A couple of weeks ago, I posted The Story of A High Horse after reading a seriously judgmental blog post by another parenting blogger.
Earlier this week, I read a piece on Mamapedia by Nadia Suleman – aka Octomom – on her parenting theories. As I expected, the comments after her piece were emotionally-driven, fiercely opinionated and far from supportive (the words hate, abuse and Hitler were bandied about liberally). In fact, the comments were so negative that Mamapedia pulled the piece.
I’ll admit, at this point, that my own initial reaction to someone with her reputation giving parenting advice was not kind, not charitable and certainly not supportive.
Well, aren’t I a hypocrite?
It’s only been a couple of weeks since writing about this need we mamas have to constantly judge each other, and where did I find myself? Right back on that damned high-horse, basking in the smug “I’m a better Mummy than her!” glow.
Please, read on and hear me out.
Yes, Nadya Suleman has a lot to answer for. Yes, her decisions have been the polar opposite of what any right-thinking person would probably ever make. No, I do not agree with a single decision she has made regarding her life, her family or her children. Am I worried for her precious babies? Terribly. Am I sad that they have been brought into a world where they have to live in the glare of the media, under the guidance of a mother who – quite clearly – is not mentally stable? Gutted. Devastated.
Here’s where my thoughts diverge from the comments I read under her post:
Nowhere in her piece does she try to justify her decisions or convince anyone that she is a brilliant mother. She admits to her downfalls as a parent (granted, only the few she recognises, because she clearly doesn’t completely ‘get’ just how many there are) and writes about how she is trying to make things better. Her piece doesn’t mention her role in pornography or her plastic surgery. Her sentiments are, surprisingly, the very words we all, as mothers, utter every day. She speaks about how she is trying to guide her children to be kind, thoughtful and gentle. She speaks about how her hope is that they will grow up to be good people.
Of course, we could all judge her, point our fingers and smirk. It certainly was my first response. I didn’t believe a word she had to say, to be entirely honest. Here’s the thing – it’s so easy to roll our eyes because her theories and her reality are so obviously not in the same ballpark. You only need to google her name to see just how devastatingly obvious this is.We could all sneer at her from our perches atop our High Horses and we’d be perfectly justified.
I have, however, made a conscious and really difficult choice not to.
I choose not to because I think she must have visited Mamapedia and seen a community of mothers with differing styles, opinions, demographics and backgrounds. She might have seen a community of women who argue vehemently, but don’t judge. She might have caught a glimpse of something she has had very little exposure to – support.
Maybe Miss Suleman saw this as a window of opportunity to put her best foot forward and try to be a normal mom. She is obviously no stranger to judgement and condemnation (something she has earned for herself in bucket-loads, and definitely has a responsibility to accept ownership of.) However, knowing she’d probably be pre-judged and hated, she still decided to try to connect as a mom. Not a porn-star. Not a cheap covergirl from a tacky magazine. There’s a tiny part of me that acknowledges the courage that might have taken.
Judgement is something we all do, all the time. It’s our way of constantly calibrating our own moral compass. It’s a valuable tool we use to teach our kids what our own family values are. It doesn’t have to equal condemnation, though. Judgement can also be a unique opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and attempt to feel empathy. No matter how difficult that task may be (in this case, extremely difficult, if not impossible).
Everything I know about Miss Suleman I learned from cheap weekly magazines and the internet. I don’t know her personally, not at all. I don’t know if she, like me, reads the comments after a blog post and takes each one to heart. I don’t know if she locks herself in the bathroom sometimes, just to cry because she is so tired and overwhelmed. I don’t know if she likes her coffee with sugar. I don’t know if she puts her children’s artwork on the fridge. I don’t know if she really loves her children. I don’t know. None of us do.
Maybe she is just as bad as the tabloids make her out to be. Maybe she is worse. But maybe, just maybe, she is just a human being who has made horrendously bad decisions, keeps making more and has to live with them.
Here’s a question: Will attacking her endlessly help her or her kids? I can’t see how.
I wonder if, in response to her piece, commenters had offered advice, support and empathy – if that would have given her a reason to try to be a better mother. Maybe some love and support might have given her a clearer parenting route to take so that those kids might have more of a chance. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know.
Do I judge Nadya Suleman? You betcha.
Do I think she’s a role model? Heck, no.
Would I take her advice? Not in a million years.
I’m not asking for anyone to like her (I don’t think I would, if I met her), understand her (I don’t) or agree with her (of course, I don’t). My thoughts are simply this: I do care about those kids and I don’t believe that attacking her will help them. I do, however, think that if there’s just the tiniest chance that offering her a kind word and some helpful advice will give them a chance, then that’s the way I want to go.
I’m probably being naive (I often am) but maybe she really is trying to be a good mother and simply doesn’t know how.
Please share your thoughts and comments below, or on my facebook wall. I am looking forward to what I can imagine will be a pretty heated discussion.
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