Giving Ourselves and Each Other a Break

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of blog posts going around about times when moms have felt judged by other moms. There have been a myriad of reasons—picky eatersaggressive childrentantruming childrenmessy houses, etc. In some of the posts there is a redeeming person who comes forward and offers support, in others it is more a reflection on the power of letting go of all of that judgment and trusting in yourself. These have been powerful posts that have got me thinking a lot about two things: 1) how challenging it can be to be a parent and 2) how essential it is that we support rather than judge one another.

We are all balancing difficult choices in our lives: how much time (if any) we spend working at a job that pays, what sorts of foods we feed our children, what type of school we send them to, how we handle discipline, how we navigate our partnerships with significant others, where we live, etc. We are all trying to do what is best for ourselves and our families. Do we all make the same choices? Of course not. We are all balancing different needs and priorities and we all have different values and expectations for what our lives should look like.  

What has occurred to me as I think about all of these tensions and judgments is that a lot of that comes from a place of defensiveness. None of us are 100% confident in our choices. We have all had to make sacrifices or compromises. And so when we see someone else struggling or doing things differently, it is often the moment when there is the space to say to ourselves (or even out loud), “well, at least that isn’t me” or “that’s why I didn’t make that choice.” It is a moment when we stop being hard on ourselves and instead focus that frustration outward.

But where does that get us? Does it make us feel more confident? Maybe for a brief moment. In the end, though, I think it just isolates us from one another even more.

One of my favorite moments in one of these pieces was when an old lady came up and offered assistance. She did it lovingly and without judgment and by doing so she helped to create the space for the mom to breathe and handle the situation she was facing more gracefully. What if the next time we saw a mom or dad struggling, instead of giving that sideways glance or eye roll, we stepped up and offered support?

In some ways that feels like a terrifying prospect when I think about doing it or about if someone did that for me—we are all supposed to be so independent, so capable, and what does that say about us if we need help? Would my offer of help come across as self-righteous or invasive? If someone stepped up to help me, would I be able to accept gracefully? I don’t know.

But when I think about what it might look like if we started supporting one another rather than judging—maybe we would see kids who had a sense of a community of adults looking out for them, parents who were less worn down, food choices that were less burdened with moral judgment, and people who were overall nicer to one another—I have to think that it is worth a try.

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