I have something to admit. Sometimes I feel like a failure. I feel it most acutely when I think about our dog, Charlie. Because, you see, we gave her away.
There came a time, in the midst of that blurry first year with the kids, that we realized it would be selfish to keep her in our home. We were just not able to care for her the way that loving ol’ girl deserved to be cared for. I won’t go into the details, because this post is not about how difficult our situation was.
This post is about mean girls and judgement.
We were so thrilled to find her a loving home, on a beautiful farm with hundreds of acres and other doggie friends to play with. No children, no more leashes and hurried walks, no more hiding behind baby gates. This weekend, however, I received a scathing email from the woman who found this beautiful home for our pup. She felt the need, now that Charlie was all settled in, to let me know her thoughts on the decision that we made for our family. I was floored. I hadn’t felt such judgement or hatred in such a long time. I tried to explain that she didn’t know how hard we had tried, how long we had all been hoping our situation would improve; how she didn’t know what went on in our home.
She told me I wasn’t the first person to have kids and a dog.
After a weekend of hurt and anger, I am now looking inward and asking myself why it hurts so much. The answer is because part of me thinks she’s right. I failed. I couldn’t have kids and a dog.
And then I started thinking about all the other people who have judgements thrown on them, regarding breastfeeding or formula feeding, bed-sharing or placing their newborn in a room by themselves, returning to work or staying home, daycare or hired help. Every time I’m on Facebook I come across another article describing one of these judgements, telling moms everywhere that they may be failing at the most important job on earth. Or our food choices: animals, dairy, organic, processed…we all have kernels of self-doubt inside of us, making us vulnerable and sensitive. I couldn’t handle the judgement because it hurt so much to wonder if the right decision had been made.
As I place more space around her words, I am using this to remind myself that I need to choose the comments I let into my world. As the young kids say, haters be hatin’. There will always be mean girls.
Some will say mean things behind your back, and some will say it to your face. Some comments, you won’t really care about, and some will really hurt you, because they will hit your place of self-doubt. The mommy wars, dietary choices, politics, bullying – these issues will always be around, because there will always be mean girls (and boys) who are operating from their place of self-doubt. The only way around it is to take care of ourselves, to know our own reasons are enough. To take care of others, by offering support, listening and – before we dole out opinions and advice – remembering: we cannot, ever, truly know what it’s like to be someone else. Our paths in life are too varied; our perspectives are too unique.
Words that come from insecurity are damaging. Words of understanding come from a place of love.
My anger from the words that were written to me is finally receding, and so I will push out words of love:
To the person who wrote them, I allow that you do not understand our reasons for giving up our dog, and I forgive that you felt the need to tell me that. Perhaps you too have been hurt by words.
To our dog Charlie, I am so sorry that we were unable to make things work with you in our family, and I know that you will have everything you deserve in the last years of your life.
And to myself, I release myself from guilt, because we chose the hard decision, the unpopular decision, the one that was best for ALL of us.
My lovely readers, I urge you to offer words of love to those around you, and to yourself. And especially to those whose choices you don’t understand.
Every word counts.