We’re all human and as human beings, even if we don’t mean to, we judge other people. We have our own ways of doing things and our own belief systems and its only natural to feel a certain way about people whose beliefs or way of doing things deviates from our own. We’re hard-wired to believe that our way of doing things is the best way of doing something or else we wouldn’t be doing it. Everyone judges others; some just do it in their heads while others do it out loud!
When it comes to parenting, the fact that there are so many differing expert opinions and schools of thoughts about so many subjects just means that there’s a ton of stuff that we can judge each other about. Moms who breastfeed look down on moms who formula feed and moms who formula feed scoff at moms that breastfeed past what they consider to be an appropriate age or in public. Stay at home moms question moms who work and spend all of those hours away from their little ones and moms who work, can’t wrap their heads around what they would do all day at home with a kid all day or think that stay at home moms aren’t maximizing their potential. Moms who make their own baby food are appalled by those who jar feed their babies and those that jar feed find it humorous that anyone would create so much extra work for themselves if they don’t have to.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s to use the word never very sparingly. There are so many things that I said I would NEVER do as a mom before having kids that I found myself doing. Right up until the minute that I had Sydney, I was adamant against co-sleeping and admittedly judged parents who co-slept. Sydney luckily sleeps pretty well in her bed but there have been many nights where she’s ended up sprawled in our bed and I 100% understand now how co-sleeping can become the norm. I was also certain that I wouldn’t breastfeed past a year. My actual goal was to breastfeed for 6 months, then take it month by month until max age one. In reality, Sydney didn’t take a bottle and ended up breastfeeding until 14 months old. Because I never thought I would breastfeed past age one, I looked at women that I saw with toddlers still addicted to boob in amazement only to become one of them! From the time I started my career, I just knew I would be one of those women who went into labor at work and returned promptly when my 3-month maternity leave was over but instead I ended up staying at home with Sydney for the first 14 months of her life.
Even if someone isn’t judging us out loud, as moms we’re always worried that someone will be. I live in a neighborhood that frowns on screen time and while I don’t put Sydney in front of the TV all day long, there are many times where Elmo has to come to the rescue so that I can get things done around the house! In the very beginning when I first started turning on the TV, I found myself drawing the shades in the living room before turning it on so that people walking by wouldn’t see. I was nervous about what they would think. I can’t count how many times I’ve been on a parenting thread and reading a post from a mom asking for help that starts off with “No judgments please” because she’s afraid that instead of getting the help that she’s seeking, she’ll get reprimanded for not doing things the “right way”. There are many moms who won't seek help at all because of this fear which means that rather than finding support and solidarity from other moms that may be dealing with the same issue, she instead ends up suffering alone and feels isolated. When I first had Sydney, I was sleep deprived and miserable. I didn't bond with her immediately and many times wondered what was wrong with me that I didn't feel as if this teeny human was the best thing that ever happened to me because everything I'd seen on TV, on social media and from my friends and family told me that that was how you were supposed to feel. I was terrified that if I told anyone how I really felt, they would think I was a terrible mother only to find out as I did begin to open up about my feelings that that's how many women feel in those early days.
Being a parent is not a black and white situation where there’s a right or a wrong and there’s already so much uncertainty around being a parent without always having to second guess whether or not what you’re doing is right or worry about whether or not someone is looking down on you because you’re not following whatever manual they’re following. A fed baby is what’s important, not whether that milk is breast milk or formula or homemade baby food versus jar food. A mom that works full time does not love their child any less than a mom that stays at home and a mom that stays at home can be just as content and fulfilled as a mom that works a 9 to 5. Parenting is possibly the hardest job that any of us will ever have. It’s literally 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with no vacations, no sick days and often supervised bathroom breaks! Parenthood is rough and we’re all really just trying to survive, especially in those early days, weeks, months and years. Some days we feel as if we’re completely conquering parenting and other days we feel as if we’re failing miserably. For every person that we judge, there’s somewhere out there that’s judging us. As a parenting community, instead of judging our fellow parents and condemning them for doing things the way that we would do it, we would all be stronger if we showed a little less judgment and a little more empathy and kindness.