May 14, 2014

The One Doing the Judging Is You

How often do we talk about the Mommy Wars? How often do we feel judged because we didn’t do something others did? Or did it too much? Or didn’t do it the same way? All the ways in which we feel judged have become exhausting.

This morning I read a new comment on a Facebook inquiry I’d posted to get some information on a new baby carrier. The people who had responded so far had been polite and helpful. The new comment blasted us for being judgmental of how other people use baby carriers. It was a “This makes me sick. Why can’t we all just get along?” sort of comment. The thing is, no one had said anything negative against other moms or even really against the carrier in question. We’d speculated on why the manufacturer made some changes, and someone who had tried the carrier commented that it wasn’t as comfortable as the old version.

I was honestly rather amused at this sudden “drama” over something pretty simple. It also gave me an A-ha moment. None of us had been intentionally judgmental, but this mom felt judged, not because of anything we said or did, but most likely because she was feeling insecure. The person who did the judging was her! She judged herself, using others as scapegoats.

Now, I don’t know this woman, and this post is not about her. It’s about all of us. We have all had these moments when we take innocent opinions or observations and turn them into judgments against ourselves. We put H into preschool pretty early, even though she was our only at the time. It was a decision we made for a lot of reasons, but most importantly, it worked for us. It made sense for our individual family. When we first moved here I ran into a lot of moms with kids H’s age, but many of those kids were younger siblings. These moms were at home with their youngest in a lot of these cases, and I heard a lot of talk saying, “I just can’t see sending Susie Q to preschool, because if I do, then why am I staying home?” or “I just really want another year at home with little Bertie before pre-K.” These are valid opinions. These women had different families from me. They were not super-subtle attempts to tell me that I was a lousy mother because not only was my three-year-old in preschool three full days a week, but she’d done two half-days the year before. Yet every once in a while, it did feel like judgment—because my decision was different from their decisions and because I was occasionally conflicted over my own decisions.

Some of the hottest topics that make moms feel most judged are the same ones that many of us can easily feel conflicted over: where we give birth, how we give birth, if we breast feed, how long we breast feed, if we work, if we stay home, etc. Every mother at some time has been carrying insecurities about her decisions on these topics. When she hears other moms expressing themselves on how they’ve done something and why, it can be easy to take the leap from intellectually understanding that the other moms are expressing opinions to emotionally responding to difference with defensiveness. From there it’s a tiny baby step to, “She’s judging me.”

There are of course times when people say mean things, on purpose, to judge and hurt others. That is clearly not ok, and hopefully we all avoid those people because they’re no good as friends. But the next time we read something on Facebook or a blog or hear something in person and we start to feel judged (or have someone accuse us of doing the judging), let’s all take a breath and a step back and ask ourselves, “How do I feel about this topic? Am I at peace with my decision? Does this person I’m in conversation with seem at peace?” If someone is not secure in themselves, then they’re going to be defensive, they’re going to lash out. It’s probably not personal. It’s a reaction we all have to protect our families.

The best thing we can do is to acknowledge the unrest in our own souls and grant grace to the unrest in others. We cannot grow, or get to that place of peace, while we hold on to our insecurities. Explore them. Ask questions. Discuss. You may learn something new that changes your mind or you may find that you are re-affirmed in your decision. Either way, choose discussion and fellowship—not judgment.

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