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.