07/23/2015 02:57 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2016

Parenting Karma Can Really Suck

Emma Kim via Getty Images

The first time I can consciously remember the unsavory side of karma was as a freshman in high school. I sat behind a guy in biology class who had a few seriously unappetizing white puss-filled pimples on the back of his neck. Who could focus on protozoa and plankton when I had this bacteria colony staring me in the face? Well, it wasn't long before my previously unblemished neck had a few zits of its own. And there it was: My first taste of karma, coming to bite me in the back of the neck.

Oh, but was that the first and only time I stood in my glass house and threw a stone? Sadly, no. I have not learned my lesson. And it's happened a few distinct times in parenthood--karma coming back to teach me to ease up on everyone else and stop pointing the finger unless I'm standing in the mirror.

There was the time I judged my friend (before I had children), whose baby was a real chunker, with the bulbous limbs that look like they're pinched with rubber bands at every joint. I never said it to her, but I couldn't help but wonder what sort of food my friend was feeding this butterball. Because clearly it was more than he needed. And not terribly healthy either.

Fast forward to when I have a baby, who ranks in the 98th percentile for weight. Tourists take her photo. Strangers often say what a "healthy," "bonny," "chubby" little one she is, as if the knots in my lower back don't already alert me to this information. I defensively explain that she does like to eat but is actually a very healthy eater -- she is! I swear! She loves beets and broccoli and spinach and has rarely eaten anything processed. But if I make curry or frittata or stir fry, she'll eat a hearty helping (probably at least half as much as me, if not more). And this is great--I know parents who struggle to get anything beyond fruit or milk into their wee ones. So I'm not complaining, but I am acknowledging that I didn't understand butterball babies before -- their lovely Rubenesque figures aren't necessarily due to them tucking into a Costco-size stash of Ding Dongs in the pantry. Noted, Karma Gods, noted: Thou shalt not judge a parent negatively by the size of her baby.

Then there was the time my friend told me her baby rolled off the bed--she had just set him down for a second--and she had to take him to the ER. Well, I thought, you just can't do that--I wouldn't set my baby on furniture and let her damage her poor little self. No, no, I would never be that irresponsible. Except for a week later when I set the baby on my bed and she scooted and plonked onto the floor in a nanosecond, while I was standing right there. (Thankfully she was fine.) Right. No judging other parents for mishaps that can happen to any of us. None of us are immune, most notably, me.

Oh, but have I learned my lesson and wisely avoided passing all further judgment on other parents? Sadly, no. Most recently it was a friend with a 15-month old who suddenly morphed from sweet toddler into a clingy, tantrum-throwing, awake-throughout-the-night non-sleeper. I told my husband what had happened and that the parents were beyond tired and frustrated. "And you know, she did just go back to work so maybe the baby's having a hard time adjusting because she's been given so much attention before this." I added my other hypotheses as to why this previous angel had turned into a demon. Thankfully we wouldn't have to deal with this, naturally, because we were much better parents.

Or, no. Actually, we are naive sods. And when our toddler hit this phase--which I ultimately pegged to back-to-back vacations and molars coming in and that rumored 15-month phase--I, once again, had the opportunity to tell myself that I was an idiotic pot calling the kettle black.

I'd like to say I've learned my lesson--I do notice that I try to stop myself mid-thought if I get judge-y on some other parent. Because the sooner you can get off the bad karma bus, the better the trip through parentsville will inevitably be. Cut others some slack, cut myself some slack and do our best, right?

Do you find that you get judgmental with other parenting styles? Have you experienced parenting karma--either good or bad? Do share!