I don’t know what it is about becoming a mom that suddenly makes you feel like every.thing.you.do. is being judged by every other mom that you ever come in contact with, from mother-in-laws to close friends to strangers on the street. You just know they are watching your every move and asking judge-y questions about you in their heads:
You begin to feel defensive against a random elderly lady who wiped your toddler’s nose in the dairy section at Wal-Mart. (Yes, that happened to me. I was going to wipe it in a minute, I swear! She probably thought I was the worst mom.) You begin to feel distanced from fellow mom friends who parent a little bit differently than you. (You don’t think little Johnny’s mom approves of you feeding your kids sugar so you feel awkward around her.) You choose not to “like” your co-worker’s facebook post about rear-facing her 3-year-old because you turned your child forward in her car seat at 13 months. (And you stand by that decision, darn it! How dare she post something against it.)
You are positive that all other moms are thinking about when they see you with your children are all the “mistakes” you are making.
Or are they?
An experience I had with another mom this Christmas changed my views on mommy judgment a bit. It began when my husband and I chose to give our twins just three gifts total this year. One would come from Santa for them to share and then one gift for each of them would be from mommy and daddy. You might think they were only getting three gifts because they were really expensive or nice gifts, but no. The total of all three gifts was probably less than $50. We made this decision for our family for this year together and stand by it, but I would be lying if I said I had no guilt about it. We could afford more and have the space for more and there are more things I know the kids would love to have. I felt especially timid about our decision when it came sharing the decision with other moms. I avoided talking about what I was getting the kids for Christmas, and I didn’t post a picture of our tree on Christmas morning for fear that the mommy judgment would come raining down on me. “Doesn’t she love her kids more than that? Why is she choosing to be so cheap at the expense of her kids? Didn’t she spend more than that on herself at Target last week?”
But then, I saw a mom friend of mine write a social media post about feeling guilt over getting their child TOO MUCH for Christmas. Too much?! Here I was worried about how other moms might judge me for getting my own kids too little, while there she is having the EXACT SAME FEELINGS on the other side of the coin. She feared being looked down upon by someone like me who got their kids the minimum, while I was nervous about being scoffed at by someone like her who went all out for her kids on Christmas morning. When really, both of us were so consumed with our own worries of what others might think of us that neither of us was really putting any thought into judging one another!
It occurred to me in that moment that maybe a lot of the ‘Mommy Wars’-type judgment we feel is projected at us by others is really just mommy guilt bubbling up from none other than ourselves. I am not saying none of this mom-against-mom opposition goes on and that it’s all in our heads: we know all too well that it does happen! But think about it: so many of these thoughts about what other moms *might* think about us are just imaginary tensions trapped in our own minds! And even when there are negative thoughts and differing opinions shot right at us, we cannot let it tear us apart. Maybe a good place to start in changing the Mommy Wars is our OWN thoughts, feelings, and attitudes; by not allowing opinions that may or may not be coming from others have a place in how we feel about our own parenting choices. We can make our own choices for our own families with confidence, while knowing full and well that others may be making completely different choices for their own children. There doesn’t have to be a right and a wrong amongst us in so many of these instances. I don’t have any answers on erasing our own personal mommy guilt altogether, but I invite us each to relax and to be a bit kinder to ourselves, as well as others, on this wild ride we call motherhood.
After all, we are all just doing the very best we can.