Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Judging Other Moms? Guilty As Charged

There was a recent article in USA Today that posed the question, "Why do mothers judge one another and their parenting?" There were a couple of very interesting and valid points raised in the article. First, I think that often modern mothers find themselves faced with unsolicited and unwanted advice, typically from older women who are often strangers. How many times have you been in the mall and had someone, apropos of nothin', ask you if your baby is sleeping through the night. For some reason, as a culture, we've come to equate "good sleeper" with "good baby" and "good mothering."  I think that for the most part, people mean well when they try to impart this advice on you, but it almost always comes across as mean-spirited. No one wants to feel backed into a corner, explaining or justifying their parenting techniques to a virtual stranger.

The article also talked about perceived judgment about choices that can leave other parents feeling bad about their parenting style. I can remember being at a play date with my son when he was about 7 months old with a few others moms who had babies the same age. We were talking about babies' eating habits and one mentioned that she put cereal in her daughter's bottles and the others chimed in that they did as well. I stayed silent, not wanting to seem critical, but it didn't matter. "Oh, you're one of those who doesn't put cereal in the bottle, huh?" she asked, and they all rolled their eyes. Simply by making a choice that is outside the norm, and which I suspect they knew at some level was a better choice, they felt I had judged them and so they judged me.

I'd like to think I've never done this. I try not to offer advice to anyone unless they ask. I've never corrected anyone who's given me bad advice. I usually just act dumb, smile and nod and get out of there as quickly as possible. I'm not a confrontational person at all in real life and scenarios like this make me very uncomfortable. But what I am guilty of is silently judging, which is why this clip from the Wendy Williams Show resonated with me.

If you're unable to watch the clip, Wendy says she knows she is judged for not breastfeeding her son and for being a work-out-of-the-home mother. She says she judges other moms, too, but always in her head. What will get you the side-eye from Wendy? Still allowing your toddler to sleep in your bed, not vaccinating, and homeschooling.

So although I will never say anything to you, I am probably judging you for some things. Like, if your kid is over the age of 2 and still has a pacifier in his mouth every time I see you. Or if you extol the virtues of using cry-it-out on your 3-month-old. Or if you're giving solids to a baby who's barely 2 months old.

And I know you're probably judging me too. Like when I let my kid drink out of my soda can or give him a Pop Tart (unfrosted!!!) as a snack. Or when you find out he's 2.5 and still breastfeeding or sleeping in our bed occasionally. And that's OK, just keep it to yourself.

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