In conversation with a friend the other day, she mentioned a Facebook comment she replied to. The comment was from an acquaintance, and was about nursing her baby, about to be born in the next few weeks. My friend, a La Leche League leader, saw the comment and felt the woman had been misinformed by her doctor and felt she should impart a different point of view, in an effort to give this acquaintance further information. The reply from this mother-to-be came back, defensive of her first comment, standing firm in the first point of view. At this, my friend let it lie.
As I listened to the story, my comment was that sometimes people ask a question not really looking for an answer, but simply for validation of their own viewpoint. It seemed to be the case in this situation, where although the woman was expressing disappointment in her doctor's advice, beneath it all she seemed to agree with it, and was hiding behind the professional opinion of her doctor to validate an opinion others might not agree with.
It happens more often than you realize, and I sure know that I do it often enough. People have very strong opinions, society has very strong notions, and mothers can be the most stubborn of all. And usually behind any opinion that is unwilling to bend is a whole lot of insecurity. The less sure we are, the more we hide behind a strong-willed facade.
Then again, I think sometimes as mothers we are just needing a little acknowledgement. Someone to nod their head in our direction, agree that we are doing the best we can, and acknowledge that we're in a really tough situation. I found myself on the receiving end of such a comment, and you can't believe that relief I felt at such an acknowledgement. In conversation with some friends, one turned to me and said "You really do have your hands full with Benjamin. It must be exhausting to parent him day in and day out. I've never had such trouble with any of my girls" "Yes!" I cried. "It really is hard." You see, I had been sharing some of my struggles with Benjamin's stubborn, willful and defiant nature. Usually these conversations illicit some advice from other parents, much of which I would give a try (since I'm at my wit's end with this kid!) But the wave of relief that washed over me when my friend responded in this way brought enlightenment to my understanding. Sometimes what we need to hear is "wow. That's really tough. Your endurance is admirable. You are an amazing mother."
So perhaps next time we hear a fellow mom off-loading about one of her kids, take a moment to acknowledge her struggle. It may seem small compared to your own trial, or trivial if you have much more experience as a mother than she does, but she needs to hear the support. I can tell you it will be a long time (if ever) that I forget the feeling I felt on hearing those words from my friend.