Monday, September 14, 2009

Throwing Stones at Glass Houses...or Something

Well, it's been longer than I had intended since my last post. I vowed to update at least three times a week, and I'm already slacking. I have my reasons. Let's just say all that optimism that was oozing from my breastfeeding post has since disappeared, and we will be starting Project Wean presently. I'll talk about that next time. Right now I simply can't discuss my breasts any more than I already have these last few days.

Instead I would like to discuss something that has been weighing on my mind lately, and that, my friends, is being judgmental. It's a dirty word, sure, but one that I will freely admit describes me and, I think, if we're all honest, all of us.

I'm thinking specifically about the way we judge parents, and maybe especially mothers. We all know better, don't we? We know that that child is far too old to still be sporting that "binky". We know that the woman peeling her screaming toddler off the floor is a lousy mother. We know which babies are dressed too warmly, which ones are freezing, and which ones need a hat. We know who should be breastfeeding and who's been breastfeeding too long or not long enough. We know when it's time for mommies to go back to work and when they're abandoning their children by doing so.

We're just so damn smart, aren't we?

I'm guilty. In fact, I may just be the biggest offender I know. It didn't matter that I didn't have kids. I knew exactly what everyone around me was doing wrong, and I knew exactly how I would do it differently. It wasn't until I had Charlotte that I realized what you intend to do, isn't necessarily what you end up doing. I recently polled some mothers I know, asking them to tell me what they, as parents, have found themselves doing even though they swore they never would. Some said they didn't think they would be as paranoid about germs and other kids as they turned out to be. Some (including myself) thought they'd never let their kids sleep in bed with them. And, others never thought they would tell their kids to "shut up" or utter the dreaded "Because I said so". And I wonder how many of us criticized other people for doing what we ultimately would end up doing?

So, why do we do it? Well, I'm no psychologist, but I'm willing to venture a couple guesses. Firstly, and maybe most obviously, we do it because we're insecure. I might not have lost my baby weight, but at least I don't let my kids watch so much television. I may not keep my house clean enough, but at least I'm not that woman spanking her kid in Target. And so on. We might not be the best parents, but at least we're not those parents. And, hell, we don't even have to be parents to fall victim to this. Personally, I think I was so hard on the moms I encountered pre-baby because I wanted to be one so badly.

Another reason we play the judgmental game is that, well, not all judgement is bad. Face it. In this world, there is right and there's wrong. When we see a child being emotionally or physically abused, we judge. And hopefully, we also take action. Even on a less severe note, when we see kids being ignored, abundantly indulged and spoiled, or undisciplined, we notice. And we judge.

And finally, though not many of us would be willing to admit this, we judge because it's fun. Come on, who doesn't get a little thrill rehashing the parental crimes of Britney Spears or the Gosselins? We live in a tabloid society, where you may be fat, but not as fat as Kirstie Alley. I might be a bitch, but not like Lindsay Lohan. We thrive on the failures of others; it's entertaining as hell. Is this healthy? Probably not. Are we going to stop reading about the drug problems, affairs, weight gains, and the like while waiting in the checkout line? Of course not.

But, that doesn't mean we can't try to be a little more open-minded. A very pretty and youthful friend once told me that whenever she is out with her one-year old daughter she invariably gets an incredulous, "You're her mother?". They assume that she's a high school student and therefore far too young to be a mother. Now, she says she thinks twice before shaking her head at the teenage moms in the mall. Partially because they may not be as young as they seem. And also because, even if they are, she knows what it's like to get those dirty looks. And it doesn't feel good.

The fact is, we don't really know anything about the people we see. We really don't know how we would behave if we were in their situation. And we have to accept that even though there is right and wrong in this world, telling the difference is a tricky business sometimes. So, I'm suggesting that we watch the amount of vitriol we spew when we see or hear about something we don't like. This doesn't mean that I won't roll my eyes when I see someone buying a candy bar to suppress a tantrum. It just means that I'll roll my eyes, then admit that maybe that will be me someday. Because I'm having a horrible day and have a migraine and still have to pick up the dog from the vet and make a science project and my kid is screaming and everyone is looking and FINE. HERE. Have the damn candy bar. You know? It's not the right thing to do, but maybe I slipped. It happens.

I admittedly won't totally kick this most toxic of habits, but then again, maybe a little judgement helps keep up in check. Maybe seeing others do "bad" things reminds us not to do those same things. Maybe speaking your mind when you see something you don't agree with will help someone see the light. Or maybe we should just all keep our mouths shut. You be the judge. Ha!


  1. Very well said.

    I think you are totally right about why we judge. And how we likely won't stop. I think part of the battle is trying to keep it to ourselves. It is one thing to think those thougths and an other when you get stopped in the mall by someone who felt the need to 'share' with you a little piece of 'advice.' Or someone writing a blog about how everyone who doesn't parent like they do must be damaging their child. That is the kind of judgement I would like to see go.

    And the stuff we keep to ourselves- maybe you are right that it helps keep us in check and honest with ourselves- in which case that is not a bad thing at all.

  2. Man, that attitude to which you're referring about how we're damaging our children by not doing it a certain way...that is the WORST.

    Just today, I saw something on Twitter where a woman was saying that if all babies were breastfed and not circumcised, it would save the world. Are you kidding me? AND she said that detachment practices lead kids to have all kinds of emotional problems. I get really touchy about the CIO issue. I TRIED to co-sleep. For a while, that was the only way she would sleep. But once she decided it was time to hang out and party all night in our bed, I had to move her to her crib, for everyone's sanity. But that makes me "cruel" and a "child abuser" according to some of these women.

    It makes me sick. And it hurts my feelings. And it needs to stop.

    Anyway, enough anger. Thanks for the comment!