Last week, Queen Bey announced to the world that she and Jay-Z are expecting not one, but TWO new siblings for sister Blue Ivy this year. Twins! The photo she used to announce it basically broke every record on Instagram, and the rest of the maternity photos are equally as stunning. But of course, like depressingly reliable internet clockwork, as soon as the news dropped so did plenty of haters. Because, you know, with everything going on in the world right now, this obviously warrants their time and criticism.  

“So tacky! Ugh!”

“More spoiled brats in the world!”

“Probably IVF…” (as if that’s a bad thing or something? What?)

“She’s just jealous of Gaga!” (again…what?)

No, reader, I will certainly not link to these opinions, because: Ew. If you doubt this stuff exists, first of all — awww! You’re cute! Second of all, check the comments section of literally ANY article about the announcement. Or don’t, if you want to stay your lil’ cute, happy self.

Now, I’m sure these comments bothered Beyoncé about as much as flakes of dust in the air bother her gazillion Grammys. She is Beyoncé, okay, I realize this — she is a mega-celebrity and that kind of fame comes with a certain amount of peripheral jackassery. What bothers me is not the potential for Beyoncé’s hurt feelings; what bothers me is that it has become so freaking normal in our society to criticize mothers. Beyoncé’s haters might come with her fame, but the average mother gets (relatively) just as much criticism from within her own sphere of influence. The sphere might be smaller, yes, but that just means the criticism is louder and easier to hear.

It starts with conception. Every aspect of motherhood is up for cultural debate: You’re so young! You’re so old… How did you get pregnant? Will you get an ultrasound? Because you shouldn’t. You did already? What’s your birth plan? What’s the name? You don’t want to know the gender? Why not?! You’re having a gender-reveal party? Why does gender matter so much to you?! You have to have a natural birth! You have to go to a hospital!

Literally every step of the way, every choice a mother makes is open for criticism. It’s exhausting. One question in particular, though, seems to cause the most grief:

Will you quit your job?

Beyoncé is obviously a working mother. Granted, she’s definitely got the resources for childcare, and probably can cater her schedule to make sure she gets plenty of time with Blue. Very few mothers have that option. Some mothers don’t get a choice — they have to work, and that’s that. Some mothers have the option to quit their day job to stay at home, which is their choice. Some mothers work part time, which is their choice. Some mothers go back to work full-time even though they don’t financially have to, which — say it with me now — is their choice. But a whole lot of people seem to think this choice is open for discussion, even when it has nothing to do with their own family. Like the great political divide, our culture seems split down the middle on whether a mother should go back to work or not. And everyone has very strong opinions about it.

Personally, I am not a mother yet — but I hope to be someday. I was talking with a friend about how important my work is to me, how I know I’ll want to work even after having children. She pointed out several of our mutual friends who had said the same thing, and who had recently become stay-at-home moms (by choice).

“You’ll probably be like them,” she said smugly. “How could you not? You just don’t understand until it happens to you!”

Now, I have deep admiration for mothers who stay at home. They are incredible. I know that stuff is tough work, and it’s an amazing, awe-inspiring choice to make. But it felt really crappy to have a friend so casually contradict my own parenthood goals, as though there was just no way a writing career I’ve been working on my entire life could possibly last after I have children. She only spoke from what she knew of her own life, not what she knew of mine — which is how these sweeping judgements form. If I can’t even plan my own motherhood without criticism, I thought, what must it be like for actual moms?

Setting aside the fact that no one seems to ask this question about fathers, which is a whole other problem, I feel like we all need a reminder: it’s not our right to decide. It’s not your job to make sweeping statements about some other mother’s work choices. Motherhood must be carved out for each individual on their own; each family must figure out what works best for them. Just as each child is unique, each style of parenting must be unique, too.

Working in the home is a beautiful choice. You have more time with your children; you have more freedom in your schedule to give your kids new experiences. You have the opportunity to provide for your kids in ways you simply couldn’t working outside the home.

Working outside the home is a beautiful choice. You can show your children how to pursue their dreams; you have more freedom to yourself to give your kids a happy parent. You have the opportunity to provide for your kids in ways you simply couldn’t working only in the home.

Instead of criticizing, let’s encourage. Instead of judging, let’s learn more — and build up mothers instead of tearing them down.

Now, don’t mind me, I’m just gonna go drool over Beyoncé’s photos some more. #QueenMother

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