Spend even a little bit of time in the mom game and you'll learn that judgment abounds. We get judgment from a plethora of contradicting articles telling us what we should be doing, but aren't. We get judgment from family members who haven't raised a child in decades. We get judgment from our kid-free friends, who assume this mess is easy. But the cruelest cut, sometimes, comes from the judgmental moms you'll meet.
You'd think a fellow mom would be cool, right? Like, they know better than anyone how hard this whole parenting thing is! Why would they cast aspersions on you for doing what you must to get by?!
I have a theory. Basically, it comes down to insecurity. Deep down, none of us really know what we're doing with any real certainty. And even after we basically get the hang of things, something will pop up (an unexpected tantrum, random, troubling behavior, a disastrous first day of preschool) that makes us feel like we're basically clueless.
We're not entirely clueless, of course. In fact, we are often more capable than we give ourselves credit for. But the fear that maybe we are just totally inept constantly haunts us. So when we do feel like we know what we're doing, we cling to that feeling for dear life. This course of action is the only thing between us and the complete breakdown of society. Between people seeing us as competent and seeing us as the fraud we fear we are. So when we see someone doing something that runs contrary to the things we've decided we're certain of, we get nervous. Very nervous. So we externalize that nervousness by judging.
There are some issues moms are more likely to cling to (and therefore judge) than others. Here are some of the more common ones, and ideas on how to cope when it happens to you:
The Food Judging Mom
This is the mom who looks at your child's plate, clucks her tongue (sometimes out loud, but usually in her head and you can just tell), and notes the lack of vegetables, or non-organic items, or exactly how many grams of sugar are in their yogurt.
She'll then sometimes note how much her own child just loves kale. Or she'll be more subtle and drop a line like, "Oh, fruit snacks? We let little Jackson try one once and he didn't even like it! I guess because we give him so much fresh fruit he prefers that."
How to cope: Smile and nod. You have no reason to defend yourself or engage.
The Behavior Judging Mom
My mom tells the story about how one time, when she was a kid, she and her siblings were behaving horribly in public and another mom walked by my poor, struggling grandmother and sniffed, "Some people's children are animals."
I feel like most moms who judge someone else's kids' behavior aren't going to be quite so obvious (or vicious) about it, but you'll definitely get side-eye, groans, or an obviously pointed but indirect comment, like, "I didn't realize kids were allowed to climb up the slide."
How to cope: If you're already doing your best, just ignore them and remind yourself that some people mistake their good luck with good parenting. Kids misbehave, and you know the best way to deal with your own kids.
The Mom Who Judges Your Child's Growth & Development
"Oh, is your child not walking yet? Did you not give them enough tummy time, maybe? Our little Bailey has been toddling along since she was 9 months! "
"Oh, can your child not count to 10? Have you really worked with them on it? Our little Marco has gone to 100. We're working on how to do it in Mandarin next. "
"Oh, is your child having trouble learning to read? Have you tried sitting down and reading with them? Our little Mason has already finished the Harry Potter series. We're going to be moving him on to For Whom The Bell Tolls next. "
How to cope: Remember that children hit their milestones when they hit them. If your child's doctor or teacher isn't concern, you shouldn't be either. And if they are, then you're aware and working on it and that's OK, too.
The House Judging Mom
These moms will rarely, if ever, say anything, but their disdain for your less than perfectly maintained home. They stare pointedly at the large pile of papers on your counter. They turn up their nose at your sink full of dishes. They make a point of appearing overwhelmed when they see your toy-strewn living room.
How to cope: Throw them in a laundry pile.
I'm kidding. Don't do that. But wouldn't it feel so good? Just ignore them.
The Anti-Vax Judging Mom
"You're vaccinating your child? Do you have any idea how bad vaccines are for you? So many dangerous chemicals! And they cause autism!"
How to cope: "Yes. We vaccinate." You do not have to get mired in this non-debate. (If you wish to attempt to have a productive conversation, there's some good advice here, which includes the following: don't be aggressive, assume the best of them, ask questions, and show empathy.)
The Cell Phone Judging Mom
These are the moms who care way too much about how another mom spends her time. "OMG, if she seriously going to be on her cell phone the entire time she's at the playground? Why doesn't she play with her child? They're only little once!"
I'm sorry, did you not see all the children at this here playground? They do not lack for playmates. Also, there's a great big beautiful jungle gym for them to explore and they're loving it. Also? Woman, I've been playing with my kid all damn day. That's why we're at the playground, so it's not up to me to entertain them for an hour or two.
How to cope: Post a meme about people who try to create a problem where there's absolutely none.
The Car Seat Judging Mom
You'll generally encounter these moms on social media when they respond to a picture of your child in their car seat saying things like, "So cute, mama! But he shouldn't be forward-facing yet!" or, "I notice you have her in a booster seat, mama — that's a little advanced for her. She really should be in a five-point harness for at least another two years!" and, "Hey mama! Your baby's chest clip should be higher than that. After all, we want to keep that precious cargo safe."
How to cope: First, wonder why this sort of comment always involves someone calling you "mama." Then, realize that while they're almost certainly judging, you should still listen to them, particularly if they've cited their sources —there are pretty firm guidelines about car seat safety. Even if they meant it personally, don't take it personally. And if they've judged you in error (read: if you're within the suggested guidelines) ignore them and let them judge you on their own time.
The Social Life Judging Mom
"My, you certainly go out a lot, don't you? I see you posting pictures with friends and on vacations with your partner. I just couldn't leave my child that much. If I have any free time whatsoever I want to spend it with my precious little one."
How to cope: *turn up the music; keep dancing* If you feel the need to say anything, you can always go with, "Yeah, it's important for me to have regular time for my friends and other interests — it helps me appreciate my family life even more!"
The Mom In The Mirror (Part I)
Admit it: you clicked on this link because you wanted to judge the judgers and, for that, I do not judge you. Honey, we've all been there and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
How to cope: In a perfect world, no one ever judges anyone. But I feel like saying "don't judge anyone ever" is an unrealistic thing to ask of anyone. The route I take with this is to try not to judge, but to admit when I do, then acknowledge that I never know anyone's entire story. I also like to remind myself, when I put on my judgmental pants (so comfy!) that one decision or attitude is not the whole of a person's character.
The Mom In The Mirror (Part II)
Sometimes the harshest judgement we receive comes from ourselves. We see everyone else who seems to have their ish together and we wonder what's wrong with us.
How to cope: Remember that we're all faking it until we make it. We're doing our best and sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn't but none of us will ever be perfect, even the people who think they might be getting close. The only way to win that game is not to play.