A LITTLE INTROSPECTION
A few weeks ago I was hanging out with friends, all of whom have young kids. In a familiar scene, the kids were running about and we were standing around watching them. All of a sudden, the friend I had been talking to cut off the conversation to run after her son. “I’ll be right back”, she said sheepishly, “I guess I’m a helicopter mom.”
Rewind a little further to the summer of 2017. Jared and I were exploring a local farmer’s market and I was noticeably pregnant. I was in full-on baby watch mode, obsessed with every baby. I saw a woman about my age pushing a stroller and decided to say hi. “How old is your little girl?” I asked. “8 weeks old. I know it’s hot and I shouldn’t have her out so young”, she said with the same sheepish tone my friend had used, “but I needed to get out of my apartment.”
My mind keeps wandering back to these conversations. Why do we do this? Why did this young mom feel like she needed to defend her parenting choice to a complete and total stranger? Why did my friend feel like she needed to put herself down before running after her child? My answer - We are so terrified of being judged, that we judge ourselves first. You might be thinking to yourself, ‘yea...and? Where’s the revelation in that?’ The modern-mom-world makes us question everything we do for fear of being judged by someone - be it our friends, colleagues, on social media, even our own mothers. When we’re at work, we feel like we should be home. But when we’re home, we’re acutely aware of every email that’s not being answered. We feel guilty giving our baby a pouch for lunch instead of ‘real’ food, but the idea of adding ‘cook daily lunch’ to our endless to-do list is cripplingly overwhelming. We see nursing moms and feel ashamed by the bottle of formula in our diaper bag, even if we know that formula is the best choice for our family. This guilt doesn’t come out of nowhere - it’s a direct result of the judging that has become the norm among moms.
There’s the sort-of standard advice for when those feelings of self-doubt and guilt creep in - Hold your head high and trust your mama instincts. Know that you’re doing what’s right for your family. Block out those voices and find friends who will support you, not knock you down. It’s all good advice and we should all strive to follow it.
But I’d like to challenge us all to go a bit deeper. We judge ourselves first, before anyone else has a chance to. And why are we are so completely sure that someone will judge us? Because we’ve done it ourselves. This isn’t something that most people would want to admit, but any time we acknowledge something in our society as prevalent, we must look inward and see what part we’ve played in it. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that we’ve made judgments of other moms too. I know I have. I strive to live and let live and truly believe that as long as a child is loved and safe, there isn’t just one right way to parent. And yet, I’ve raised my eyebrows at the baby in the restaurant at 9pm. At the mom who has her toddler on a wrist-leash at the mall. We all have different thresholds, but even the most open-minded among us judge others, sometimes without even realizing it.
So the next time you feel judged, hold your head up high and trust yourself. But let’s also try to use it as an opportunity for some self-reflection. Notice those moments when you do judge others, acknowledge it and try to let that judgment go. Let’s together take ownership and do what we can to make it just little easier for the moms coming after us.