Monday, May 13, 2013

This mom's not judging you

A whopping 95 percent of moms feel negatively judged on their parenting decisions, finds The National Motherhood Decisions Survey. I heard about the results—based on responses from 1100 moms with kids ages 1 to 5—last week at the StrongMoms Empowerment Summit in New York, hosted by The Moms. The women polled felt judged on decisions including parenting approaches, work and feeding their babies.

It's shocking to hear that so many moms feel that way. Yes, there have been times I've felt judged by moms in Sabrina's circle, particularly one time in preschool when I showed up to an event late because of work and I got stares from a couple of moms. With Max, though, I can honestly say I've never felt judged that way. Maybe because I'm typically so immersed in helping him that I haven't noticed, but most likely because I get a pass from mothers of so-called typical kids—and special needs moms don't radiate that judgment vibe.

One of the many gifts Max has given me, including a more open mind and an intricate knowledge of all things Lightning McQueen, is a heightened sense of empathy. When I'm out and I see a kid melting down, I never assume the kid is a brat with an ineffective mom. I wonder if the kid has sensory issues, like Max does. I give that mom an I-know-how-it-goes smile. I am that mom. As for working moms, well, no judgment there because I'm one of them, and have been since Max was a baby. I work to earn an income for my family, I work because I like what I do, I work because it gives me life balance.

Oh, yeah, I have judgment in me. I disdain parents who freely curse around their kids, and I don't mean accidentally dropping an f-bomb, I mean as a regular part of conversation (weirdly, I've overheard a lot of that at Sesame Place). I flinch when I see kids on leashes/harnesses, though I realize that sometimes—especially for kids with special needs—it's for their own protection. And bad grammar bugs me (I'm an editor, I can't help it). But I'll never judge you for feeding your kids junk food, for snapping at them, for checking email while you're at the playground, for missing the school play, for using formula over breastfeeding or for other typical perceived mom "wrongs."

"There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one," said author Jill Churchill. There are a million ways to be a mediocre mother, too, and sometimes that's what we are. When we have nothing left in us to give, maybe we let our kids watch more TV than they should, we cave to their demands when we know we shouldn't, we make them go to sleep way early. Been there, done that. 

But typically, we do so much for our children, we care so deeply. This judgment thing would die down if more moms embraced empathy and one basic truth: We're just trying to do the best we can. 

Image: Flickr


  1. Delightful! I agree 100% And it is because of my son w/ ASD.

    I used to call them leashes too, until Luke. Then I started calling them hand-holders with one end connected to his belt loop and the other to mine. :-)

  2. Oh Ellen, this is wonderful and spot on as always! We ARE all just trying to do the best we can. Too bad society doesn't see that. It seems like all you ever hear about when there is a crime is what the parents did or didn't do. At some point the children had to make a choice as well. Hugs and happy Monday!

  3. Part of the problem is one common to women. Sometimes the judgment is a figment of our imagination -- someone smiles sympthetically and we read it completely wrong. Sometimes our biggest enemies are ourselves.

  4. I often feel like I'm the brunt of people's judgment. Maybe I'm misreading their thoughts and ideas, maybe not. But I AM doing by best.

  5. I do think that's one of the gifts of being a special needs mom. We get how things can appear one way but actually be totally different. We don't judge because we've been in those situations and know it's not as simple as "why doesn't that mom tell her child to stop?"

    We all have a gut reaction judgement about some things(for me, it's when kids are hitting/hurting other kids and the mom just lets it all go). But I know that I can choose how to handle that judgement- by leaving the situation, not tossing out parenting advice to someone who doesn't want it.

  6. Fascinating study! I think i'm also less judgmental because I have CP.

  7. Oh, I'm a graduate of the Baby Leash Club and it didn't affect me negatively at all. I was a determined and crafty runaway, and my mom says that if not for the leash, a diaper pin and a significant amount of duct tape, I'd be living feral in the woods right now. It really is the best thing sometimes, and apparently very convenient when walking your dog and your baby. But bad grammar will always get me, too. Come on, linguistic abusers, you can do better than that.

  8. Yes, my empathy has grown immeasurably. And
    for some reason, people give me credit for
    being less judgmental (seems like an zen benefit/
    response). And I just don't care about people
    judging, because who has time to spare? I don't
    carry a lot of guilt, another time saver.

  9. I once had four littles all with at least one issue. I was a single parent who would do anything to avoid taking them into public. I knew what would happen if I did-the staring, the whispering, the comments...I also had a child with an ASD who routinely wore a harness, an extra seat belt for the shopping cart, earplugs, and sunglasses when I had to take him out. There was a woman at a Safeway though who helped me cart my infant twins and my screaming two year old to the car one year. I cried. No-one in ten years had ever helped me. She told me she'd had twins who died in infancy. I let her hold mine. It was the least I could do for HER. I have dealt with judgement and I too have judged other moms. Especially the really foul mouthed ones who would cart their screaming kids through my checkout line at midnight. I guess we all have our pet peeves. I think having kids like mine has ramped up my tolerance.

  10. So loved this piece!
    I don't know why we do this to each other as mamas...
    I think you might like some of my recent posts on similar topics. Especially "I Will Not Judge Parenting"

  11. In our society there seems to be a one sided mentality. Judging others has become second nature and women are judged in almost every aspect of being especially is the way we raise our children. It's not a one size fit's all scenario. We all have different circumstances. I received and still receive negativity when I state that I have seven children and even more after people find out I have a child with SN. I have learned to ignore it but it does not make it right.


Thanks for sharing!

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