Let’s treat ourselves as we treat our friends.

I recently found myself in a conversation with two of my friends.  One friend explained that she’s exhausted from breastfeeding, and she couldn’t wait to meet her self-imposed deadline of 6 months so she could stop. Another (pregnant) friend confessed that she was “considering” not breastfeeding her child at all.  I found myself assuring both of them that their decisions were totally valid.  “Do what works for you.”  “No one cares if your kid is breastfed or bottle fed, so long as he is fed.”  “Do not put so much pressure on yourself.”

Ironically, the words came so easy.  I found myself doling out unsolicited comfort, all the while knowing that I could not possibly cut myself the same slack.  I would go on to tell my friends what I truly believe—which is that fed is best, and yet I would force myself to be attached to a pump for weeks to come.  Solely out of the pressure I put on myself.

When my working mom friends tell me they dread the mornings of logistics and tantrums and getting out the door, I sympathize.  When they tell me they lost their cool and raised their voices, I am the voice of reason.  Of course you are not a bad mom.  It’s totally understandable.  Cut yourself some slack.  But when I face the tough mornings and the logistics and the tantrums in my own house and I lose my cool, I beat myself up for the rest of the day.  I cry in the car. Or sometimes in my office.  I just replay the morning over and over and wonder why I couldn’t find it in myself to keep my composure and be patient with my child.

When my SAHM friends tell me that by 4:00 p.m., they’re ready to crawl out of their skin or collapse from exhaustion, I completely understand.  When they explain that they feel so guilty for counting the moments until bed time, I am right there with them.  The witching hour is no joke.  I don’t blame you for wanting some peace.  I don’t know how you do it.  But at night, when my daughter just wants one more book (or one more snack, or another sip of water, or another hug or whatever other stall tactic she’s come up with), I often watch each second on the clock tick until she will close her eyes.  And then I reflect and realize I’m a terrible human being for effectively wishing time away.

When my friend who is 6 months postpartum is carrying on about not losing her baby weight, I tell her, but you birthed a child.  Give your body some credit.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  When my friend is crying because she’s on night three of cry-it-out, I tell her, you do what you need to do to get some sleep.  When my colleague is exhausted because she’s been shuffling back and forth three kids’ games and activities, I tell her, take some time for yourself.  You were the last mom at daycare pickup?  Do not stress, it happens to us all at one time or another.  You need a night away from your kids?  You totally deserve it.

These are natural reactions.  They’re what we say because we know it’s the truth.  It comes so easy for us to be cheerleaders for our friends and fellow moms, and yet we hold ourselves to the highest, nearly unattainable standards.  

Let’s cut ourselves some slack.  Treat ourselves as we would treat our friends.  Less judgment.  Less pressure.  More understanding and more compassion.  After all, we’re all just doing our best, and that’s the most we could expect of one another, and it’s the most we should expect of ourselves.