The other day I was texting with a friend about upcoming plans for our babies to hang out for Halloween. In one of her replies, she said, “He goes to bed at X time — don’t judge!” Another time, a mom friend of mine brought her little one over for a playdate and had to nurse during the playdate. Before picking her baby up to nurse she said, “I’m so sorry, I forgot my nursing cover.” Over coffee, a mom acquaintance of mine sheepishly told me that she puts her toddler in front of the TV while having breakfast so that mom could finish her work day, which starts in the early hours of the morning. These are just a handful of moments that have stuck in my mind as reminders that we moms constantly feel judged.
These days it doesn’t really matter what choices we make as mothers, we are judged for these choices. The worst part is that the brunt of the judging comes from other moms. Sometimes it reminds me of middle and high school all over again. “You can’t sit with us,” has become, “You co-sleep?” or “You’re still breastfeeding?” or “You decided to go back to work?” Of course, the converse statement could be made for each of these and that mom would still be scrutinized for her choices.
For a while I thought that maybe I was being too sensitive to the things I read and heard about the judgement moms face on a constant basis. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not being too sensitive and it’s not just in my head. Otherwise, why would there be so many articles about it online? Why would every single one of my mom friends share the same thoughts? I’ve seen this topic covered in a variety of media from TV shows to podcasts.
So what can we do about moms who turn into mean girls?
It Starts With You:
There’s a quote that I always see on bumper stickers and in various other places. It’s something like, “Be The Change You Want To See.” Applied to moms it could be something like: “Be The Mom Friend You Wish You Had.” Be that mother that isn’t the mean girl. If someone is talking about a parenting philosophy that you disagree with, it’s okay to listen and solely offer support. You don’t even have to preface it with an “I disagree with that but…” You can simply say, “It sounds like you’re doing what feels best for your family.” Once you say this, don’t let your mind go into the judgement mode. Simply move on without allowing yourself to think things like, “I can’t believe she’s …” Watch your thoughts and be intentional with them.
Take A Stand:
If you’re at a park and you hear a group of moms talking about another mom, take a stand. Pretend that mom they are talking about is you. Wouldn’t you want someone to defend you? Maybe it’s not at a park with a group, maybe it’s just in a one-on-one conversation. Don’t stand for those comments that aren’t supportive towards other moms. If you’re not comfortable taking this type of stand, then you can take a gentler approach by simply not participating in that type of conversation.
The Tip Of The Iceberg:
Remember that what you are seeing in another mom’s life is likely only the tip of the iceberg. I once had a friend (who doesn’t have children) confront me about not getting out of the house with my twin baby girls. She said, “I saw a woman at X the other day with a child who was suffering from X and she also had two other children. If she can get out of the house, so can you!” Luckily, my husband was present and came to my defense by saying, “You don’t know what that woman’s life is like. You only saw one moment in her day.” This really stuck with me because it reminded me that when I see a mom in the grocery store, whose child is having a meltdown, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. What I’m seeing is only the tip of her iceberg. There’s probably much more going on under the surface of the water. I don’t know why her child is melting down or what else has happened in her day. Instead of judging, maybe I could offer her a hand or just verbal support like, “Meltdowns are hard. You’re doing a good job.”
Hang With Like-Minded Moms:
Find your people. Find the moms in your circle who support you and other moms. Look for the mom who isn’t participating in the judgmental talk and be her friend. Start building your tribe and stick close together. We all have limited resources and our time is definitely one of those resources. Spend your time cultivating friendships with those who will lift you up and support you, not tear you down and scrutinize every parenting decision you make. Remember that the number of friends you have isn’t as important as the quality of the friends you have.
Let’s not spend our time and energy being critical of one another but rather in uplifting, supporting, and gaining understanding in one another.