We’re human; therefore we compare ourselves to others. We love to categorize, evaluate and judge how we and others are doing or not doing things. Since becoming a mother I’ve been more aware of my judgmental tendencies, and they’re often not pretty.
It usually plays out like this: I’m tired and trying to get through an activity or event with the kids. I’m not at my optimal self with respect to energy or motivation, and maybe I’m even irritable. My latest trip to the museum for a children’s activity was like this. When I arrived I felt myself become impatient as I looked around. The first thing I noticed was that some of the kids were dressed cute, too cute in my opinion. Their clothes seemed trendy, impractical and silly. Then I saw some moms who were on their cell phones while their kids were running a little wild. These moms seemed unavailable and uninterested, and their kids were disrupting the activities. Then I started thinking the planned activities were not appropriate for the age group, so they must have been designed by people who did not have kids. And so it continued…more and more judgments. I noticed the more I judged the easier I could think of even more judgments. And for a second it felt rewarding, providing a little rush of smugness and pride that I wasn’t parenting in that way and I knew more about parenting.
When I take a step back and think about my judgments, I realize how harmful they can be. Judging over such trivial things starts to feel alienating, as it slowly pushes me further and further away from others, keeping me hidden behind a fake sense of being better than them. I judge automatically about outfits mothers have chosen, without thinking about the fact that perhaps I have my own insecurities about how I sometimes dress my kids because I’m always fighting (myself) to not have them look too girly or to not spend too much money on clothes. I automatically judge the mother who is on her cellphone, not remembering how much I needed a moment alone when I was on maternity leave and sometimes a semi-structured playdate was the only time I could get it. I judge those without children for not understanding what is age appropriate, when I have quickly forgotten how little I knew about being a parent before I had my own kids. With every judgment, I actually seem to be reacting to something inside myself and defensively building myself up so I don’t have to feel discomfort…all the while putting someone else down in the process.
The truth is, I’d much rather sacrifice the two seconds of smug pride I get from feeling like I am doing better than someone else for the compassion I feel when I remember that we are all doing the best we can.
Judging does nothing for me in the long run when it comes to these little things. It creates a gulf between me and the very women with whom I should be most connected—other moms. Becoming a mother gave me the unique opportunity to join with others to laugh, cry, and commiserate about parenthood, and it is my choice if I want to use this connection to grow with others, or judge alone.
It takes effort to catch myself in these judgments, especially when I am feeling worn down. I have to purposefully slow down my thoughts and be a little more mindful of where the thoughts go and the emotions I am having. When I notice the “snicker” inside my head, I realize I am going down that road. That snicker is my signal that I need to change my tune, with some light-heartedness or with some ignoring of the negativity. Or better yet, I find that if I throw myself into what I’m supposed to be doing—like the activity at the museum—I don’t seem to have time for the petty snickers. When I get engaged with the moment, there is less time for the evaluation of how someone else is doing, and more time for just doing.
I'm Lisa, a mother and psychologist dedicated to supporting moms. Read more here.
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