If I could, I would take judgement right out of our language and actions. I would like to see parents cheering each other on and supporting one another. I would like to see grandparents telling their kids what great parents they are. I would like to see friends uplifting each other and noticing the good.
Everyone has an opinion and a judgement. I noticed this when Seth and I got engaged and everyone had an opinion about our wedding. It only got worse when I got pregnant and gave birth to our first child Max. I was getting opinions from people left and right. I would end up feeling overwhelmed and confused at times because there were so many people coming at me with something to say. People weren’t letting me find my own way. They weren’t letting me make my own decisions and come up with my own ways of doing things with my newborn. I wanted to follow my own instincts and knowledge and do what I felt was best for my child. I wanted people to back off.
I remember one mother I know randomly coming up to me at a class and telling me not to let Max’s schedule rule my life. Her fourth baby was fast asleep in a stroller at the class. She told me Max needed to learn to nap wherever I was and that it would make him be a flexible person.
Another mom at a later date told me that I needed to put Max on a strict schedule. I needed to make sure he had the same nap times, same bath time, same feeding times and same bedtime every day. She told me that kids thrive on structure. For the record, I don’t remember asking either of these moms for their advice.
Let’s move on to nursing. I had some moms tell me that nursing was the only way to go. I had other moms see me nursing and tell me that they didn’t know why or how I was doing that and encouraged me to bottle feed Max. They didn’t want me to feel pressure to nurse (the hospital does give you a lot of pressure), but I really wanted to nurse my babies.
Let’s move on to diapers. I had no idea how many choices there were until I had a baby. People would tell me that their diaper is the best diaper and I must switch Max to that diaper. I had some people tell me that I should be using cloth diapers. Why do mothers feel that they can “should” all over other mothers? How is that ok?
Let’s move on to school. I remember when Max was two years old mothers were telling me that I should be putting him into preschool. There is that shoulding again. I enjoyed my time with my baby home with me. He was only two and people were pressuring me to put him in school. Then everyone had an opinion about where the best preschool was for him! I remember telling people that I wanted to start at a co-op preschool and that the model seemed best suited for my family. I remember so many mothers disagreeing with me. Again, I don’t remember asking any of them for their opinions. Have you ever noticed that people give you their opinion when you didn’t ask them for it? This is a big lesson for me. I have really tried to learn to be quiet with my own thoughts and opinions unless someone directly asks me for it. I have also learned that people want you to reassure them that they are making their own good decisions and I try to encourage people the best I can. I try to remember that it’s not about what’s best for me. Is what this person is choosing the best decision for them and their family?
Seth really wanted me to go back to work when I had Max and I really wanted to stay home with him. The opinions were out of control as we made the decision for me to stay home. When you have a grandparent available to watch your child for free or for a discounted price that’s one situation. I was essentially going to go back to work to pay for day care. This just made me want to cry daily and I did.
I had a really good job that I loved, and people were very judgemental about me leaving that job. “How could I possibly give that up?” people would ask me. “You went to school for six years and worked for 7 more to earn this spot. How are you just going to step away from this? Don’t you want to show your children your success? Don’t you think that you should contribute to your family financially?“ I’m not even remembering all the judgemental opinions people were throwing at me.
The stay at home mom vs. the working mom is the biggest judgemental conversation that I would love to put an end to. I have heard it all. I have heard stay at home moms judge working moms for so many reasons. “Don’t they want to make sacrifices to be home with their children? I did,” they would say. “Don’t you think your children come before a career. Do you really need to work? How do leave your kids so long?” I have heard it all.
The working mom will say to the stay at home mom “Don’t you want to be a good example for your daughters to be successful in the work force and be able to take care of herself? How do you rely so much on your husband I would hate that? What do you mean you have to ask before you buy that? Aren’t you bored at home? I hate staying home all day with my kids.” I can’t tell you the lists of things I have had working moms say to me. They can’t believe I gave up my career. However, my dream job was to be mother. Everyone doesn’t feel that way. We are all different. It is ok to be different and want different things. I also feel like I have used my social work degree every day. My children, husband, parents, friends all benefit from my social work skills.
I told a couple of my friends that I am super happy with my decisions and how my life worked out and they seemed surprised. As women, I would love to see us realize that there isn’t a right or wrong to most things. I am just as guilty. I remember wondering how my friends went back to work. That didn’t work for me. It is not what I wanted, but it was what they wanted or needed to do. My mom told me she didn’t like staying home with us. She said she was really bored. She went back to work and was happier.
The opinions and judgements don’t seem to stop in any area of life. People judge dance studios, soccer teams, theater groups, schools, colleges, classes, cars, restaurants, the list goes on and on and on. I see it happening around me every day. I will watch a friend say something and will then watch another friend share her opinion that wasn’t asked for. I should be used to this dialogue, but it still blows my mind. The friend was looking for encouragement, or support, or a listening ear, not for your opinion. There are plenty of times I ask people for their opinion. I just want to challenge you to pay attention to what the person is sharing and what you think they need from you. I realized the other day that a woman just wanted me to listen. She wasn’t asking me for my advice or opinion, she was asking me to listen to her. She wanted to feel heard and understood. I mistook her reaching out to me as needing advice but that’s not at all what she was looking for from me.
The latest judgement in my life is mothers telling me how much that their children do for themselves. “My kids all do their own laundry. They also fold it and put it away in their drawers. What do you mean you pack their lunches? My kids pack their lunches every morning. Don’t you want your kids to be more independent? Don’t you want to teach your kids more life skills? You better start teaching them. Do they know how to cook anything?” The judgements go on and on and on. What a terrible mother I am for making my children’s lunches every day. I do their laundry. What a crime! When Ella hands me her backpack that is heavier than her to carry, I know you judgemental parents want me to give it back to her and make her carry it herself. How about if I just be me? My mom packed my lunch and did my laundry forever and I turned out ok. I know how to cook and do laundry now. “Children are more successful adults if they do a lot of chores,” they tell me. How about this. My children go to school, go to activities, do their homework, and help me a little bit around the house. Could they do more? Absolutely. However, how about if we stop judging each other?
What I would love to see us all do is lift each other up. Let’s notice things that we see others doing well and point them out. Let’s focus on strengths. Let’s not put people down to make ourselves feel better.
I am going to tell Seth (husband) something that he does well five times tomorrow!
When I see my friend’s tomorrow, I am going to notice their strengths and point them out. I am going to pay attention when they talk to me in regards to what they need from me. I am going to keep myself in check and offer my opinions when they are asked of me.
Let’s make fellow parents feel good about themselves and not bring people down. Let’s lift people up and for the love of G-D let us stop the stay at home mom vs. the working mom saga. There isn’t a contest or debate. Different strokes for different folks. Go do what is best for you and your family. I won’t judge you.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R