As a writer, I get my inspiration for the things I write from lots of different places—watching nature, watching people, watching movie trailers, watching people watch movie trailers. When you’re always on the lookout for new insights into life, the possibilities for where to look for inspiration are endless. That, I suppose, is why I had a great revelation about life and motherhood the other night while waiting for the movie we’d picked up from Redbox to start rolling.
Because Tom is a self-professed “movie guy,” going straight to the main menu and skipping over the previews doesn’t happen at our house. I’ve gotten used to the routine, and so now I automatically settle in and assume my expected role of eating as much of the popcorn as possible before the actual movie starts. (That IS what previews are for, right?)
Anyway, while munching my way into buttered popcorn oblivion, a trailer for the recent “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” caught my attention. I found one series of exchanges between a few of the movies characters particularly enlightening:
“You dropped your kid off a changing table?”
“Stuff just happens”.
“Okay, last week my kid ate a cigarette”.
“I caught mine playing in the dryer yesterday”
“I picked up the wrong baby from daycare.”
“I found my baby swimming in the toilet.”
No judging here.”
As you’ve probably already guessed, this exchange takes place between the movie’s dads, the “Dudes Group”. But, if you’re a mom (and I presume you are since you’re reading this), I didn’t have to tell you that. Any group of people talking about their children in a spirit of “no judging” clearly couldn’t be moms.
Because, as mom’s judging is what we do. We lactate, we change diapers, we dry tears, and we judge other moms (and are judged ourselves). From the moment that the two-lines-that-don’t- lie appear on the white stick, you become an automatic contestant in life’s longest-running and weirdest competition. And, as we all know, where there is competition, there must be judging. It’s like an Olympic sport, but without the cheering crowds, inspiring national anthems, and Gatorade commercials.
Also unlike the Olympics, or any other fair competition, the judge’s criteria aren’t hard measurable data; it’s mostly subjective stuff that varies from judge to judge, mom to mom. This is why, as a mom, you can be berated and applauded for a single decision at once.
I’ve seen it happen on this very blog. From the same post, I’ve received heated criticism on both sides of an issue. For example, when discussing letting Jacob begin to “cry it out,” around six months, I had moms respond with fury, aghast that I let my baby cry it out. At the same time, I had friends who couldn’t believe that I had waited so long to begin.
As a new mom, constantly being in the center of the judges’ ring can be more than a little intimidating. It’s like being in front of a crowd of people in your underwear, except it’s not nearly as funny and the criticism goes more than surface deep. The decisions that we make as moms often cut to the very core of who we are and what we believe. And, even when they don’t, we mom finds plenty of reason to raise our eyebrows.
You didn’t take prenatals? You opted for an epidural? The judge-a-thon starts before your baby is even born. Once the sweet bundle arrives, the list of judge-ables only expands.
You didn’t even try to breastfeed? Judged. You breastfed that long? Judged. You work, leaving your kids at daycare? Judged. You stay-at-home but don’t stay busy enough? Again, consider yourself judged.
When you’re a mom, no matter what you do, you will find dissidents everywhere you turn—a friend, a family member, the lady in line behind you at the grocery store. And, of course, my personal favorite: the mirror.
If you’re a mom, you know that no one questions you about the decisions you’re making more than you do. And, it is this point that, I think, that can cast some much-needed light onto the subject. As moms, we need to fight the inborn urge to judge other mamas. I know. It’s written into our DNA. You see a bratty kid, an overweight kid, or a kid who is out in public past YOUR bedtime, and you instantly start to question the merits of the mama behind it all.
So, what’s my point? Treading the new waters of mama-hood ain’t easy. There is no shortage of ways to draw criticism—even from ourselves.
I think that we would do well to follow the example of the guys in the “Dudes Group,” and adopt more of a live-and-let-live—or in this case, a raise-and-let-raise—philosophy. There are no hard-and-fast rules to bringing up a healthy, loving and bright child. And, I can all but guarantee that most any mom you meet is trying her best to do just that. She may not be doing it the way you would do it, but she’s probably doing it the best way she knows how.
And, for that she deserves support, not judging.
So, the next time you’re tempted to tell another mother how it’s done. Remember that moms are human, too, and for the sake of moms everywhere, let’s do as the dads do and adopt a “no judging here” philosophy. Whatdoyasay?