I have cringed at babies wailing in a restaurant. I have witnessed 4 and 5 year olds darting through clothing racks at Walmart. I have known mothers who breastfed children old enough to spell their names.
And yet… I don’t pass judgment. Okay – at first I do react, but after the initial shock and awe – I just shrug and say nothing. I mean, if the child is not in danger and there is nothing I can do to assist the mother or offer a hand, then my work is done. What good is it to engage in conversations like ..
“Oh, that couldn’t be my child.”
“I couldn’t do that with my momma.”
“I can’t believe she let them ….”
“She needs to …”
I love it when the main naysayers are people who have no kids. How about the consummate babysitters, relatives and caregivers, who deem themselves as parenting professionals? And then there are the moms with only one child who have no inkling of the mayhem that comes with siblings.
Until you walk a mile in another mother’s shoes, you have no clue.
I didn’t start off this way. Before I had my own kids, I remember visiting a friend’s house who was married with two boys.
She was a beautiful, fashionista extraordinaire and progressive marketing professional – basically, she had it going on. Then she got married and had two boys.
Her house – or mansion really – was all at once gorgeous and a mess! Toys were on the hardwood floors; dishes were piled up in the stainless steel sink; the high chair she crammed her baby into had food stains on the tray; the toddler ran around yelling something about Superman while wearing mismatched socks, and worst of all – her hair was pulled back in the dreaded ponytail!
Honestly – and ashamedly – I was taken aback and disgusted. At that point, I wanted no parts of that scenario.
Fast forward several years, I’m married with my own two boys (three including my husband) to clean up after, and a guilty conscience. I had no idea what it meant to be a mom, wife, housekeeper, nurturer, provider, fixer, etc. – all at once! And let’s not even add ‘working professional’ in that mix – during a recession, depression, underemployment. It is truly by the grace of God and God’s mercy … (that’s another post).
Being a mom, I’ve never experienced so much scrutiny (a lot of it my own) – that started even with pregnancy. Natural childbirth or epidural? Breastfeeding or formula? Spankings or timeout? Public or private school? Are you going to let him talk to you like that?
Unfortunately, I’ve been harnessed by my own judgment – holding myself captive to reaching some higher standard of parenting. Or always feeling weighted down by the stares and unwarranted comments of strangers (and family members). I am very proud of my munchkins but they are not always a picture of disciplined perfection. Every once in a while they drink the Krazy Koolaid and act in ways I can only scold them for in the familiarity of my own home.
But I have found FREEDOM! Can you say wooooossaaahhh. I am freed by not instantly negatively judging others. However, for me to release myself from the judgment of others – I had to examine my own judgmental disposition.
So, in my mind, I still go back to that day when I visited my friend. I’ve repented numerous times and reconsidered my observations. Her house really wasn’t that messy, her boys were happy and healthy, and she remains beautiful in her contentment with motherhood.
I guess I wouldn’t be human (or honest) if I said I don’t judge at all. Honestly, it happens faster than lightning strikes, doesn’t it? I’ve just retrained my mind not to automatically make negative judgments and assumptions. Instead of spotting a misfit mother, I empathize with a mother who may have temporarily lost control of a situation and look for ways I can assist. Maybe open a door, hold a bag, head off a child at the pass…
So the next time you are on an airplane with a screaming baby or a two-year old fireball kicking your seat over and over and over … don’t think that you are not more annoyed than the parent is – because she’s annoyed and embarrassed. Don’t deem a mom a misfit for her children knocking over magazines at the doctors’ office. He’s tired and grumpy just like you but with no way to express it. And if the mom is ‘unfit’ (whatever that means to you) she has to deal with those kids much longer than you did.
Regardless moms, you and I will still be negatively judged. I take comfort in knowing that these are my kids, no one else has so much as volunteered to parent them (not that I would let them) and I am doing the best I can.
Besides, I am more accountable to God and my children than I am to anyone else’s opinions!