1. Support means listening without judgment, even if you disagree with what the other mom eventually decides. Sometimes we think of support as providing 101 reasons why other moms should keep it up, from breastfeeding to sleep training to vaccinating to making your own baby food. And yes, often these motivational tips are what’s just needed—you know in your heart that you want to keep going and just need that extra push and motivation to do so. Heck, I even wrote my own reasons to keep you motivated to breastfeed for those times when giving up seems so easy.
But rather than spouting off all the positive benefits of whichever path another mom is teetering on, we need to consider whether that’s what they even need in the first place. Before we assume that our friends need a convincing argument to make a case, maybe we need to step back and listen to see if they truly do need those extra reasons, or if they would rather prefer a non-judgmental, listening ear.
2. Support means sticking by your friend regardless of whatever decision she decides. We need to realize that people do what works best for them, not because they’re making a mistake. Even if people make decisions on what seems to be insufficient information and research, realize that even this is what works for her and her family.
3. Support means being the anchor in their storm, the constant in their lives. I once read that one of the best ways to support a woman in an abusive relationship isn’t to spew all the terrible qualities about the man or to express disbelieve as to why she can subject herself to that kind of relationship. It isn’t even to tell her what she should do. Instead, one of the best ways to support an abused woman is to be a person she can rely on who will refrain from judging her, even if she decides to return to her relationship. Support means providing the means for her to leave, a place to stay, and a shoulder to cry on—not a source of judgment or even advice. I myself was shocked to learn this but have since applied the same listening ear to any problems or issues my loved ones want to talk about.
4. Similarly, support means that we shouldn’t try to sway or convince other moms one way or another. Doing so seems a bit selfish, as if we have our own agenda to preach. We can provide information, and again only if we sense that it’s even wanted, but sometimes the more we try to convince others to do what works for them, the less we’re able to even listen to what it is they truly want or need. Usually in listening, our friends will draw their own conclusions, all without even hearing a peep from us. We’re there to listen, answer questions, even regale our own stories and experiences, but all that should be done with the intent that this is her decision to make, not ours.
5. And lastly, support means realizing that everyone does what works best for them. I may think that I made the best decision ever to do XY and Z, but another mom may feel just as convinced about her decision to AB and C—and may even think I’m crazy for not doing what she did. We’re all different, and that’s okay. Short of abusing or neglecting kids, I doubt that in 20 years we will ask one another, “So, did you rock your baby to sleep? Oh, I see…” (raise judgmental eyebrow).
I’ve met some of the most supportive moms on this blog and am fortunate to know so many more in my life. It’s this kind of genuine support that has helped pull me through some of the more challenging aspects of being a mom.
What are some of the best ways you’ve been supported as a mom and parent? Which ways have been less than helpful?