Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The No Judgment Challenge

Sometimes, it seems like motherhood is more of a competition than anything else. A panel of highly-trained, self-righteous judges (i.e., other moms) watching our every move, giving our every decision (and children's every action) a score -- lack of consistent discipline. 3.2, children displaying a nice use of table manners, 9.8, and so on.

I don't know why it is, but we mothers tend to judge each other (and ourselves) so harshly. Do you prepare nothing but organic, healthy, snacks for your children or do you let the processed, bagged crackers find their way into your kids' hot little hands? How many activities (and which ones) are your kids enrolled in? Do you vaccinate? Do you believe in circumcision? How well-behaved are your children? How clean is your house? What were their Halloween costumes? Were they homemade? If so, did you make them, or did you pawn the job off on some granny? How much time and effort did you put into planning their birthday parties? And on, and on, and on the list goes. Read the comments on most any parenting article and you'll see...

Recently, I read an article in the Huffington Post about why moms judge. It was a fascinating read and I thought the author had a lot of good points -- mainly, that we judge primarily due to our own insecurities. We all question whether or not we're doing things right and sometimes, to validate our choices, we judge. The author's New Year resolution was to stop judging other moms. Hooray!

I've found that the longer I've been in this mothering game, the less judgmental I've become. Before I had kids, I was probably a bit smug and thought I had all of the answers. My house will never look like a toy store (full of cheap, plastic toys from Oriental Trading Company) exploded all over it, because I will insist that my kids put away one toy before getting the next one out (besides, we'll only have wonderful, educational toys -- probably made in Sweden, in our house, guaranteed to stimulate brain development and imagination). Today, my house routinely looks as though it's been ransacked by the most destructive of thieves. My kids will be well-behaved because I will have clear expectations and consistent discipline methods. Today, I try my best, but the reality is, sometimes I'm tired and let things slide, sometimes, despite my best efforts, they still act up or go through difficult phases. My kids won't be picky eaters, because I will expose them to a variety of foods early on. In reality -- There's jarred baby food with tastes and flavors from around the world. When I gave this to my daughter, who was just a little over a year old at the time, she spit it out and made the most disgusted face ever. My kids have a traditional, toddler tendency towards chicken nuggets and mac & cheese.

The more time I spend on the frontlines, the more I recognize that we all enter this game with a different set of circumstances. Our kids' personalities being a big one. The amount of help we have around the house and with the kids, being another. In the article, the author talks about what a difficult time we have putting ourselves in others' shoes. This is so true -- outside of motherhood, we all have different stresses, obligations and concerns, all of which impact not just our parenting, but our judgments of others. We never know what really goes on behind closed doors.

So, while I feel like I'm less judgmental than I used to be, I'm by no means perfect. I often find myself thinking thoughts like "Well, of course she can do ___, she has it so easy." Or, "I can't believe she did X, that's ridiculous." However, I want to take the challenge and make a conscious effort to stop (or at least severely reduce) the amount of judging I do this month. The truth is, most of us judge ourselves so harshly, we don't need anyone else to do it for us. When I feel those judgy moments coming on, I'm going to do my best to stop them. It's time that I try to be the change I want to see in the world. Anyone else with me?

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