Are you familiar with the Mom Rules? You know, the ones I made up? In this flashback post I’m advising that we all take a nice long break from comparing ourselves to other moms, real or imagined. You know this stuff. I know this stuff. Reminders are still needed around here.
I wanted to smack her in the head, maybe throw some sand in her face, but of course I didn’t. I don’t do things like that. I smile and nod.
Another mom at the park just suggested I take a parenting class. She shook her head while eyeing the Butterfly, then three, lying in the sand at the playground, throwing a fit. It was a little extreme, but that’s my middle daughter’s way. She may float like a butterfly, but she stings like a bee. And kicks like a billy goat (so look out).
I knew what needed to be done. I needed to pick her up carefully so her kicking legs faced away from me and carry her up the massive hill that leads to the parking lot. I didn’t need a parenting class. On this particular day, it was 90 degrees in the shade. I was seven months pregnant, fighting a headache and wearing flip flops. I needed a forklift, a magic carpet maybe, to get us up that hill.
This event led to the creation of my personal rule: Thou Shall Not Judge another Mother. It comes right after Speak No Words Before Consuming Morning Coffee and before Running Up and Down the Stairs to Fetch Things Counts as Exercise.
We’ve all been caught in the trap of thinking we know better than the mom standing next to us. The judging began in the delivery room (remember the Apgar test?) and unfortunately it goes on, blossoming into competitiveness and comparisons. Stay-at-home moms judge working moms; working moms judge stay-at-home moms. Strict parents criticize lenient parents; lenient parents think strict parents are too uptight. Private school parents judge public school parents. A mom in the grocery store with a freshly scrubbed, well behaved child judges the mom with the kids hanging out of the cart screaming for chocolate.
The mom with the screaming kids doesn’t have time to judge. She prays that she can make it out of the store without crying. She hopes she can get home before the dog has an accident on the carpet or her toddler throws-up in the car from sneaking candy. I speak from experience.
It’s exhausting for all of us. We judge and compare ourselves to the perfect mother – the one that only truly exists in our own minds.
Many years have passed since that day in the park, yet I’m still shocked when I am openly criticized by another mother and it still happens. Sometimes, I smile and nod. Sometimes, (because I used up all of my patience in my first 40 years on this planet) I say, “I know what’s best for my kids, but thanks.” Then I walk away and don’t look back.
And I check myself often to make sure that I’m not treating other people like that judgy know-it-all mom in the park.
When I see another mom struggling, I don’t offer up the parenting class suggestion. I listen. I commiserate. I try to make her laugh about it.
The reality? Some kids are easy to manage and others are born screamers. Some won’t sleep through the night until they’re five. Some kids can handle middle school bullies with ease while others simply cannot. And sometimes, often (are you listening?) their behavior has nothing to do with your parenting style or mine.
It’s going to be okay. Even the talented tantrum masters will outgrow their sandbox antics. Eventually, they will put their energy into something more productive (like my soap box rants).
Want to know the saddest thing about all of this? In the midst of all this judging, competing and comparing, we’re missing out on an opportunity. We could be listening. We could be supportive. And cheesy as it may sound, we could be making a friend.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”