Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don't. You're at the playground, or drop-off, or a mommy and me class, having an absolutely lovely time... when all of a sudden, you can just feel it: The look. Maybe it's after your child starts to kick up. Maybe it's after someone discovers that you formula feed. Maybe it's completely unprompted. The look. That burning glare of smug judgment you sometimes get from other parents, sometimes followed up with a lecture. Let me tell you about the things I'd rather deal with than a judgmental parent, because none of us have the time or energy for this crap.
In order to convey how completely crappy it feels to be judged by a fellow parent, let me juxtapose it with something truly amazing. Have you ever had a "magical mama moment" out and about? If you have, you probably know what I'm talking about. It's a moment when you're struggling and another parent (let's be honest: usually a mom, but not always) helps you out in some way. Like when someone spots you a diaper or stops your toddler from running away while you struggle with an infant.
The other day my four year old was pitching an uncharacteristic sh*tfit in Home Goods (which, first of all, how dare you, child, this is my sanctuary). So I was in a doubly foul mood when I eventually picked her screaming ass up and hauled her out the door as literally everyone in the store stared at me... and some of those stares were very clearly judgmental. But right next to the exit was a lone woman who gazed at me with a mix of pity and admiration and said "Good for you. You've got this."
My mood? Instantly lifted. I went from just barely holding it together to being like "Yeah. I do got this!"
She was awesome, and I wish I could find out who she was and thank her. But judgmental parents? Here are all the other things I'd rather endure than them...
1. The Ticklish Part Of A Pedicure
You know what I'm talking about, right? Like, you're just sitting back, enjoying the warm water and the massaging chair when all of a sudden the person starts on your heels with an emery board and it's like, OK, this makes sense, I have callouses here. But they do it to the middle of your foot and it's like DEAR GOD WHY?! THERE'S NOTHING THERE THAT NEEDS SMOOTHING! THIS IS TORTURE"
Dealing with a judge-y parent is kind of like that, because you always know it's going to happen at some point but you never know exactly when, and it's always an unpleasant surprise. In both cases, it can be tremendously uncomfortable, but at least with a pedicure it's over quickly and there's no residual effects. You're not sitting there upset over how ticklish your pedicure was after it's over, but when Linda makes a snide comment about the fact that your kids are drinking apple juice ("My kids only drink water; I don't do refined sugars.") there's a good chance you'll be stewing over that for a week.
2. A Pack Of Hyenas
Because, when you get them in groups (and they do, indeed, often travel in packs), judgmental parents can feel like ruthless, wild animals, tearing you limb from metaphorical limb. At least dealing with hyenas would mean I'd get to see a hyena! I'm someone who enjoys a good nature documentary, so sometimes seeing a wild animal in person is like meeting a celebrity.
And, hey, maybe they'll be goofy and sarcastic like in The Lion King.
3. Cold Coffee
Because, like a fellow parent, coffee is something that can be pleasant and helpful and an encouraging pick-me-up, but cold coffee, like a judge-y parent, is just a big ol' cup of disappointment.
But at least I can stick cold coffee in the microwave. The last time I did that to a person it was a whole thing. (And let me clarify: Cold coffee is not iced coffee. Cold coffee is hot coffee that's not hot anymore.)
4. A Crying Infant
Yeah, crying infants are annoying AF, but that's literally the only way they know how to communicate. So not only can they not help themselves, they have to cry in order to get the things they need.
When you see my daughter playing on her tablet, you don't have to tell me that your child isn't allowed to play with screens, Karen. We know why you're doing this and you need to not.
5. A Judgmental Auntie
Here's the thing: At her full-strength, a judging auntie is way worse than a rando judgmental parent. But at least I know I only have to deal with Aunt Lucy on Thanksgiving and, sometimes, when she comes up from Florida for a funeral. I have time to prepare and practice my dissociative meditation techniques. Randos take you by surprise and there is no preparation, just sudden knee-jerk rage and shame.
A.K.A. the other pain in my ass that came about as a result of having babies.
7. A Judgmental Non-Parent
When someone who doesn't have kids judges you for something you're letting your kids do or not do or whatever choices you're making in order to ensure that everyone makes it out of this childhood alive and in one piece, you can just laugh and laugh. Because WTF do you know, jerkface?
That's not to say all child-free people are across-the-board clueless about all things kid related (Jo "Supernanny" Frost is child-free, people) but if they don't know better than to not get judge-y or say things like "When I have kids they're never going to... " then you can go ahead and laugh at them because they have just proven themselves ignorant as to what most parents go through. It's way easier to dismiss a judgmental non-parent than a judgmental parent. Part of this is because, again, "What do you know about it, bub?" Seriously, sometimes they just don't know any better. But if a parent is choosing to be judgmental in spite of actual parenting experience that should teach them better, than they are clearly hellbent on being unpleasant and will not be dismissed no matter how hard you try.
8. An Unrealistic Parenting Book
I'm a big reader and there have been a few parenting books that really helped me out, especially in the first year of my first child's life. But even the best books need to be taken with a grain of salt because no plan survives contact with the enemy, as they say. Sometimes those books can get a little... much... but at least you can usually glean some knowledge in-between all that unearned optimism. Judgmental parents? Not so much.
9. A Blowout
Because if I'm going to have to deal with someone's crap, I'd rather it be my child's.
10. A Mirror
Because, judgmental parent, don't you know that we're already our own worst critics? Do we really need a whole damn chorus of them? Is this helpful? Is this uplifting? Is this creating a better environment for parents everywhere? Your snide, judge-y remarks are none of those things. Sure, a well-timed barb launched at a struggling parent may make you feel temporarily better about yourself, but in the long-run it hurts all of us, because you're perpetuating a culture of toxicity.
11. A Cool Parent
Seriously, back to my original point: let's all be like the mom who lifted me up when my daughter was being bratty in public! We have such power to influence our fellow parents. Let's use those powers for good!