I feel like we as women always judge and question one another. After all, we are problem solvers. We are always looking for a way to explain behavior. Behavior in our spouses for why they can never remember where they last left their shoes--and behavior in the child of another for why it won't stop screaming.
It's both better and worse if you do not have children. For those without children we often think, "Well, when I have a kid . . . [insert what we'll do different]" or "If this were my child . . . [insert what we would or would not do]."
On the other hand, I often try to make my child-free friends feel encouraged to speak up. So many times they say, "Well, I know a dog isn't as stressful," or "I know I don't have children . . . [insert reason they feel they cannot comment out of fear of being punched by their mom friend]."
I am here to say it's ok. Maybe not to all parents. Actually, not to many parents. But I am a parent who remembers single-life. I also grew up with dogs. In some ways, dogs are way more high maintenance than a sleeping newborn that you can leave in its carrier at a restaurant.
I understand and have empathy for all stages of parenting--and even for those without kids, those who have not quite yet reached the parenting stage, or those who may never have children. I also, being a mother myself, have empathy for mothers. There are two conflicting statements which carry much truth.
Until you have children, you just don't understand. No matter the circumstance, you really don't.
And . . .
Those without children are still allowed an opinion.
But . . .
All children and motherhood experiences are different. I probably defend those without children, because the majority of comments and criticism I receive comes from those with children. Of course, those without children usually keep their opinions quiet and the critic is subtle.
No matter the stage you're in, we are never right about another person's child--no matter how many kids of our own we have. All kids are different. All parents are different. And yet, we're still entitled to our opinion.
As a tribute to all the fellow mothers out there, and a tribute to the non-mothers, I share with you a list of all the horrible thoughts and comments I made before becoming a parent. Most were kept secret in my head, but some were not.
She should not be drinking if she is breastfeeding.
She should not have a second glass of wine if she is breastfeeding.
She should not be drinking coffee if she is pregnant.
She should not be drinking wine if she is pregnant.
I will not give my child candy.
I will not put my child in tacky princess dresses.
I will not let my child scream in public.
That mother must be abusive [as she threatens to spank her child in public].
That child is such a disturbance.
She looks like a mess.
She should at least wash her hair.
What is she wearing?
The house is covered in Cheerios.
I will not give my child Cheerios.
All of the comments above were wrong, regardless. Though some I still stand by, it doesn't matter, because all children and circumstances are different. Our house is still generally quite clean, but I also gave birth to a daughter who is more OCD than I could ever imagine. Had I given birth to a very active boy, it would be a different story. What's most important is that I recognize the circumstance. I do not judge a fellow mom friend for a messy home, especially if she has a child more active than my daughter.
Our comments and thoughts are based on our experiences and priorities. The lesson of today? We're all wrong and we're all right. But really, we're all wrong so what good is our opinion, other than to make a poor un-showered, mis-matched mother feel even worse about her tantrum-filled toddler who refuses to eat and is dressed like a circus performer?
So I offer this advise--next time you see a mother struggling, give her a hug and tell her she's doing a great job. Who cares if her circumstance is different from yours--at times we all just need a hug.
Today's post was inspired by the lovely older lady in our apartment building who once saw my child and I have a complete meltdown, as rain poured over us on the way to school one thunder-struck Monday morning--resulting in tears from both my daughter and me. I later saw the older lady in the elevator a week later. And though I'm not entirely sure if she was a witness to our meltdown, the gentle back-pat she gave me, warm smile, and words of encouragement certainly lead me to believe so. I just wanted to cry and say, "Thank you."