I saw the woman coming as I waited for my 5-year-old to make a selection from the bank of gumball machines in the lobby of the grocery store. The woman was making a beeline for my 1-year-old, who sat in the cart, and from the look on her face I thought she was going to gush about how cute the baby is. (The baby is very, very cute, in case you were wondering, and people enjoy telling me so about as much as I enjoy hearing it.)
But instead of reaching for her little hands or her chubby little cheeks, the woman grabbed my daughter’s feet.
“Where are your shoes?!” she asked in a voice that, while pitched for the baby, was aimed directly at me. “Where are your little shoes?!” she repeated, giving my baby’s feet a shake.
“Um…”I stammered. “They’re in my purse. She kept taking them off.”
“Well, you should have shoes on,” the woman said to my daughter, but really to me. And if I’d had my wits about me, I would have responded with, “Look, lady, it’s 72 degrees out, and when we arrived here, my child was properly shod. However, after stooping over more than a dozen times to retrieve her shoes from the floor after she took them off and tossed them there, I decided she could go barefoot and I could get my shopping done in relative peace, and I do mean relative because I also have a 5-year-old with me and my husband is working weekends during busy season so I’m a single parent and WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME?!?!!?”
Susan’s post a few days ago about guilt got me thinking about this. Where does all the guilt come from? In my life, it often comes from other moms!
This isn’t a working mom vs. stay at home mom, thing. It’s more a general “I may not be a perfect mom, but I’m better at it than you” type of thing, and I’ll wager we’ve all either been on the receiving end, or we’ve been the one to dish it out.
I was extremely judge-y before I became a parent: “I would never let my kids get away with that!” “In my household, I’ll make a strict rule against such and such.” “My children will never behave so badly.” “That mom is obviously a pushover/an idiot/irresponsible, etc.”
But if being a mom has taught me anything it’s humility. You can run your home like a well-oiled machine of discipline and order and one of your kids will inevitably decide to act out at your company Christmas party. Babies cry on airplanes. First graders can be annoying show-offs. Sometimes moms get so exhausted that they let their kids watch too much TV or eat too much junk food or go shoeless. We’re all doing the best we can, and none of us knows the details of what day-to-day life is like in anybody else’s family. I try not to judge so much anymore because I don’t want to be judged.
And so, I would like to designate May as national Quitcher Judgin’ Month.
Tempted to give a dirty look to that mom who ordered fries instead of apple slices with her kid’s Happy Meal? Just say no! Feeling sanctimonious because your kid is all beautifully coordinated for school pictures while one of her classmates is in a mismatched outfit with bed head? Resist!
It goes both ways, too. We moms can decide not to accept guilt when others try to give it to us. Just the other day I gave a big old “Whatever” to the mother who pointed out at our childrens’ school book fair that my baby was chewing on a Post-It note as if it was something I really should be aware of and put a stop to. “Oh my God!” I wanted to shout. “You mean that while I’ve been navigating her stroller through a sea of bodies, trying to keep track of my kindergartner who is intent on getting me to buy every single book on sale here, my toddler may have ingested a tiny amount of paper? PAPER?!?! Sheesh, lady. Quitcher judgin’ and mind your own kid, who’s over there rocking the cafeteria vending macine in hopes it will spit out an extra bag of Skittles.”
Of course, there are exceptions. If you’re beating and/or calling your kids vile names at Target, I will judge you. I may even get up in your business because, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think child abuse should be tolerated.
Letting a 1-year-old ride in a grocery cart without shoes on a sunny spring day, however, is not child abuse. And so, I hope all moms will participate in National Quitcher Judgin’ Month. It’s a chance to take it easy on each other – and yourself.
Remember, we’re all doing the best we can.