So many times, mothers feel the pressure to be the perfect mom who has the answers to every question. The one who carries the exact snack their child asks for after soccer, the one who suggests life-changing advice to other mothers at pick up. But when it comes to eating with others, many mothers of picky eaters are ashamed of their child’s refusal to eat the food set before them. The moment the child says they don’t like the food can feel like a spotlight on a mother’s failure to teach their child how to appreciate the effort put into the plate set before them. Or it can feel like the other mothers see your child as stubborn, rude—or worse, entitled.
I’m sure most mothers can admit they’ve felt like they should know what’s best because every woman has a “maternal instinct.” Right? But the thing is, no one is born a good mother, just like no one is born a good athlete, writer, actor, scientist, you name it! We all need to learn to be good at something, and parenthood is no exception. But the thing about learning is that you need to go to others for advice and lessons. It’s not like the knowledge is already in you, and then it magically appears the moment you need it. You need to seek help and work on it, or else you’ll cycle through attempts and failures again and again until you break. The stress to do it on your own can be overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be!!
What I’ve realized in my short 28 years on earth is that I’m not the first person to go through what I’m going through. I’m not the first bonus mom with a contentious birth mom. I’m not the first youngest of five dealing with self-imposed pressure to measure up to my sisters (a pastor, a PhD, a business owner, and a mother of two who often works and parents on her own while her husband travels for work). And I’m certainly not the first picky eater trying to figure out how to work up the courage to try new things. I just had to get over the feeling of self-reliance to recognize my need for outside resources. And I think many need to do the same.
I urge you, from one picky bonus mom to mothers of picky eaters, do not try to work it through on your own. Don’t think you can figure it out without help from others because chances are you are ill-equipped to handle something that can be as extreme as an eating disorder. Look for help from other mothers, podcasts, books, blogs, and even therapists if necessary. Because, believe me, it is absolutely necessary.
Here is a short sample of resources I’ve found helpful for trying new foods:
- Autism Nutritionist – no, you’re child does not have to be autistic to use her tips on trying new foods. I often find myself scrolling through her Instagram to find ways that help me try food more successfully.
- Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet by Cheri Fraker , Dr. Mark Fishbein, et al.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Jennifer J. Thomas and Kamryn T. Eddy. Side note: I’ve been reading through this book for a few months and have learned so much! I have written about the first chapter in my post “What Is ARFID?” and will write more about it as I learn more!
Not only can you find printed resources, but the people in your lives can be HUGE supporters as well. My mom, sisters, husband, friends, and grandmother have been so encouraging for me as I fight through my fear-based picky eating. My mom introduced me to the bridge process. My sisters give me food suggestions based on what they know I like. My husband is willing to make foods to my preferences when necessary. My friends don’t pressure me when I don’t want to try new food.
And my grandmother actively tries to understand and support me when I’m uncomfortable with food. People. She brought ZIPLOCK BAGS to a church function so I could sneak my food into there to 1) not waste food that wouldn’t be eaten and 2) avoid the server’s question of if I was done with my plate when I hadn’t eaten anything! Her desire to help me has been huge because I look up to and respect her so much. I’m always grateful for her lack of judgment and the pure support she’s had for me over the years.
My suggestion to all the struggling mamas out there is to not try to do it alone. Don’t think you should have all the answers because you’re a mom. Instead, seek help when you need it and don’t see it as a form of weakness. If you’re like me, it’s hard to accept you can’t do it alone. Admitting your weakness is a form of strength that many don’t have. Too often, people run themselves to the ground only to have what they’re striving for crumble before them. Don’t be that person. Look for help and when you find it, listen to it. You’ll be shocked at what you learn when you stop trying to do it on your own.
Because the thing is you AREN’T alone. So don’t try to do it alone.
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