guilt was only made worse by the fact that I cared so much about what others were saying or thinking. I wish that I would have simply ignored these “perfect mommies” and focused on enjoying my baby, but I couldn’t.
In hind sight, these were learning experiences and I think they made me more empathic toward other moms or those who seemed different than me. I have tried to help or at least be supportive of other moms, regardless of our parenting styles because I recognize we all want the best for our children.
Surprisingly, this is an international problem. My cousin who lives in Rome and had a baby five weeks ago has recounted similar experiences from friends. Another cousin in Italy had judgment from the other side — she was still very publicly breastfeeding her 2-year-old, and it made many people uncomfortable.
I’m sure in the past I’ve been judgmental, or less supportive than I could have been to someone in need. I hope that with the new year I will be able to keep my resolve of being supportive of any mom I meet, so that I can make new friendships and learn from the people I am fortunate to meet in my path.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org