By Emily Gonzalez, Writer for CTWorkingMoms.com
I have been thinking a lot lately about judgment-free motherhood and what a wonderful, freeing, impossible, yet completely possible concept it is.
I say "impossible" because judging others seems to be just human nature. Because snap judgments and negative thoughts seem like they are here to stay.
I say "possible" because we can totally choose to train ourselves toward empathy, kindness and understanding. Because the first thought that flies into your brain isn't necessarily something you can control, but the thought that follows that one IS.
Here's what I'm stuck on: Why do we judge other moms? Why do we argue with each other and cut each other down? What do we get out of it? What is the point of it all? It is tempting to assume that judgy moms are mean or bitter or bored or unhappy, but I think we should be gentler with the judgmental ones. After all, we are pretty much all the judgmental ones.
Here are some reasons I can think of that we judge other moms:
- We are afraid of or ignorant about something different or unknown.
- We want to distance ourselves from something we perceive as negative.
- We have specific morals and values that others violate.
- We want to belong to a group or want to be accepted.
- We assume the worst in others because of our life experiences.
- We are insecure about our own parenting choices.
- We are human, and it is in our nature. To some extent, anyway.
Some of these overlap. And I'm sure there are more.
I am just as guilty as anyone else in this. I have rolled my eyes, muttered under my breath, talked behind someone's back, challenged someone when it wasn't my place. Lately, though, I have really been making a concerted effort not to judge -- or at least, to change some judgy thoughts into more compassionate ones. I can't believe that mom is strolling a screaming baby around Target!!! NO, wait. She has to get her shopping done just as much as I do, and the screaming is bothering her way more than me, and she's doing her best, so smile at that lady so she knows it's OK, already!! And, you know, I have learned that it feels really good to think this way. It is freeing. Instead of holding onto anger or annoyance, the thought lifts up into the air like a bubble and pops. Gone. One less piece of negativity in my life.
Judging others feels good maybe too. No, it definitely does. It's easy, it's entertaining, it creates a sense of belonging. The lady in front of you in the check-out rolls her eyes, and you sigh heavily, and you kind of smile at each other, united in your annoyance at screaming-baby-mom. Being kind takes more work, more time and energy that maybe we don't feel we have. It isn't always so comfortable, and it can make you the focus of someone else's judgment. The beautiful thing is that, when you forgive another mom for strolling her screaming baby around in Target, you make it OK for you to do that too. (Let's be honest, if your kid has never screamed in public, it's probably because you have never brought your kid out in public.) What I am getting at is that, when you stop judging others, you open a door to accepting yourself. We're all on Team Screaming Baby, and it's a team that never loses because there is no one else to play against.
I admit, I used a pretty simplistic example, and it becomes much more complicated when we get to the more polarizing issues. Like feeding choices -- some of us formula feed, others breastfeed, others pump or start solids early. Can we at least call ourselves Team I Feed My Kid? Or there's the issue of sleep. Do you co-sleep? Cry it out? Crib from day one? How about Team Sleep (just TRY to tell me you're not on Team Sleep)? There are so many more: circumcision, daycare, working, birthing choices... There is no quick or easy way to become united here. Maybe we can start by joining Team "I Don't Agree with Your Choices and You Don't Agree with Mine but Let's Decide that We're All Doing Our Best and Clink Our Wine/Juice/Water Glasses Together and Call It a Day?"
I'm sorry -- I got a decent night's sleep last night, baby is napping, I have a full belly and I'm a little touchy-feely today. This is all a smidge idealistic and definitely overly simplistic. But try catching yourself in one judgment today and rethinking it. I think you'll agree that it feels wonderful.