Some Things to Think About Before Judging Another Mama
Judgment is my kryptonite. I find the judgment of others debilitating and disabling. Or at least I did for most of my life – my twenties were punctuated by a lot of fear and probably self-loathing. Not all the time, just when the going got tough. And you know, really, when the going gets tough, you should always be on your own side, but so often we aren’t. We turn inside ourselves to blame that one who is most familiar to us – ourselves. We know she can take the punishment, she’s been there many times before. Sometimes too, things get super tricky and, in order to deny that you don’t have any real compassion for yourself, you start to spread that lack of compassion elsewhere, onto others, so it’s less likely to stick to you. The problem is, and this I didn’t realize for a good long time, was that the most you try to throw pain and suffering and fear and hatred off of yourself, the stickier it gets. It clings to you like a bad scent. A bad bitch scent.
That throwing off of awfulness most commonly manifests as judgment; the judgment of others which tries to negate the hatred or fear or whatever it is we have for ourselves onto others so at least we can feel superior to someone, to something, to anything. That’s what makes judgment so icky – it’s so pernicious, it’s so diabolical that we don’t even realize that we are hurting ourselves by engaging in it.
It’s not easy not to judge. One of the ways that women build bonds between each other is by judging other women and therefore establishing who is “in” and “out” – who is safe and not, blah, blah, blah. I’m not suggesting here that women are all a bunch of catty bitches, I’m just saying that we learn a form of relationship-building early in life that tells us that we should be cautious of forming bonds with other women and we need to be suspicious of their actions, especially toward us and anything we hold dear. I think rurality really itself to this kind of thinking/acting because in days long past, we are all close because we need(ed) to be for survival. Closeness can lead to contempt and then we have conflict on our hands. Someone famous said that small minds discuss people and big ones discuss ideas. I believe that is true. But it doesn’t account for all of the juicy conditions that a close community creates which are ripe for exploitation by the Judgment Monster.
Why judgment has circled back into my consciousness is because it was the fear of the judgment of others around my status as Mother that contributed to a paralyzing fear that took hold of me almost as soon as my daughter was born and didn’t stop strangling me until relatively recently. I felt like judgment was all around me – the midwives, the books, the experts, the medical institution, family, friends, neighbours, strangers, myself. It was all too much to take. I still find it debilitating when I feel myself judged as a mother. I’m not sure that will ever go away. Especially because I don’t have a lot of the feelings and experiences other mothers have. I just don’t. Someone says they want time to stop so that they can have their baby back and I'm over here literally getting the chills at Huggies commercials with newborns sighing on their mother chests. Newborn mummying was not a good look for me unless suicidal ideation and panic attacks are the new "in things" for moms these days.
I don’t struggle as much these days about feeling different, but I do find myself wondering if all that other mothers say they experience can be true. This my friends, is a form of judgment because, let's face it, Rule Number One of mothering is to always, under any circumstances, believe what a mother tells you about their experience because it is THEIR experience and you don’t know it. You can relate to it but you sure as hell can’t judge it. It’s not yours. It doesn’t belong to you. And you don’t have the right to judge it. So there.
Some will disagree with me about this rule - but wait – I have more!
- See above.
- Listen to another mother’s experience without giving advice or using your own child as an example/exemplar. Nobody got time for that.
- Be as kind as you can to another mother. Mothering is THE MOST DIFFICULT JOB IN THE WORLD so kindness is the only sentiment that can be expressed in the face of something so monumental.
- Accept that you are not perfect and do not take that out on other mothers by judging all their choices. You do not want to be judged, right? So don’t. Easy peasy.
- Know that you are the expert of your child(ren) and yours alone. Having children does not make the expert on other people’s children.
- Go easy on the regurgitation of “expert advice.” For every expert or study that you can find, I can find another that says just the opposite. As mothers we need to be critically conscientious about the world around us in order to teach that skill to our children (my value judgment for sure to be taken with a grain of salt). Just saying that all mothers should breastfeed or no mother should co-sleep or act like the screen time choices of other mothers is an opportunity to “educate” them about ADHD correlations is just not cool. So not cool. We all get to do our research and make our own choices. That is the reality of the world we live in. So perhaps we should consider ourselves blessed to be able to make educated, well-researched decisions about our children rather than blindly shoving our perceived “correct recommendations” down the throats of women – just like you and me – have faced the struggle of motherhood and determined what they need to do to survive.
- Where you cannot access kindness, access empathy. Just because something was easy for you and difficult for another does not mean that mother has not done everything in her power to rectify the situation. She is like you. All the sleepless nights and borderline insanity and all the tears (her’s and the baby’s) and all the neediness and all the everything. She might not do it like you, but she has been through it all like you. Trust me on this.
- A controversial one: Don’t make motherhood look easier than it is. Mothers do this all the time. Women make work loo easy as well. Because they are amazing and magnificent. Don’t Pinterest your mummying or try to make others envious that you have perfect kids and that you never have bad days or doubts as a mother. I’m going to suggest that it is cruel to other mothers. And it upholds expectations of perfection in motherhood that not only do I not believe exist, but I think should be summarily deconstructed and trashed because they are trash.
- Don’t try to live up to someone’s Pinterested Motherhood. It’s most likely a sham.
- Be yourself as a mother. Don’t lose yourself in an identity that you didn’t construct with your own mind, body, and heart. You can be you and be a mother. This way you don’t have to resent your child(ren) by trying to become the Mother Myth that lives and dies in judgment.
Not impossible, aimirite?