Judging Mothering

Lots of people talk about feeling judged about the way they parent.  I really rarely ever feel judged as a mother. No one has ever made me feel bad about what I was feeding my kids, or what our sleep arrangements are, or how I discipline, or what kind of shoes they have on their feet. I know the stereotype is supposed to be how we are all constantly attacked and made to feel bad about our parenting, but I haven’t been, and I don’t.

However, I feel guilty about my shortcomings all of the time.  I sometimes feel that I’m a lousy mother.  But I feel that way because that’s my personality — I fully intended to be a perfect mother, and am shocked to have discovered I’m not, not nearly.  I have a very opinionated neighbor friend mom, who on a recent playdate brought her kid’s own snack — apples and almonds — and I thought it was perhaps because last time I let them have cookies.  And it would have been easy to feel guilty or judged.  But instead I laughed and said “Is that because I gave them cookies last time?”  And she laughed and said no, it’s because her daughter always eats hosts out of house and home and unashamedly begs for food, so she brings her own, extra, to try to head off the embarrassment of having a starving child.

There are a few things everyone is sensitive about.  I’ve had the comments in the grocery store about how my baby is going to fall out of the cart on her head if I’m not more careful.  I’ve had compliments in the same grocery store about how I dealt with my child’s request for candy (I said no, and laughed when she asked a second time).   I am sensitive about breastfeeding in public these days, since my child is 18 months old and can clearly request which breast she wants and also does the uncovering/covering by herself.  Which, to me, just means it is time to wean the baby.

I know moms feel judged if they don’t breastfeed, and I wish they didn’t.  And those whose kids have special needs or behavioral issues (or just bad days) feel judged for their ill-behaved children.  But really, I wish everyone could grow thicker skin and parent with more confidence.  Ask for advice, sure.  Accept it or not.  But then move ahead, knowing we’re the best moms we can be.



2 thoughts on “Judging Mothering”

  1. Congratulations – you made a conscious choice to become a parent. This is far better, I am sure, than feeling trapped by your circumstances. I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Fear of feeling judged is such a common thing, and it stops us being honest & getting the support we need when the going is rough…
      I think the way you turn it around to being ‘guilt’ about our shortcomings (i.e. our mere humanity) is positive and helpful, although I’m not so sure about the term ‘guilt’… It’s so linked to blame, it comes straight back to being judged. Maybe we can just call it feeling sensitive – it is value-free and more open to change more than guilt.
      The bottom line is that we have to model for our children that people can be critical, or unintentionally hurtful, and we dont have to be floored by it.

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