I’m sure we’ve all participated in or overheard a conversation where someone is picking apart another person’s parenting decisions. Statements are made, such as:
You would not believe what this mother allowed her kids to do!
I can’t believe some moms work full time even though they don’t have to.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, what do you do all day?
I’m just not that kind of mom.
I’m more protective of my kids than most moms; that’s my job.
Your beliefs about being a “good mom”
When you become a parent, everyone tells you what a blessing it is, and it’s true. There is no greater gift or experience. However, it comes with a great deal of pressure and responsibility. What you deem to be a “good” mom has a lot to do with the way you were raised, the cultural norms you adhere to, the way your thinking has been shaped based on your life experiences, and a myriad of other things.
Regardless of your parenting style, all mothers can agree that raising a child is the most important and meaningful work we will do while on this Earth. To shape the life of another human, prepare them for the world, and hope they can contribute in a meaningful way is a lot of pressure. Most mothers place grand expectations on themselves and often the kids they’re raising.
To shape the life of another human, prepare them for the world, and hope they can contribute in a meaningful way is a lot of pressure.
With these high expectations and grand plans, we usher in fear—fear of getting it wrong. And we wonder: What if I’m making mistakes? What if my parenting choices are not the best ones? Am I doing enough? Because parenting is so important, the thought of not parenting the right way can be consuming. This fear-based thinking becomes a breeding ground for righteousness and judgments.
The reason we judge is…
In order to quell your fear, you seek reassurance. You want to ensure that what you’re doing as a parent is “right.” For you to be right, it means someone else has to be wrong. Judging other parents helps reinforce our parenting choices. This is why we pass judgments on others. It comes from our own insecurity. It is our attempt to validate our parenting choices. Righteousness is a powerful thing, especially when the value of being right is high. But it also inhibits us from seeing things in a clear way.
The truth is that no one knows if they’re doing it right. You’ll hear a number of experts writing article after article outlining the “shoulds” and “supposed tos” of parenting, but at the end of the day, each journey is unique.
But what if we don’t agree?
Sometimes, we can observe another parent and recognize that they hold different parenting ideas. Why do we need to make this binary and categorize it as right or wrong? Instead, recognize that it might be different from your choice but remain curious. Ponder this other idea and consider how it works for another family. Instead of immediately engaging in, “Oh, I would never let my kids do that,” explore why that parent sees the situation differently. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you agree because we need to realize that parenting is specific to the needs of each family and child.
It doesn’t mean you have to agree. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you agree because we need to realize that parenting is specific to the needs of each family and child.
Any time we resort to a binary way of thinking, it’s problematic. It leaves little room for curiosity, pondering, and asking thoughtful questions. When I see myself fall into the trap of passing judgment on others, I immediately turn the attention back to myself. What is happening to me internally that makes me uncomfortable in this situation? What belief is being challenged? What unconscious belief am I holding on to that says this person is wrong? It’s important to give myself the space to explore why I harbor certain judgements.
When in doubt, choose curiosity
Understanding another person is an invitation to expand. Every time we choose curiosity and compassion over judging, we grow. Our energy lightens, and we don’t cling to our beliefs. I began to recognize this flawed mindset and saw that judgment of others is rooted in fear-based thinking.
Mothers and women have spent too much time judging each other. In part, it’s because we’ve lived in a culture that hasn’t, and still isn’t, equitable. The pressure we place on ourselves to ensure we can keep our seat at the table makes us afraid—afraid of being wrong, not being seen, and being deemed inadequate, unproductive, and unworthy—and the list goes on.
Creating an environment where differing ideas are safely expressed and judgments are cast aside begins within each one of us. This requires letting go of hard-held beliefs about what is and isn’t right and to abandon a binary mindset. Consider other perspectives and remain curious. Trust in the process and lean into the uncertainty that is parenting. As author Seth Godin says, “reassurance is futile.” You don’t need it. But you do need community, connection, and support.