I’ve learnt many lessons as a mother, but one of the most valuable is about judgement. A few years ago I read an amazing book called “I Was a Really Good Mon Before I had Kids” by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile. (http://www.amazon.com/Was-Really-Good-Before-Kids/dp/081185650X)
This book was game changing in all sorts of ways, but especially the chapter telling me that by stopping our constant judgements of other mothers, we free ourselves. Of course, my first reaction was that I didn’t judge other mothers . . . but then I started listening to my thoughts, and the judgements were constant. The day after I had read that chapter, I went to the shops without my (very small) children. As I got out of my car, I saw a toddler run out into the parking lot. His mother yanked him back by his arm and gave him a helluva smack. I was a fairly new mom, and didn’t yet realise that this was exactly what I would be doing a few years down the line. No, my first reaction was horror that she had smacked the child instead of explaining the dangers of the car park to him. She caught my (judgemental) eye and saw it . . . and her face flushed and she looked like she might cry. In that moment, I remembered what I had read, and I remembered that I knew nothing about her life and her day – perhaps it was the 5th time the child had done this; perhaps she had lost a child to a car accident; perhaps she just hadn’t slept all night. So instead of judging her, I spoke to her. I said, “God, toddlers. They’ll drive you wild, won’t they?” I cannot explain how the look of relief and gratitude for some understanding has stayed with me. I could have walked away leaving another mother feeling like shit; instead I walked away leaving her feeling understood.
I’m not saying I never judge other mothers – it’s hard to give up because by judging others we can feel good about our own choices and our own mothering. We can say, “I’m not as bad as she is”. We can excuse our own many failures. But all every mom is trying to do is her best, and we’re all failing at that in some way (and if you think you are not failing in any way, you are either insane or . . . oh, wait, I’m judging again!) The best thing that we can do as mothers is try hard not to judge each other, and to try hard to be the voice that supports the mother that everybody else is judging, no matter what the situation. I’ve tried to make my reaction to THOSE conversations “We all do it our own way”.
This extends to other areas of life, and I am constantly surprised by the level of judgement I see in social media. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. A few weeks ago, in one morning, I saw that whole uproar about the lion-killer Melissa Bachman, and a facebook post in an uproar because one Parkhurst resident was furious with another Parkhurst resident for parking on the pavement . . . outside the parker’s own home! I think that Melissa Bachman is a distasteful human being . . . but the level of vitriol directed against her blew me away. I’m not saying canned hunting is okay on any level, but people, much much worse things happen in the world. And as for the pavement parking . . . I have no words. And now we see a stream of criticisms against Barack Obama because he (gasp) took a selfie at the Mandela Memorial.
I guess what that little tangential rant is trying to say is this: whether the issue is parenting or life, and you feel yourself making a judgement, stop and think. Are you really such a perfect person? Have you never made a mistake? Maybe if we all judged bad a bit less, and supported good a bit more, the world would be a more Mandela-esque place.