One of my absolute favourite mum blogs is Notsosmugnow.com by the very funny and talented Cat Sims. If you haven’t already read it, I recommend you start with her ‘About’ post – a very honest account of the shellshock that childbirth brings to any new mother’s life. As the title suggests, Cat is part of the group of women who have said no thanks to competitive, smug parenting in favour of an honest, supportive sisterhood where women can be open about the obstacles they face without feeling guilt or shame.
This is exactly what I think we need more of. But I recently had a thought: what if we looked at it differently? What if instead of resenting mums who act ‘smug’ about the positives we forgave them a little bit?
Whenever a mum says her baby sleeps through the night (why do people feel the need to have this conversation? Noone needs to feel even more alone in the plight of no-sleep-ever) people usually respond with ‘you’re so lucky!’, which can sound very insincere. When someone says their baby is doing something (good) that mine isn’t, my first thought as a mum is ‘what am I doing wrong?’. I doubt I’m the only one to have this reaction, which is why mums everywhere are saying to each other: don’t be smug, don’t talk about the things you don’t have problems with, don’t show off, don’t pretend it’s not difficult.
But what if we forgave women for not wanting to focus on all the overwhelming difficulties, and taking a moment to say ‘actually, that part I’ve found fine.’ What if we said wow, that’s awesome, you must be doing something right! Even if it is all luck of the draw, what if we let ourselves be a little bit hypocritical and take credit for the good and blame circumstances for the bad? What if instead of focusing on ‘what am I doing wrong?’ we found the thing we’re smug about? It has become okay, even fashionable, to talk about how crazy and overwhelmingly difficult parenting is, but it’s automatically showing off if you want to share something you’re happy about, because someone else might get upset that it’s not happening for them.
I, for one, am incredibly proud of my labour, even though I know that 90% of having a natural, drug-free birth is down to circumstance rather than your own will or ability. Most women who opt for an epidural or a c-section went into the delivery room determined to do it without, but then the baby’s health became at risk for reasons they had no control over. Of course it’s not my merit that I had a natural delivery, but does this mean I can’t share my birth story openly, because others were traumatised by their labour? Mother’s day is always a sad day for me, but does it make others smug if they post a picture of lunch with their mum celebrating how wonderful she is?
Conversely, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed but after a complete nightmare of a time trying to establish it for six weeks, I opted for mixed feeding instead. I was completely heartbroken, I felt I’d let down my baby, and six weeks on, it’s still a sore subject for me. Does that mean I can’t celebrate with women who have managed it, who get up several times a night to continue, who braved the first few times doing it in public – would it be smug of them to share those stories with me?
I guess what I’m trying to say is let’s be a little more forgiving towards each other and our selves: just because someone else finds something we struggle with easy, it doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong, nor that they’re smug. Find your something to be ‘smug’ about, and celebrate it.