FFF Friday: “Judge Me – I Don’t Need Your Approval”

This isn’t a typical FFF Friday, but more of a guest post. I think it fits, though, because it’s coming from the same place so many of your stories come from. It’s the result of a mother’s journey.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s that easy to just stop caring what other people think, especially if you’re a people pleaser at heart. Like me. Hell, I was in tears the other day over some drama on the FFF Private Facebook page, because I felt like I was being misunderstood and unfairly judged. But I wish I didn’t care, and that’s why I love Michelle’s piece. It makes me want to work on this part of myself, to be more successful at letting useless hate roll off my back. 

So – I’m going to hand the floor over to Michelle, who is a lot stronger than I am. My hope for you is that you can take at least a little of her message and live it. You may not be able to stop yourself from caring what people think, but at least try and make those people ones who are worth caring about. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Judge Me – I Don’t Need Your Approval

by Michelle Shelemay

Judging.  In the context of the “mummy wars”, feeling judged is the biggest complaint. Every decision relating to pregnancy, birth, feeding and parenting has been turned into an absolute moral choice – every decision is judged as objectively “good” or “bad”.  For some reason, people find it difficult to accept that what’s good for you, isn’t necessarily good for me. I would even say that some decisions are simply personal preferences that in the long run, have little impact beyond being convenient and what suits you.

But really, why do we care so much about what other people think?  As someone who chose to have a c-section and chose to formula feed from day 1, I’ve made decisions that are typically subject to a huge amount criticism.  Do I care? Not really.  Why should I care?  Why should I care what random people on the internet think of me? I’m very happy with my decisions.  I will almost certainly make the same decisions again, next time round. I do not need other people’s approval. For me, the advantages and benefits of both decisions greatly outweigh the disadvantages and the risks.  I do not need to prove to anyone that my decisions were carefully considered and informed. It should be a given that that’s how a normal person makes important decisions (and let’s be honest, if I was a man, it probably would be).

It’s my body, my life and my responsibility.  I most certainly do not need the approval of people who don’t know me and share no responsibility in the outcome of my decision.  Although they are personal decisions, I am happy to discuss them with people who are genuinely interested or for whom the discussion will be helpful.  However, the point is, my decisions don’t need anyone’s approval (ok, apart from the medical staff who performed the c-section) and NEITHER DO YOURS.

Let’s make it clear – there’s a difference between approval and support. I join facebook groups like Cesarean by Choice Awareness and the Fearless Formula Feeder for support and advice.  Not because I need someone’s approval or endorsement of my decisions. Of course, I also don’t make decisions entirely on my own.  I read, I seek medical advice, I talk to people who I TRUST, who don’t have an agenda and who I know have my best interests at heart. But that doesn’t include every  “alpha mama”  lurking online.

So ladies, here’s my call to you.  Stop seeking approval.  Stop feeling guilty.  You don’t need to justify your decisions to strangers. Be confident in your ability to make good decisions.  I genuinely believe that once we stop caring what people think, once we stop seeking approval for our decisions, the judging will stop. The judgers will get bored. They are seeking a reaction and as long as we give them one, they’ll continue.  Once we stop caring and stop reacting, they’ll get bored and stop.  Frankly, I find other people’s obsession with how I gave birth to or feed my child (and interest in the the respective body parts), a little sinister and weird.  And that’s something that reflects badly on them, not me.

I’m specifically addressing this to women, as this seems to be an issue that predominantly affects women.  The feminists among you will understand why – patriarchal society infantilizes women.  Questioning women’s ability to make good decisions is part of that infantilization and nowhere do we see this more clearly than in how we relate to women around pregnancy, birth and motherhood.  It’s no coincidence that we talk about the “mummy wars” rather than the “daddy wars” and it’s not just because more mothers than fathers are the primary care givers.

So here’s my challenge to you – stop caring what other people think.  Make whatever decisions are right for you and be happy with them.  You certainly don’t need my approval.

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Have a story you want to share? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

 

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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6 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “Judge Me – I Don’t Need Your Approval”

  1. I’m so glad you posted this. I had this figured out for a week and it was so liberating. Then I forgot. Thanks for the reminder. I also think that not caring about being judged also helps me to judge less, because an easy form of self-justification and guilt management is devaluing other people’s decisions. So if I stop caring, I might stop judging too.

  2. I disagree that judgement is the big problem. It is PART of the problem, yes, but a much bigger problem is mis-information and propaganda. One of the reasons you don’t get many people who formula fed from the start on this blog is because those people almost never set out thinking “I’m going to intentionally harm my baby with an inferior product”- they realized that formula isn’t that bad, it’s really no worse than breastfeeding (and in some cases is better), and so the judgement is more of a nuisance.

    The problem is that so many people are told, repeatedly, by medical professionals, the government, and well-meaning family and friends that Breast Is Best and that formula fed babies are doomed to suffer miserable, worthless lives. The people who end up on this blog, for the most part, aren’t here because of judgement- they’re here because they were told, repeatedly, that if they didn’t breastfeed, they were horrible others who had ruined their babies and then breastfeeding didn’t work out.

    Judgement from random people on the internet, I agree, shouldn’t effect people so much. Being told by medical professionals that you’re risking your child’s health, however, is something that SHOULD have a very big impact on parents, and is why this campaign is so damaging.

  3. “The judgers will get bored. They are seeking a reaction and as long as we give them one, they’ll continue.”

    This. When I started formula feeding and was really upset about it, a wise nurse told me that if anyone talked to me about our feeding situation, I should just smile and say, “We’re formula feeding, and we’re very happy with our decision.” How I wish I had started saying this sooner, even if it wasn’t true!.

    When I engaged the judgers (and even the well-meaning people) by trying to explain myself with tales of C-section and NICU stay and tongue tie and bad latch and thrush and blah blah blah, they argued with me and tried to “educate” me about what I did wrong, which just made everything worse. When I finally started refusing to play the did-I-try-hard-enough-game, they tended to move on.

  4. I’m one of the moms who formula fed from day 1, knowing that it would be the best choice for my family, but also knowing that my choice would alienate me from other mothers and put me on the defensive. My family supported me, but my in-laws gave me dirty looks, my female coworkers demanded to know why I wasn’t breastfeeding, and my friends who were also mothers quietly stopped inviting me over. It’s been difficult, but motherhood itself has been amazing … and so much better than it is for the breastfeeding mothers I know!

    I came to this site looking for community. Making for reassurance too? Because formula feeding nowadays is lonely, and nobody likes to feel lonely.

    Suzanne, I just wrote to you asking this same question, but I’ll post it here too. Breastfeeders often ask me to “prove” that formula feeding is as effective and safe and breastfeeding, to point them to research. I know I’ve read countless problematic breastfeeding studies and also found countess studies that show that there isn’t much difference between the two short and long term, but I never bothered to sit down and write a bibliography. Can someone point me to one? If it doesn’t exist, can someone please write one?

  5. I just had my second kid 2 days ago. Some of the words in this post are *exactly* what I needed to hear right now.

    “Frankly, I find other people’s obsession with how I gave birth to or feed my child (and interest in the the respective body parts), a little sinister and weird. And that’s something that reflects badly on them, not me.”

    Yes! I just had someone tell me how proud I will be that I gave birth without an epidural (not by choice. Labor progressed too quickly). I shouldn’t have been surprised that she was also judgy about my decision to breastfeed the best I can but to supplement with formula.

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