Mom Judgement

Saturday was a pretty miserable day in NJ. It was cold, very rainy, and just not a nice day. We had a birthday party to attend at Field Station Dinosaurs in Secaucus. Despite the weather, the party was to go on and for the little boy whose birthday we were celebrating, well, I didn't blame him for wanting to have his dinosaur birthday! 

We bundled up and took Penelope and had a really great time. The park was truly awesome. Life-sized dinosaurs made it feel like walking through Jurassic Park. I was concerned that P might be a little scared, but she was enthralled with the dinosaurs --->whose child is she? I was so happy that the party continued on as planned because we had a blast. 

This wasn't the first kids birthday party that we've been to with Penelope, but it is one of the first that she wasn't the youngest child there and could semi-participate in the activities. Shaun and I were pretty excited about that. As Penelope grows, she can do more and everything becomes more fun day by day. Going to parties and other events is certainly something that I look forward to with her.

Though most of the party was outdoors, they had an enclosed tent set up for lunch, birthday cake and general hang out space to get out of the rain. When we arrived inside the tent, the first thing Penelope did was to remove her heavy coat that I had put on her. It was chilly out, but if she didn't want her coat on, then I wasn't going to force her. She downed a hot dog, snacks and her water and wanted to eat uninhibited by her coat.

Another mother {who I've exchanged pleasantries with, but that's about it} came by, gave a sideways glance, and said to me, Isn't she cold? and then walked away. 

My first thought was...well, no, clearly she is not cold if she initiated her own coat removal. My second thought was Hmmm. Maybe she is cold? Maybe I shouldn't be letting her walk around without a coat on. 

Followed by: What kind of mother am I??!!!

I looked around and all the other kids had their coats on. So I immediately put P's coat back on her, despite her protests.

And finally, once P was stuffed back into her winter coat and whining about it, my third thought was, Who does this mom think she is?

I immediately felt judged. I felt defensive. Three little words that I assume {I hope} were not intended maliciously or to demean me as a mother. But I couldn't help but feel that I was judged, looked down on, and proceeded to make myself feel terribly about not having a coat on my 21 month old daughter. {these are also problems of an over-thinker and may not be a normal reaction to one simple comment}.

The next part of the party included birthday cake! I knew Penelope would love herself a piece of cake, because who wouldn't? There were actually cupcakes and cake and when she was offered a cupcake, you know I snapped one up for her. And look at this face with her cupcake:

 

Shaun and I proceeded to ooooh and aaaaah at how adorable our child was with her little cupcake. She was so excited to dig into the frosting. I've never seen such joy in a child as Penelope was over this cupcake. As I'm snapping photos and even a video to document her dainty eating of said cupcake, the same coat mother walks passed, looks at Penelope, turns to me and says...You let her have sugar?

It was here that I just about lost it {internally of course}. I responded and said, Well yes, clearly we let her have sugar. Do you not let your child have sugar?

She said, No, we don't let him have sugar. And walked away.

 

Look. I get it. We live in a world where social media and society tell Moms that they are supposed to breastfeed until their kids are in preschool, that if you don't make your own baby food from freshly squeezed organic peas your child will grow up to be a deranged psychopath, that Moms are supposed to be ambitious and work long hours and be bread winners {lean in!}, but also be stay-at-home Moms so that our kids grow up with manners {otherwise they don't stand a chance!}, spend hours and hours DIY'ing Pinterest birthday parties and if you aren't feeding your children only organic food, diapering them in organic diapers {or even better - cloth diapering!}, and bathing them in organic soap, well your kid might as well throw in the towel right now because what kind of person will they grow up to be?

It's ridiculous, isn't it? And believe me, I do participate in some of the above. I buy organic where I can. I considered cloth diapering, I try to lean in (!).

There is pressure everywhere to be a certain kind of mother. I don't know about you, but I'm just trying to do the best I can and hold onto my sanity. My daughter seems happy and healthy. She is certainly loved and cared for in the best way I know how {--->with every fiber of my soul}. Is that enough? As I'm sure many other Moms do, I am always second-guessing myself on the choices I make for Penelope and struggling to have the confidence that I'm doing what's best for our family and for her. Should I be judged for the outcome of those choices?

And so I can't help but wonder what compels Moms to judge other Moms? Why do we think this is ok? Aren't we all struggling to do our best? Are we really all perfect all of the time? I hope you guys aren't, because I'm certainly not. 

{my sugar eating, non-coat wearing penelopesaurus}

 

I'll admit, after the sugar comment, I spent immediate time following judging her right back, and continued to judge myself.

What kind of Mom doesn't let her kid have a cupcake at a birthday party? Does she think her child will grow up to be normal? WHO does she think she IS?!

But...Maybe I shouldn't be letting my child have a cupcake at a birthday party? Then wouldn't that make me such a mean and crazy Mom? But what if she ends up sugar-addicted and refuses to eat any other foods if I let her have cupcakes?! Why can't we all just BE?

At the end of the day, we are talking about coat-wearing and cupcake-eating. Is that really so life-changing? Do we really need that kind of judgement from fellow moms or from ourselves? I've spent the last few days mulling over the exchange with this other mother. Her child is just a couple of months younger than Penelope. She stays home with him and I work. We clearly have different ideologies on raising kids. And isn't that OK? I'm all for healthy discourse in life. If everyone agreed on everything all of the time, there would be no progress in the world, right? Isn't friendly discourse better than sideways glances and judgement? 

The optimist in me continues to think that this mother meant no harm and this isn't a post to tear her down personally. I'm sure we will continue to see each other and I hope it is a nice, friendly relationship. She probably has no idea that I'm still reeling from her comments days later. But maybe she needs to know. Maybe all Moms, caregivers and family members need to know that judgement is not productive. You have no idea how it will affect people. And perhaps instead of judgement, we should work toward acceptance and open-mindedness. 

So I really want to know...Have you ever felt the wrath of Mom Judgement? How did you handle it? 

 

Psst...I hope you'll join in the conversation because I think it's an important conversation to be had. Please note that with that in mind, this is a judgement-free zone, so please come with healthy discourse, but no judgement of me or other commenters. Thank you!