I recently took my daughter to a gym class where they put out an assortment of instruments for the kids to play with. And my little 8-month-old teething machine put every last one of them in her mouth. As she gave each a slurp, a few of the moms made comments to their children, loud enough for me to hear, “No, no, we don’t put these toys in our mouth. They’re not clean.” And with the comments came the judgmental looks. You know the looks.
I had mixed feelings knowing that as the foot long string of drool extended from my child’s mouth that her slobber was the reason their children couldn’t fully enjoy the toys, but at the same time I was left wondering who these moms were to judge me for allowing my daughter to enjoy every mouthful of her maraca.
It felt like by them saying that the toys were not clean, they were implying that my child was not clean. I wanted to scream, “She’s clean! I bathe her! She smells like baby shampoo right now! Smell her head! Smell it!!!”
But I didn’t.
I took a deep breath (which I tend to do a lot as a new mom). Now is there a chance that these parents who were making these comments simply did not want their children to put the toys in their mouth and it had nothing to do with me or my daughter? Sure. Of course. I have a tendency to take things personally when that is not the intention. But that was not the “feeling” I got. I felt their judgmental looks, their glares, their penetrating soul-crushing stares. I felt them conveying that I was doing this whole parenting thing all-wrong.
Conversely, another day at gym class, there was a little girl who had a very runny nose and I immediately knew that I did not want my child touching the toys that she had just touched. I didn’t make any loud comments under the guise of chatting with my baby, but I still thought, “Why on Earth would you let your kid come to class when she might have a cold?” I’m sure I inadvertently gave my daughter an, “Oh sweetheart, please don’t touch what that girl touched, please please please…” look, all the while thinking…”WHERE’S THE HAND SANITIZER?!?! Someone get me hand sanitizer STAT!” But then I worried… I probably shouldn’t use hand sanitizer because some studies show that it’s worse for you than being dirty. And if I use it in front of these moms, they’ll yet again shake their disapproving heads.
So, who was I to judge runny nose girl’s mom? Wasn’t I thinking the same thoughts about her daughter that the other moms were thinking about mine? Was it different because the other little girl was exhibiting outward signs of having a cold? For all I knew, runny nose girl’s mom had already taken her daughter to the doctor at the first sign of the nasal drip and was told that it’s just seasonal allergies, nothing contagious and under doctor’s orders, she was specifically instructed that the best cure is to crawl through gymnastic mat tunnels.
Now, I didn’t say anything… so, is being “judgmental” okay if you don’t verbalize it, but instead let it build up inside until it reveals itself in the form of an eye twitch or neck tic?
I’ve read numerous articles and blog responses that say that mothers are competitive; it’s in their nature to protect and so being judgmental is expected. But I think that’s just lame. Just to be clear… protecting your child isn’t lame, but the idea that we NEED TO judge others’ choices is lame. Why must they go hand in hand?
Wait, am I being judgmental about judgmental parents? Well… yes.
As a new parent, I most definitely do not know it all. And as second time, fourth time, and 12th time parents…I assure you, you STILL do not know it all. Nobody knows what the needs are of every child nor every household. Have opinions…sure. Seek advice…absolutely! But don’t make anyone feel as if they are “less than” for making a choice that works for their situation.
It is of course difficult to not have these judgmental thoughts. I can’t just turn my Mommy-brain completely off. (Though it would be nice for those times when I misplace my car keys are and find them in the freezer). But, it’s what we do with the thoughts that matter. And I often find myself wondering where the line is between being a concerned parent and a Judgy McJudgerson.
I realize that in discussing being judgmental, I am inviting judgment on what you deem to be “right” but let’s get the talk going… ready? GO!