Here is how it all started. One day I was in the park with my darling children when I noticed my 2 year old daughter, red cheeks and a bored expression. She was eyeing a 12 month old baby, who apparently had just been introduced to walking. I knew what was coming. Should I close my eyes? Before I could stop her, she was charging like a bull to red. He had no chance and was on the floor with my grinning daughter standing by his side. The mother of the baby rushed to her child’s side while I grabbed my daughter’s wrist, and told the mother I was sorry. It hurt me seeing my daughter act with no compassion, but it hurt even more when the mother asked me, “Do you discipline your child?”
I was talking to a friend about what had happened, and she responded confidently, “Well, I don’t judge mothers.” She then proceeded to tell me a story about how she was by a swimming pool, and a little boy pulled off his swimming diaper and started “pooing” on the side of the pool. One of her friends said, “Gross! How could his mother let that happen!” A different mom then said, “Well, I don’t judge mothers. I’m a mother and I know how hard it is sometimes.” My friend ended her story by telling me that after that day she decided not to judge another mother.
Honestly, people should just try and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but mothers, we are the easy targets. Have you ever had a completely random stranger come up to you and tell you, “put a hat on your baby”? Of course you have! How about, “You’re baby is hungry”? Definitely! Why do strangers care? It is not their baby. The fact is children are vulnerable and often helpless. People feel it’s their responsibility to step-in and help an apparently clueless mother.
Why do they think we are clueless? First of all, we may actually be clueless, but the fact is that most people can practice self-control over their embarrassing habits, their indulgences, their phobias and the like. Children do not practice any self-control. None. They don’t harbor any sense of embarrassment when it comes to their desires, regardless of how many people are watching. Just an example from today, a friend of mine’s daughter was running around the park without underwear or pants. The mother was mortified. Her 2 year old did not care at all. No shame my friend, no shame. In sum, mothers’ must bear the humiliation for their children’s impulsive actions.
Additionally, being a mother is hard, and life could get very hectic. Mothers are not perfect. We sometimes yell. We sometimes give-in to tantrums. We sometimes give our children animal crackers for dinner. We sometimes dress our children in mismatched socks. You know what? IT IS OKAY! The children will survive. They will grow up being functional human beings. Life will go on. Before you have children, though, you really don’t and can’t get it. I remember always judging my older sister’s parenting. I knew that when I would be a mother I was going to be soooo much better! Now, I have seen the light!
Suppose you are a mother and you have everything under control or almost under control. (Is that even possible?) Well, please bear in mind, dear mother, everyone’s circumstances are different. Finances may look different, family support may be different, and children’s temperaments’ may be different. Even a mother’s tolerance level may be very different! It’s all very hard to know what each mothers’ specific situation may be. I used to live a 5 minute drive away from my doting mother, and let me tell you, it’s a lot harder living a 10 hour plane ride away! Now I could finally relate to my old neighbors who were living without any nearby family. Bottom line, you can never compare yourself or your children to another person. Everyone’s situation is so vastly different.
When a mother is going through a rough moment with a child, they just want a kind friend. They want you to tell them that their child’s crazy behavior is totally normal and that they are doing a phenomenal job. They want you to infuse some humor into the situation. When my friend’s daughter was running around the park without panties, a woman walked past and said, “I’m going to go tell my boys that there is a cute blond in the park .” In the moment, my friend was stressed that her daughter would not cooperate with getting dressed. The woman’s comment showed that she was not judging, and she even made it humorous.
Let us be a friend to a mother, a helping-hand to a mother, and a shoulder to lean on for a mother. Please do not be a source of stress, a source of frustration, and a source of guilt. Don’t be that man in the store who says “tsk tsk” while a mother wrestles a pack of sour sticks out of her child’s hand. Don’t be that old lady in the park, who says “My children never kvetched when they were his age.” Don’t be that friend who says, “You must be so bored at home all day.” Or the friend who says, “How do you leave your child at day care all day?” Just be a friend, no judging. And the next time someone tries to speak negatively about another mother to you, just shrug and say, “I don’t judge other mothers”
Disclaimer: There are mothers that exist in the world who are legitimately not good mothers. These are mothers who are abusive to their children in anyway (sexual or physical) and/or are neglectful of their children’s basic needs (shelter, clothing, and/or food). If you know of children who are being abused by a parent in any of the above ways, be judgmental, and contact your local child protective services.