The mom with the 4-year-old in diapers when mine were trained by 2, the mom who is still breastfeeding when I couldn’t make it past two months, the mom with the flawless appearance who must be stuck-up and assume I’m a lazy slob: I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve judged all these women.
I wish I could say that I never judge other moms. I certainly don’t want to and most definitely don’t like when it happens to me, but the truth is I do. These aren’t my most shining moments. This post isn’t about what I judge other moms for, it’s about why. And, if I take a good hard look at the reason, it comes down to five less-than-flattering things.
Perhaps you've managed to avoid having untoward thoughts about other mothers, but if you’ve caught yourself in the unfortunate position of giving another mom side-eye, you might relate to my thoughts. If nothing else, we have all felt judged from time to time, and understanding why someone might be hurling such stones helps them sting a little less. If we all own up to the whys of judgment, we might be able to whittle down the whats.
It’s uncomfortable to admit having these thoughts, but by sitting with that discomfort, I can get closer to becoming the kind of mom I want to be: one who is kind, empathetic and supportive of my fellow parents.
1. I judge because I am jealous.
When I judge the mom who gives her kid an iPad at a restaurant, it’s not because I think it’s a truly horrible thing to do. It’s because I’ve made a different choice. One that makes eating out with my kids more like work. I’m jealous that she can sip her wine and chat with her partner while I color and pull a parade of tiny toys from my purse. I have to think I’m superior to her—otherwise, why am I suffering?
2. I judge because I am insecure.
When I roll my eyes at the mom at the park in size-two designer jeans, heels and a full face of makeup, I’m not really judging her because she looks like she’s ready for a night on the town. I’m judging her because I’m insecure about my own appearance. If I felt comfortable in my own chubby, unshowered skin, I wouldn’t even notice what she was wearing.
It’s wrong and I know it. Fear is a dangerous thing.
3. I judge because I am afraid.
When I know a kid who is constantly sick, my impulse is to blame his mother. It needs to be someone’s fault, because that makes it avoidable. My kids won’t get sick because I wash their hands constantly and sacrificed my own career to keep them out of daycare. This ridiculous judgment is based in fear. When I’m faced with the reality that my child could get hurt or sick despite my best efforts, I try my hardest to explain it away and find blame so that I can find a way to avoid the same pain. It’s wrong and I know it. Fear is a dangerous thing.
4. I judge because I need validation.
When there is a child who refuses to eat anything but nuggets and cheese sticks, my first impulse is to judge their mother. I jump to all sorts of conclusions about why their child doesn’t eat vegetables because I’m desperate to feel great that my kids do. I need to feel as though it was my outstanding parenting that made them great eaters, because, otherwise, it’s just luck. I need to think that excellent nutrition is important and accessible to everyone, because it’s important and accessible to me.
5. I judge because I feel judged.
I struggled and failed to breastfeed my first son and the guilt I felt was extreme. Every time I saw a breastfeeding mother in public, especially one with an older child, I felt they were breastfeeding at me. Of course, they were simply feeding their baby, but I was so conscious of the fact that I was producing a bottle while they produced their breast that I judged them so I didn’t have to feel the sting of guilt and imagined judgment. I was jealous they could do it, so I judged them for doing it “too long.” I was insecure about my choice to bottle-feed, so I judged them for “looking for attention” with their exposed breasts. I placed them in the category of the “breast is best” crusaders who made me feel inadequate as a new mom. I judged because I was hurting, but that didn’t make it right.
Most of the time, my judgments are an ugly combination of these thoughtless reasons. I’m insecure about my own parenting decisions, jealous of those who appear to have it easier, worried that their simple mistake could be mine, need validation that my way is best and feel their different choice is a judgment of my own. I pass these judgments with little conviction and rarely say them aloud. They are knee-jerk reactions created by a lack of introspection.
They might make me feel good for a moment, but they aren’t the true path to feeling confident as a mother. Like everything else, making a big change takes baby steps and I hope that by taking the first step in admitting why I've been so judgmental, I can become the true mom I want to be.