Hands up if you have ever felt judged by another mum? All of us, right?
Ok, now hands up if you are guilty of having ever judged another mum?
If your hand isn’t up, I’m calling bullshit!
Can you honestly say that you have never had a single moment, even fleetingly, when you thought to yourself “I would never feed my child that/discipline my child like that/put my child to sleep like that? And as you had these transient thoughts, lets be honest, you secretly congratulated yourself on your own parenting choices.
I am embarrassed to admit it but I am guilty of having judged other mums. I don’t do it often, and I never do it openly, but there you have it. I am a judgy mum. And I am willing to bet, that if you are honest with yourself, you are too.
I am not a perfect mother. Far from it. I have many flaws and, at times, I feel vulnerable and insecure. There have been times in which I have silently judged another mother, and used this moment to secretly bolster my own self-esteem.
Let me give you an example. I was recently at the shopping centre and had stopped in the food court to grab a coffee and give my toddler his lunch. I couldn’t help but notice that the mother at the table next to me was doling out MacDonald’s cheeseburgers and chips to her young children. With self-satisfaction, I appraised my son’s homemade, healthy lunch and silently congratulated myself on being a brilliant mother.
At some point during that lunch, around about the time my toddler was screaming and throwing all his healthy, homemade lunch on the floor, I noticed that same mother glancing my way. Perhaps she was secretly judging me for not being able to control my screaming, food-throwing toddler. And that’s ok if she was. I hope she took that moment to congratulate herself on her children’s beautiful table manners and felt proud of what a brilliant mother she is!
As we packed up our children and loaded them into prams, that mother and I smiled at each other knowingly and kindly. She passed me the sippy cup that my toddler had hurled under her table and I complimented her children’s lovely manners. We parted as comrades.
Because the thing is, even though I had been judging that other mother moments before (and likely vice versa), I was also keenly aware that I was wrong. The logical (and ethical) part of me had been simultaneously empathising with this stranger, who I knew was most likely an incredible mum, doing the best she bloody could.
Being judgemental and being kind and empathetic are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to be both at the same time. Especially when you are self-aware of your thoughts and behaviour. It is human nature to be judgemental. We all do it, all the time.
Mothering may well be the most important role we will ever play. Sadly, it is also a role for which most of us feel unprepared, unqualified and, at times, inadequate. Is it any wonder that, in moments of vulnerability and insecurity, we secretly bolster our self-esteem by favourably comparing ourselves to others?
Judging other mothers is not a behaviour that I am proud of. In fact, I am downright ashamed of it. (Yet another thing to add to my list of mum guilt). But I have to remind myself that having moments in which I silently judge another mum doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me human.
Let’s be honest, mentally judging someone doesn’t really hurt anyone. However, when a mother allows her judgemental thoughts to turn into action, well, then we have a big problem.
Publicly judging or criticizing another mother for how they are raising their children is called mum shaming. It is mean, harmful and completely unacceptable.
Being a mother in the age of social media means that you are pretty much guaranteed to have encountered mum shaming. It is sickening to witness the pack mentality of mothers tearing each other down on Facebook and Instagram.
However, I want to point out that there is a vast difference between inwardly comparing yourself to another mum (and mentally coming out on top) and mum shaming. While mum shaming is never ok, embracing the natural tendency to judge others can be a positive thing.
I have discovered that by acknowledging when I am mentally judging another mum, I am better able stop the thought before it spirals into self-righteousness.
Instead, I use these judgy mummy moments as opportunities for self-betterment.
I take the time to explore the underlining cause of my judgement and its rationality. I question myself on how these thoughts fit in with my core values. And in turn, this practice has allowed me to be more empathetic and supportive of mothers that make different parenting choices to my own.
I also use these judgy mummy moments as an opportunity to reflect on how I am feeling within myself and to practice self-love. I have come to realise that I don’t have to wait to encounter a mother with whom I can favourably compare myself to in order to give myself a compliment on the things I do well.
So yes, I admit it. I am a judgy mum. But I am also a kinder and more compassionate person because of it.
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