I had someone suggest something strange after seeing the sparkly tutu I made for my daughter. This person’s comment really took me off guard. It was a suggestion that things like this tutu are an example of the wastefulness of modern consumer culture. I was shocked, truly, that this mom judging was the response I received.
To me, that tutu was an opportunity for dress-up play and the girly fun I had always imagined having with my daughter. It was an opportunity for play and laughter, for sparkles and smiles. It never even occurred to me that someone might view it differently.
As I thought more about it, it occurred to me that every person is different. After all, what seems wasteful to one person was actually an act of love for me. I make things for my kids because I love them, not so they have lots of “stuff.” To me, that tutu was an opportunity for dress-up play and the girly fun I had always imagined having with my daughter. It was an opportunity for play and laughter, for sparkles and smiles. It never even occurred to me that someone might view it differently.
Let’s Stop the Mom Judging
Really, this issue is much bigger than this one particular comment. Yet this brings up an interesting idea for parents to consider. Haven’t we all felt judged as parents in some way or another? Why do people have to judge each other in their role as mom and dad?
Let me ask:
- Have you felt judged for being the mom who took your kids to McDonald’s?
- Or because you did (or didn’t) feed your kids organic snacks?
- For being a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom?
- Maybe you felt it when your child wasn’t dressed as fancy for an occasion (like in a Christmas dress they’ll wear only once) or when you worried they were overdressed (“who’s that mom trying to impress…?”).
- Have you felt the stares when you put your child in a shopping cart without using a special cloth covering over the seat?
- For the amount or type of toys you have for your kids?
- Or maybe when you weren’t ready to leave your kids in childcare at an age when other moms were fine with it?
- Perhaps you’ve been judged for being a “helicopter parent ” or for veering slightly to the opposite side.
Those are only a few examples, but it really begins to illustrate an important point. Are any of those things particularly harmful? The question becomes: If the parenting decisions you’re making aren’t causing any harm, why the judgement? Who does it help?
Why the Judgement?
I wonder if this could be (at least partially) a side-effect of our increasingly digital lives. We only sort-of keep up with old friends and acquaintances as “friends” online. I do love seeing pictures of people’s families, their vacations, and reading updates about their lives. But are we mistaking this for really knowing them?
It’s impossible to correctly understand a person’s actions based on what they choose to share on Facebook or twitter. Honestly, even in person it’s often hard to really understand and know a person without being in their close circle of friends or family. With people who aren’t our besties, we tend to share only happy things, pretty pictures, the occasional rant about traffic or politics… That doesn’t exactly make for a clear picture of a person and their motivations. (Seriously though, how awkward is it when people “air their dirty laundry,” so to speak, to their 450 friends on Facebook?).
Of course, it could also be due to our own sense of self. Perhaps suggesting that others are doing something wrong makes us feel like we’re doing something right. But why do we have to tear others down for the small things to feel justified in our own decisions as parents? Is it because people are constantly mom judging us, too? In that case, it’s really a horrible cycle.
Making a Choice
Obviously we can’t fix other people. There will always be Judgey-McJudgersons out there with an eye roll or a quiet scoff. One thing we can do is plant our feet firm, holding strong to our choices as parents. When we make a decision about our parenting style, we can be confident in what we think is best for our family. It might even help to remember if we’re feeling someone’s judgement that it’s not really our problem, but theirs.
But the other important aspect to this is that we can try to change how we look at others. We can all try a little harder to accept other moms for who they are and the decisions they make as parents. We can assume we don’t know all the their motivations and give them the benefit of the doubt. And of course we can let go of things that don’t really matter (like the decision to use only organic snacks – I don’t need to have an opinion on your choice).
I’m going to try to be the person I hope for in others. To be less judgmental about people’s parenting decisions, realizing I don’t necessarily know what motivates others. And of course that it’s really none of my business what style of parenting other people choose (attachment parenting or sleep training, you do what works for you). I don’t need to focus on the small differences between myself and other moms. Let’s stop with the mom judging. I would much rather celebrate motherhood together.
While you’re here, don’t miss the one important question to ask yourself as a mom.
(Obviously there are certain situations where someone needs to step in to protect children and families, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those small things we judge parents for, the choices that are not a big deal and that parents should be able to decide upon without feeling judged.)
Have you experienced mom judging?