“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”, this was the question some 80 year old lady felt the need to asked me as I was scanning her groceries at the local small town grocery store. I was 17 years old and 8 months pregnant with my son. All I could do was look at her and read her her total, $12.84. (Yes, that was really her total. I’ll never forget it.) What I really wanted to say? “Yeah, I just love that my private life choices are displayed for everyone else to publicly judge. Thanks lady.”. Especially listening to all my peers at school bad mouth me for my actions. As if my boyfriend dropping me the moment I told him I was pregnant wasn’t enough punishment. If I only knew that for the next few years all I’d get is judgmental stares and snide comments, maybe I would have been more prepared. Since I didn’t know any different, I’d be thrown off when that same statement was made a year and a half later.
It was around christmas, I was working another minimum wage job and living on my own with my son. Trying to go to school full time and still support him. I was talking to another coworker about the up coming holidays. She asked me what I was going to get for my son for christmas. (I worked at a baby/toy store at the time so it was a valid question.) I somewhat jokingly said how I was going to regift some of the toys he had gotten for his 1st birthday earlier in the year and that my family would hopefully get him somethings he needed. She turned and looked at me with that all too familiar “judgy face” and says, “Oh. my. gosh. Are you serious?! You should be ashamed of yourself! That’s just horrible!”. She turned and walked off shaking her head. I stood there in shock until I finally ran to the mothers nursing room, locked the doors and cried my eyes out. She didn’t know I was struggling to pay rent in my government housing, living off WIC/Foodstamps and HOPE center cash, using maxi pads as diapers for my kid because I didn’t earn enough money to be able to buy enough diapers for 2 weeks. I just remember thinking to myself, why would anyone ever want to make another person feel like this?! Especially another mother.
Fast forward to my son’s 4th week of pre-k, at this point I was newly married and living on island. My husband and I decided we would take our (that’s a beautiful story for another time) son off base for school. I had volunteered to be a chaperon for a class event, I was so excited to be able to be there for him. After 3 years of working multiple jobs and countless hours away from my son, I was finally getting some much needed time with him. Now know that every morning I’d show up to drop my son off at school (At the time I was “that” mom that was fully dressed, hair done, full face makeup, oh to go back to that!) and every morning the same group of moms gave me the “judgy face”.
On that morning in particular, one mom asked me how old I was when I had my son. I don’t know if it was the salty Hawaiian air or if I finally hit my breaking point, but I stopped and looked directly at her. In that moment I was fully committed to laying this bitch out. I had had enough, I wasn’t going to let another person ruin what was about to be the most perfect mom/son day to date. I just remember thinking to myself, alright she’s big, I see that. Okay, 5’11” and obviously Samoan, I got this! Right?!
Every nasty comment, every snide remark, every “I’m not good enough” feeling I had ever had came flooding back. It was comments like this that had enabled me to feel ashamed and not to ask for help when I needed it the most. (We’re mothers, we should have it all together right?) It was women like her who made me feel like I had something I had to prove, that I was really “enough” as a mother. That just because I had a child so young, doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible and underserving of enjoying motherhood. I wasn’t going to let her have the satisfaction of thinking she had hurt me, because honestly she didn’t hurt me. She had gotten me to a place I really needed to be. So I just smiled back at her and said, “Oh I don’t know, I guess about 3 years younger than I am now?”.
In the world we live in, no mother can do right. As women, as parents, we are constantly judged. I don’t know when it went from us uplifting women to degrading them. I for one can’t stand it and when I see it happening to others, best believe I speak up. For I only wish someone would have done so for me a long time ago. We should be empowering others, not judging them on things we don’t have all the facts on. No mother should ever feel as if they aren’t enough to their children. Because to them, YOU ARE THEIR EVERYTHING!
Every photo and every memory I have from the 3 years, raising him alone are beautiful. He LOVED getting to open his building blocks for a second time, because for him it meant getting to rip off the paper again. He never cared that he wore a maxi pad to bed because he was just excited he got to wear “big boy” undies. (AKA – laundry day undies that were pinned to fit him) He didn’t judge me on the fact that his favorite meal only cost me a dollar and some powered milk to make. He was just happy we got to eat noodles for a third night in a row. Now I can’t get the kid to eat pasta to save his life, tell me how that works out?!
When I finally stopped caring about other people’s judgements or what other people thought of me as a mother and more so on what kind of mother I wanted to be, life became even more beautiful! It allowed me to really be the mother my son needed me to be all along, the mom he always saw but I never could.