I have something to admit: I used to be a little judgmental.
Then I became a mother, and everything I thought I knew about families was thrown right out the window. Talk about a rude awakening.
Sadly, that was also the time I became keenly aware of the level of judgment mothers face in today’s society. It’s harsh out there, sisters. And the worst part is a lot of that judgment seems to happen between moms.
Can you imagine what would happen if we could put all that energy spent on judging each other into something more productive, like lifting each other up? Whoa.
So in the spirit of solidarity, I have compiled a list of ten judgmental comments I am quite tired of hearing, in the hopes that we can start letting some of these ideas go. Maybe then we can begin to focus more on commonality rather than divide.
1. “I don’t think she tried hard enough to have a natural birth/breastfeed.”
Whether it comes to birthing, breastfeeding or any other parental endeavor, it’s important to realize that “trying hard enough” is different for everybody. Everyone’s lives and priorities are unique. We all have our own stress and pain thresholds. One person may have access to better health care or support systems than another, making it easier to meet intended goals.
So when I give it my all, it may look very different than when you do. We should be celebrated for doing our personal best, not torn down for failing to meet other people’s expectations.
2. “She’s too young/too old to become a mother.”
It’s easy to get swept up in statistics and stereotypes such as “young mothers are too immature to raise a child” or “it’s selfish to get pregnant that late in life.”
But deciding what kind of parent someone will be – or whether she should even be a parent at all – based on her age is placing value on the wrong thing. Every woman has her own journey into motherhood. Our circumstances vary widely, and pointing a disapproving finger in another’s direction helps no one.
Regardless of when we become mothers, unconditional love for our children is universal. With that love and the right support, mothers of all ages can thrive in their new role.
3. “She has no control over that child!”
A couple of my children have had the distinct ability to morph from calm tiny person to angry wolverine in 0.8 seconds. There is no time to pass “go” or collect $200; it is a straight shot to Tantrum Land.
When this has happened, I have employed communication skills that would impress most hostage negotiators. But even my best parenting tools have sometimes failed to calm Hurricane Toddler. This has taught me that, as parents, we are not “in control” of our kids. They are their own people with their own personalities. We can guide, encourage and teach them. But we don’t control them.
All kids are different, and some techniques for staving off angry wolverine mode work better with one child than another. If someone close to you is having a tough time helping their children manage moods, some supportive conversations and a big hug might be just what they need.
4. “She spends too much time online.”
Mothers go online for many different reasons, from recipes to research. But if I could guess the main one, it would be to seek connection. We need to connect with people, which can become more of a challenge with a new baby and/or multiple children to care for in the home. So, for many of us, the internet becomes our lifeline.
It might be easy to look at a mother’s Facebook activity and think she does nothing else with her time, but we are inherently great at multitasking. I don’t know about you, but I can fry eggs and breastfeed and sing a nursery rhyme and send a tweet at the same time.
Of course, just like anything, it is possible to go online too much, at the expense of other responsibilities. But I like to give others the benefit of the doubt, as I would hope they give me. I am generally doing two or three things for my family while simultaneously updating a Facebook status.
5. “She needs to put that baby down before she spoils it.”
It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: you really can’t spoil a baby.
Parents have been wearing their wee ones for generations. Most babies thrive when in arms. They’re happier, more social and get a great view of the world they’re rapidly learning all about. And a happier baby means a happier and more productive mom.
Believe me, when babies are ready to explore the world more often on their own, they will let you know. You can’t hold back instinct! Until then, a carrier or a strong pair of arms will not turn a child into a self-entitled monster.
6. “Can you believe she’s going out without the baby already?”
I didn’t leave the house without my firstborn until he was five months of age. But by the time my third child was a few weeks old, I would often rush off to the grocery store or grab a coffee in between evening nursing sessions for a little “baby-free” time.
Did that make me a bad parent? I don’t think so. I love my children tremendously. I also need some time away from them for my sanity.
As I mentioned earlier, we all have our own stress thresholds. A stressed-out mom is an unhappy mom. Sometimes sitting alone in a café and reading a magazine for a few minutes is all it takes to melt that stress away.
7. “I wouldn’t let my child be a picky eater like that.”
Children refuse foods for a variety of reasons. Mine just really hates broccoli, but yours might have a sensory issue or a food sensitivity.
Sure, it’s important kids try new foods. It can take a few attempts before a child realizes they like a food’s taste or texture. But studies have shown that selective eating is largely genetic. All we can do is keep gently introducing (and re-introducing) new foods and hope for the best. As they get older, many children develop a taste for things they disliked before.
No one is a bad mother because their child doesn’t like mushrooms. I still don’t like them, and my mom is pretty great.
8. “My house wasn’t that messy when I had a baby.”
But you didn’t have this baby. Maybe this baby is colicky, or doesn’t sleep as well as yours did. Maybe her parents are exhausted, or her mother is battling postpartum depression. Maybe they have no family or friends nearby to help out during this big adjustment period.
Or maybe their priorities are different than yours, and they would rather spend that precious naptime drinking tea than scrubbing floors. Having different priorities is perfectly okay. And as you can see by the spaces featured in this post, messy is the new black.
Put your feet up if you need to, moms. The floors can wait another day.
9. “They’re not financially stable enough to have kids.”
“Financially stable” means different things to different people. For some, it merely involves having a roof over one’s head and food on the table. For others, it involves home ownership, college savings and yearly vacations.
People were having children well before we had mortgages or tuition funds. And while having those things can certainly help, they aren’t strictly necessary to raising healthy and happy human beings.
Besides, we can be as financially prepared as we had planned and still get stricken with illness or company downsizing. There are no guarantees in life. All we can do is our best in the moment with what we have. But good parenting should never be equated with how much – or how little – is in someone’s bank account.
10. “She’s just not mother material.”
What does this even mean when someone doesn’t measure up to our ideas of motherhood? Is she not warm enough? Calm enough? Confident enough? Educated enough?
Women friends have surprised me time and time again with how they take on motherhood, and have taught me that I am a poor judge of what makes a good parent. Children change us; they often make us warmer, more compassionate, less selfish people. They push us beyond our comfort zone, and introduce us to a love we’ve never experienced before.
So before you pass judgment on a woman, give her time to blossom in her motherhood. She might just be the one you go to for advice someday.