Confession: I’m a bit on the defensive side.
My husband would argue that I’m more defensive than most, but I think his opinion is biased. OK, so maybe it’s more than a bit. As humans, it’s only natural to want to defend ourselves from criticism or judgment. Being overly passive is seen as a flaw. No one wants to be a push over after all. Fight or flight so to speak.
As women, maybe more so today than ever, we’ve been taught to stand up for ourselves. Fight for what is right and deservedly ours. Fight for equal pay in the workforce! Fight for our reproductive rights! Fight for paid maternity leave! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Then we have kids, and the defensive mechanisms buried deep inside us start to turn and crank more rapidly than ever. Suddenly we’re not just fighting for ourselves, we’re fighting for our children, too. Now in addition to defending our everyday actions, we have to defend every choice we make as parents, too!
For me, it started before my son was even born, when I elected to have a c-section. I instantly felt the need to defend my choice with anyone and everyone as soon as the words, “I’m having a c-section” fell out of my mouth. In reality, it shouldn’t matter to anyone but my doctor and I! But still, the reactive instinct to defend was there.
I defended my choice to breastfeed, then to supplement with formula when I really didn’t want to pump anymore. I defended our choice to sleep train, and still do to this day when it comes up in conversation. I defend our choice to put our children in daycare while we work full time. I defend the fact that my son will only wear football jerseys or Royal’s tees. I defend the most mundane things that no one even cares about. I can’t help it. I can’t stop.
Most of the time these defenses are just in my head. Thought out and ready for the rare instance that someone actually asks me why. As if I owe it to them to explain my parenting choices. I don’t of course, but for whatever reason I feel like I need them to see where I’m coming from before they continue with their judging. I can’t imagine I’m alone in feeling this way. In fact, I know I’m not.
And you know what?! It’s EXHAUSTING.
Man is it ever. You know why football teams lose when their defense is on the field for long stretches of time? Because they’re tired and worn down. The other team of course uses this to their advantage to win. Well I’m tired of always being on the field, always playing defense.
I’m not sure I know how to turn this instinct off completely, or if that’s even a good thing to do. I need to believe that I’m making the right choices for myself and my family. If that means I have to defend it in my head a million times, then so be it. I like to think that as I become a more confident mother, my fighting gloves will slowly start to lower.
For now, I’ll just be over here thinking of ways to defend the fact that my child has eaten nothing but frozen pancakes for the last several meals, just in case you dare to ask.