Saturday, March 24, 2012

Parenting: A Judgement Free Zone

I've seen and heard a lot of judgement lately, from one parent to another. Not judgement based on a news story about abuse, or as the result of a tragic swimming pool accident that may or may not have been totally preventable, but from a 5 minute, 20 minute, or 1 hour encounter with a perfect stranger.

From one mom to another, I say STOP.
STOP acting like your Facebook friend is the worse mother ever because she feeds her kid processed mac and cheese.
STOP assuming your neighbor is a neglectful mother because her children play outside in the back yard, seemingly unsupervised.
STOP thinking the poor mother of two in the grocery store, that looks like she's about to kill someone, has no patience.
For the love of all the children in the world... just STOP.

Yes, there are bad parents in the world.  There is a sad, depressing number of bad parents in the world.  But most of us are doing what we can to be good parents.  We love our kids, we fulfill their emotional, mental, physical, educational needs to the best of our ability, and they are fed, clothed, sheltered, adored, and treasured.  One chance encounter with you on a bad day does not make us bad parents.  It makes you a judgmental jerk who wants to feel better about herself.

Look BEHIND the scenes, and give parents the benefit of the doubt before your judge their pants off.

What you see: Mom at the mall Play Place has her young infant in a stroller, and the baby is fussing but mom won't pick it up.
What you could think: Babies deserve to be held.  Why have a baby if you don't want to hold it?!
What you don't see: That baby was up all night long and has been up all night long since birth.  Mom holds her baby 20 hours a day.  Her house is a wreck, she's completely exhausted, and she still has to take her toddler to the mall to play and get his energy out.  She loves her baby, she hears him crying, but she's been hearing him cry for months now, and just wants ONE hour where she can watch her toddler play, explore, and learn, without rocking, bouncing, swinging, or shushing a baby that is not content no matter what she does.

What you see: A mom in the grocery store firmly grabs her child's arm as he runs speeding past her.  She closes her eyes and counts to ten, then gives her child a look of death and says through clenched teeth, "if you do not stop this behavior right now, I am going to stop being nice."
What you could think: She has no patience.  He was just playing. He's a kid, with energy.  All kids have energy, and she should have known that before she signed up for it.
What you don't see: This kid has ADHD and rarely sleeps.  He was up at 5am, and his mother's job is to keep him fed and dressed, all while making sure he doesn't kill himself in some totally dangerous activity that most kids his age wouldn't dream of doing.  She's already been chasing him around for 5 hours, on virtually no sleep, and her babysitter (who can't handle the kid she brought with her to the store) just called to tell her that there's been a family emergency and she needs the mom to come home.

What you see and what's really happening are often two different things.  So instead of climbing up on your high horse and preaching how pasta and mysterious cheese powder are the key factor in the obesity epidemic, or that babies deserve to be held as much as they want to be, stop and think, just for a second, about what these other parents may be dealing with behind the scenes, and give them a break.

Parenting is hard, and it's even harder to be good at it ALL the time.

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