It starts with us. Mom judgement. We can do better.
I’ve done something I’m ashamed of.
And I know you’ve done it, too.
I’ve judged another mother.
I’ve stood in line at a store (usually Target) and heard the whines of a child begging for a toy or a candy bar strategically placed near the checkouts to taunt children and torture parents. When told no, the child got louder, winding up to a full-blown tantrum. To stop any further embarrassment and to quiet the child, the mother gave in, avoiding eye contact with me and every other adult within view.
Smugly I thought to myself, my child won’t act that way in public. And if he or she does, they will not get what they want, behaving like that.
Fast forward, 8 years…I’ve totally been that mom who gave in to whining and tears to avoid public humiliation. I’ve been the mom being judged for being a pushover. I’ve also been the mom judged for being too harsh. I’ve felt the disapproving stares and smug smiles of women who have not yet had their first child who think they’ll do it better. I’ve rushed out of stores avoiding eye contact and wishing I could be invisible.
It’s a shitty feeling to be on the receiving end of mom judgment.
And moms throw judgment out like candy at a small-town parade. About breastfeeding. About curfews. About what age they give their kids a cell phone. About what they send in the lunchbox. About what clothes they buy. About what activities they do or don’t put their kids in. About how much they read with their kids. About being a working mom. About being a stay at home mom. About vaccinations. The lists of judgments go on and on.
Most recently, my heart has been heavy as I’ve seen judgemental comments splattered all over social media. Not just about parent-shaming. About literally everything. Viewpoints over the pandemic, over the riots, over politics…over every. little. thing. imaginable. And frankly, it makes me sick. And sad.
As moms, it starts with us. WE have got to do better.
The words we speak, the actions we take…it all screams to our children that our behavior is “right”. But are we truly demonstrating empathy and grace towards other people even though we tell our kids not to point fingers at people who are different than us?
At work, at church, in schools–we do our best to not judge others for the color of their skin, for their religious beliefs, for their lifestyle choices–we claim to be good at seeing beyond physical differences…
…yet we continue to judge other mothers for raising their children in ways that are different than how we raise our own. We judge other mothers for something that happens in a 30 second period, chalking up in our minds what kind of mother she must be based on how her kid just acted in a grocery store or by what she’s wearing.
But for the most part, the majority of mothers are doing the best they can with what the world has thrown at them.
Understand that their life is not your life.
This sounds so simple. Like duh, of course, our lives are different. But as humans, we tend to walk around looking at life through our own lens and relative experiences. We look at another mother’s actions or their children’s actions and immediately relate it to ourselves or our own children. Then we judge based on what we would do.
But we don’t know what their life is like. We don’t know what their daily struggles are.
I’m not here to lecture anyone but I am calling for all mothers (including myself) to show more kindness and grace to other mothers. To try our best to assume less. To judge less.
It’s motherhood, not battle-hood.
We do not need to compete with other mothers. There is no Best Mom Award handed out at the end of the year.
Next time you see a mother struggling, put yourself in her shoes. Remind yourself that you’ve been there. Lend a hand or a kind word. Sometimes it’s easier for a stranger to offer a distraction to a child than it is for their mother, so try saying something to take the child’s attention off of whatever it is that they’re focused on. Not always, but often the mother will look at you with gratitude for helping her out.
If anything, offer a smile to show solidarity.
But whatever you do, do NOT give unsolicited advice. Other mothers do not want to hear about whatever it is that you do that makes you a superior mother (I know that’s probably not what you’re trying to emphasize but that’s how it will unintentionally come across). If the mom wants your advice, she’ll ask.
Rather, ask if they need help. Or just listen to them, then acknowledge what they say. Maybe that mama just needs to offload some stress from her shoulders. I’m first to admit I’d like to offer advice as an icebreaker, but listening speaks louder than our advice.
Ask yourself if it’s them…or you?
A natural defense mechanism of humans is to put down what’s different or what makes us feel inadequate.
You know the mom that always looks put together and beautiful when she drops her kids off at school? Of course, you do, every school has at least one. Are you envious of the fact that she makes the same pair of sweatpants that you own look trendy while you feel frumpy? Have you ever caught yourself putting that mom down to make you feel better about yourself– “I’d look that good too if I ignored my children as she must…”?
We make ourselves feel better by making assumptions about the kind of parent someone must be based on what they’re wearing, how much makeup is on their faces, how their children act at recess…another list that could go on and on.
We beat ourselves up enough, doesn’t mean you have to do the same to others.
Don’t compare life stages.
Now, this is valuable advice (totally solicited if you’ve read down this far!)…do NOT compare your middle to someone else’s end. And vice versa. Every woman is at a different stage of life.
Going back to the always put together mom example–maybe all of her kids are self-sufficient and no longer need help with getting ready for their day. That alone frees up 15-30 minutes! This goes for the mothers who always look like they just rolled out of bed. Their hair is a mess and their skin is blotchy every day–maybe you’ve speculated that she’s just lazy when in reality she works 2nd shift as an ER nurse and then cries herself to sleep feeling like she’s missing so much of her kids nights.
The point is, you don’t know how any other moms are feeling or what they’re struggling with. You may still be in the days of candy-fueled temper tantrums, jealous of the moms who have free time to wander aimlessly around Target. It’s easy to judge those moms for having “less on their plates” when they might be lonely and missing the stage that you’re at.
And in some cases, they may have rocky home situations and really just need to be lifted up, not judged.
I work for an organization that dedicates time annually to diversity and inclusion training. I think it’s great and I hope all workplaces do this but at the same time, I’m starting to believe that it’s in one ear and out the other.
If you see a mother doing something different than the way you’d do it, Google it. See why she may be doing whatever it is she’s doing. I recently heard about a new mother who turned her placenta into pills–placenta encapsulation–and at first, I was a bit weirded out. Once I Googled it, I understood the reason behind it and appreciated the fact that she was doing everything in her power to do the best for her baby. Times change quickly–my youngest isn’t that old but sometimes I feel behind the times on what the new moms are doing!
I am challenging myself and all of you to think twice the next time your instinct is to judge another mother. Like I said before, a smile goes a long way in lifting a person up and all moms could use a little lift now and then.
The next time you feel like you’re on the receiving end of judgment from another mother, be brave. Stand tall and make eye contact. Keep doing the best you can.
If you’re looking for a mom group to build positive relationships with, consider joining my Facebook VIP group! We are a group of other moms just doing our best to get by who sometimes need an outlet for venting and seeking advice. You’ll fit right in!