Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mother Judger

I admit it. I judge my fellow Moms.

I've been known to roll my eyes at oblivious parents who allow their children to run wild at restaurants.

I've harumphed at kids destroying supermarket displays with seeming abandon.

I've shared knowing glances with fellow airline passengers as the kid in 20C moves into his second hour of wailing, "I don't want to be in the air ANYMORE!!!!"

I've even sat with fellow Moms and talked derisively about choices women we know are making with their kids and why we think they're totally nutty.

I'm not all that proud of it, but I do know why I do it. I do it because it seems to be one of the few things to serve as an antidote for the voice in my head that sometimes pipes up on an endless loop: "I suck at this job. And not only do I suck at it but everyone everywhere is doing it so much better than I am."

Are you familiar with this voice as well?

If you are, don't blame yourself. This voice is there for lots and lots of Moms, and nowadays there are endless opportunities out there to reinforce its message. And so many of us fall victim to the thesis that "figuring out how to be a perfect parent" is actually possible and can happen if we JUST WORK HARD ENOUGH. At least that is what we're told across the web where...

  • Pinterest Moms are sending their children off to school with elaborate bento boxes filled with things like kale chips and whimsical sculptures of beloved superheroes made entirely of organic cheese. Meanwhile, your child is making do with a juice box and a slightly squished cereal bar you dug out from under the front seat on the way to school.
  • Tiger Moms are dedicating their lives to making sure their child will solo at Carnegie Hall before their tenth birthday while you can't figure out how to get dinner on the table without letting your kids watch an hour of questionable television programming.
  • Facebook Moms are posting daily updates on whether or not to redshirt your Kindergartner, how to unlock your child's maximum brain potential through judicious use of a gluten-free diet, and profiles of towns full of well-groomed French children who sit calmly at fine dining restaurants eating whatever they are served without complaint.

All of which can add up to leaving us "regular Moms" feeling confused, terrified, and fairly certain that our children are doomed to a life of juvenile delinquency and/or vicious over-snacking.

So our response is to seek out Mothers whom we can somehow identify as doing an even more terrible job than we are. We imagine that parenthood is a giant totem pole with SuperMoms at the top and FailureMoms at the bottom and as we frantically try to determine our place in the hierarchy, we seek people we can identify as beneath us in order to feel magically closer to the top.

  • "Well I may not remember to send a note everyday, but THAT lady sends her kid to school with a Nanny! At least I'm here!"

  • "Sure, I struggle to get my kid to eat enough vegetables, but I saw a Mom at the supermarket letting her kid drink SODA!"

  • "Oh my God! You see these kids out to dinner staring at an iPad? Thank God we actually TALK to our kids!"

And it calms the "I'm not good enough voice" for a little while. 

Now, I acknowledge that as part of living together in a community we are all called on some level to use what my sister calls our "frown power" to enforce certain societal norms, but that's not exactly what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about the sort-of frenetic consta-judging mode I sometimes fall into that isn't all that satisfying. 

Much like hitting the bag of Halloween candy I bought yesterday even though Halloween is still four weeks away, it all ends up feeling really good in those first indulgent moments, but then later you realize you are still kind of hungry but now also fairly nauseous.

So I'm trying to cut back.

I'm never going to be someone who has no opinions about the Moms around me and how they are "Momming", but I'm trying to change my view of the hierarchy. Maybe it's not a tower with people at the top and people at the bottom. Maybe it's more of a tapestry of women in varied circumstances trying their best take care of their babies.

So let those French parents raise their complaint-free, vegetable eating wunderkind!

I'll be over here doing the best I can.