Last week one of my amazing supporters asked a great question, “why are moms so quick to judge other moms?” While I did answer her with my opinion in my last Q&A, I would like to dive more in depth into it. Mom shaming or judgement from other parents is something we’ve all had to deal with at one point or another. Why? Let’s find out.
Judging, we all do it whether we do it intentionally or not. We judge through comments on posts or videos. Muttering under our breath. Talking behind someone’s back. Thinking to ourselves. Judging the judgers and their comments on posts or videos. It happens sometimes without a thought. I try very hard not to, but I did it just the other day. The incident we now call the slap heard across the store. My husband and I were at the store one morning. There was a mom with a screaming toddler (maybe 2). I didn’t think much about it. Some days are harder than others and I don’t know if her little one is sick or what was going on. Then we heard it, the loud slap of a hand, skin to skin from 3 aisles away. For a moment there was silence and the child screamed even harder. “Yeah like that’s going to help anything. That poor child.”
Yes those were the words that came out of my mouth to my husband. My brain didn’t even have time to process them they came out so fast. I had judged another mother without knowing the situation. Without knowing anything about them. Without knowing what was going on. I try so hard not to judge others for anything, especially mothers. Here I was though judging without knowing anything. I don’t support hitting children. While some consider spanking as appropriate and some don’t, spanking and hitting a child are completely different. So here I was doing the one thing I despise seeing other moms doing and it was almost if I had no control. It would have been so easy to just mind my own business.
According to scientists, we are hardwired to make moral judgements. Is that why I was so quick with my judgement? They say it feels good to feel better than someone. That wasn’t the case in this situation for me. My heart broke for that child that has just slapped. My motherly instinct to protect had kicked in, but that child wasn’t mine to protect and I didn’t even know the situation. Scientists also say judging others in certain social circles gives us an evolutionary edge, if you will, giving us a higher status by tearing others down. Essentially judging and tearing others down makes us the cool kids. (It really doesn’t though.) Society’s idealization of motherhood and how mothers should be makes us vulnerable to being judged and being the judger. We have this idea of how mothers should be and we expect every mother to live up to that expectation.
Judging others reflects how we feel about our own mothering. By putting others down we feel better because it makes up feel closer to the idealized mother society expects and portrays. Often times we believe that our methods of mothering are better than others and everyone else should be doing the same things we are. What people fail to understand is what works for them may not work for others. Every child is different and they have different needs. Judging others may also create a sense of belonging. If we are with a group and they are judging someone, by joining in we fit in. And it shines light on our own insecurities. Our self esteem as is affected by how we fell we’re doing as mothers. We react defensively when others question our choices or methods of parenting.
Mothers that are shamed are more likely to shame others. It’s a vicious cycle or being shamed, seeing the shamer fit in, shaming yourself to fit in….rinse and repeat. Being kind takes more work and energy than following along with the shaming. Imagine being in the grocery store. You see a mother with a well behaved child standing in line and another mother with a toddler all over the place a few people up in line. The mother with the well behaved child looks at you and rolls her eyes at you as if to say “do you see that?” It’s easier to smile at the mother rolling her eyes as if in agreement or to be polite than it is to go up to the other mother and offer help or stand up for her letting the judging mother know she has no idea what’s going on and she should mind her own business. Thus sending us into the judgement zone.
How can you help or stop yourself from judging others? Don’t hang around with people that are judging others. Stand up and put in the extra effort to tell people it’s not okay to judge another parent. Put yourself in the shoes of the mother being judged, whether by yourself or someone else. How would you feel? If you are the one judging, stop and ask yourself why you feel that way. Ask yourself if there is more to their actions than you can see. Ask whether what you are saying or feeling is beneficial to anyone. We just have to put in the little bit of extra effort to check ourselves and others to end the cycle of judgement and shaming.
If you’re being judged, remember the criticism isn’t personal. If may stem from their own insecurities as a mother. You’re doing the best you can and you’re doing just fine. There’s no handbook for everything in this motherhood journey and there never will be. Everything changes so fast from day to day it’s hard to keep up. Motherhood is hard. Nothing is made easier by criticizing or judging others. We are on this motherhood journey together, let’s make it as easy as possible for those around us. Put the judgments, shame, and criticism aside and help when we can. Offer advice, tell of a time you were in the same situation, offer a smile. It’s that simple. Do better. Be better.