Are you familiar with the classic children’s book Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne? (Illustrated by H.A.Rey of Curious George fame.) It’s my daughter’s favorite book lately, the one she takes to bed every night and knows by heart; as for me, I got teary the first time I read it.
Katy is a kangaroo with no pocket to carry her baby in. She needs help, but the other moms she looks to for advice are no help at all.
Mrs. Crocodile is sympathetic, but shocked that anyone doesn’t know children should be carried on their mother’s back.
Back-carrying doesn’t work for Katy.
When asked how she carries her son, Mrs. Monkey responds condescendingly, “Why, in my arms, of course…How would any sensible animal carry anything?”
Arm carrying doesn’t work for Katie.
Baby lions just walk, but baby kangaroos can’t keep up.
Baby birds get pushed out of the nest. Katy’s not about to do that.
I’m part of a pretty active Facebook group of moms, some of whom know each other and some who don’t. Sometimes I’m surprised that it is so active because so often when someone asks for help, the advice they receive reads like Katy No-Pocket:
“I’m shocked that anyone would do it differently than I do.”
“Anyone sensible would do it my way.”
“What works for me should work for you.”
That’s why I felt teary when I read the book for the first time. So often I feel inadequate as a mom, like I’m missing something as basic and essential as a kangaroo’s pocket, and I don’t feel like I can ask for help because I’ll be met with judgement and criticism. I feel like I’m permanently broken and no one can or will help me.
At the same time I understand why other moms respond the way they do. It seems like every decision is given grave importance. Every thing you do has to be based on deep conviction and research…so of course you feel like you need to communicate it as fact, need to justify it by getting other moms to agree with you.
What I’d like to see is more admission that almost all decisions are subjective. What works for one mom won’t work for another. What’s right for one family won’t fit another.
And to think that I got all of that out of a simple children’s book. I wish I knew if Emmy Payne was a mom and what personal experience she wrote out of; she may not have felt like me at all! But the story is so poignant and so true that I think maybe she did.
I won’t spoil the whole story, but I will say that Katy’s triumph in the end, also understandable, is probably not the best attitude to have. She’s “very happy because now she has more pockets than any mother kangaroo in the world!” If I find a solution for my mommying issues, I hope I’ll just be happy not to have the problem anymore.
What about you? Do you have any tips for giving advice without judgement and criticism?