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Comments

flea

I think it's important to bring it up, and I think it's omnipresent - not just a New York thing. Parents judge other parents, grandparents judge their own children's parenting (oh, are my issues showing?), non-parents judge parents. I have to work to avoid doing it myself. What helps me judge less often is saying to myself, "I am doing the best I can with my children. I assume that most other people are doing the same, and that most of their mistakes, even the doozies, are just that - mistakes - not done out of malice." I speak out against it when I see my friends doing it - as when some online friends, mostly not parents, were saying things like, "They are so selfish; they should never have had children." I mean, unless you are in those people's shoes, how can you possibly know?

I think one of the biggest issues is defining what is "actually dangerous." I don't think it's dangerous for my three year old to eat chocolate or cheetos, to watch TV (though I do monitor the intake of all three, and actually I think she's never eaten a cheeto, 'cause yuck), or to attend public school next year. But I could name you parents who think these things are dangerous.

Michele

Oh how I judge and it always comes back to smack me in the ass!!

This being a season of Lent for me, I am trying to be as attentive to my thoughts as I am to my actions. This morning I was dropping my kids off at daycare, smugly admiring how socialized and happy and animated they are and how THEY at 22 months are free of their pacifiers, unlike some of their 23 and 24 month contemporaries. What is with their parents anyway, letting them continue to have pacifiers at "school"? Arent they worried about their speech development?

As I turned to go, after delicious kisses from MY sweet, pacifier free boys, a squabble broke out behind me, and I turned to see BOTH of my kids running away with the pacifiers they snatched from their peers.

Apparently not only are my kids completely pacifier-free, they also are not above swiping them from their friends.

Ah karma, my ass is yours.

MotherLawyer

I think you can re-frame your "judgment" as "assessing" and cut yourself some slack. I think it is unfair to expect anyone to walk around and not process the world as it is perceived. There is nothing judgmental about noticing a child's hair isn't combed, it's not like you said something unkind to her or anyone else about it. It's just a fact that you noticed and mulled over. In fact, that mulling led you to notice your own child's grooming needs. I don't see the harm.

We all need to process our world, it's how we take that thinking out into the world that matters. How can it be wrong to take our lessons and apply them to ourselves?

Tess

Some saint somewhere said something to the effect of when you see someone do something that you disapprove of, focus instead on what that person does better than you. It keeps you humble and focused on becoming a better person, rather than expending energy worrying about something you can do nothing about (i.e. changing the other person). So maybe she has hair that differs from society's standards, but her parents make sure her shoes give her good orthopedic support.
Or like my mom would say: Don't rent them space in your brain.

wookie

I think it's omnipresent, but (a) karma has a way of correcting you, not so gentley and (b) sometimes it is a way of expressing valid concern.

Sometimes, that judgement is nessecary to protect a child. Dirty hair? Not so much. Bruises on the torso? Probably a much bigger issue.

carmie

I tend to feel more judgmental about the way other parents interact with their kids rather than the kids' appearances. I have yet to find the shoe and sock combo that my son will keep on his feet, so he goes out in cold weather wearing his footie pjs under his clothes. So NO room to judge there ;)

It bothers me when parents ignore a crying kid, but really, I don't have any room to talk on this one either. Sometimes I need a time-out from my kid too.

Amy

I think it partially has to do with the fact that our opinions are based on our own experience and we only see a small portion of people's lives - so if we see someone's child being neglected, we simply assume that is an example of how they are every moment of every day, because that's all we've experienced of them. But it might be a one-time thing like the egg yolk and donuts :)

Nancy

Oh, this is an interesting one! What I find so interesting about your situation is that you're not judging the hair by what YOU think of it, but you're judging it by what you are worried OTHERS will think of it. This is such a white liberal thing, especially if another race is involved- if it was whites who were going to cast the judgement, you would not be so tolerant of their shallow judgement, but since it's non-whites doing the judging, you are not only accepting of the fact that they will judge, but are concerned that someone else is not meeting their standards!

Nothing personal, I see it in my friends all the time and at one point probably would have bought into it myself.

Tates

As a relatively new parent--I've got 2 girls, the oldest one is just over 2 years old--I am still amazed at how much of parenting is pure guesswork, fumbling in the dark, doing the best I can, and at how much of the time I am in pure survival mode. We are a two-parent family and my husband shares more than his share of the load, we are lucky enough to have plenty of social and economic resources, and yet I still find parenting to be really, really difficult.

Because of that, I almost never judge the way other people parent their kids (barring a truly dangerous situation, of course). The perfect parent simply does not exist, and I think we all do the best we can. And ALL of us have bad days together with the good (as do our kids, which is part of the difficulty!).

I also think that judging the relationship between parent and child is as impossible as judging the relationship between husband and wife, or partner and partner...there is just simply NO way for anyone who isn't smack dab in the middle of that relationship to understand, appreciate, or analyze that dynamic. It's too complicated and too opaque and too infused with past and underlying situations and emotions that are completely invisible to a bystander.

At the end of the day, if I have gotten some calories and liquid into my girls (even if they're not the healthiest), clothed them enough that they don't violate public indecency laws (the laws of fashion are far beyond my capability at the moment), given them at least one hug and one kiss, and managed not to kill them, myself, or my husband, I call it a successful day. I can't ask more of others than I do of myself...maybe my bar is too low, I don't know, and lord knows I've made my share of mistakes, and maybe it's harder for me than it is for some, but so far my girls are thriving, animated, happy, smart, stubborn as all hell little people, so I must be doing something right, and I assume that everyone else is too.

cagey

Ah, great topic!

Judgement is everywhere - here in the Kansas City area and hell, even back in India where my husband is from. No, no, Judgement is not dependent upon race, religion or creed. Indeed, world-wide it is passed down lovingly generation to generation. :-)

Parenting Judgement is just an extension of Judgement in general. The difference is that children cut to the very heart of you. It was one thing for my grandma to make judgements about my marital status when I was single (for FOREVER in her eyes), but it is another entirely when she makes comments about how I am raising my son. While I politely rolled my eyes at the marital status comments, I do NOT back down on comments about my parenting decisions.

I also think that when children are involved that it makes it easier for others to make judgemental comments because after all, they are doing it in the best interest of the CHILD, right?

I know I am judgemental and I am trying harder not to be. This post is a good reminder how I need to get to work on that. Sigh.

Moxie

Actually, Nancy, I was bothered by it myself. I mean, I wouldn't let my own daughter (if I had one) run around looking like her hair hadn't been brushed in a week, either. But I figured there wasn't any active harm to the girl from my disapproval, but that she could be rejected by members of the black community for having that hair.

So I guess it was a combo of wondering what was up with the parents (and it was two weeks in a row, so not just one lazy hair day) from my own standards, and worrying about the disapproval she'd get from others.

Also, I'm not so sure it's "shallow judgment." From my limited understanding, hair is a big signifier in black culture, and it's not just about asthetics. My perception is that it's one way of telling how loved the child is. To me it seems like letting your kid run around with bleeding chapped lips. Truly big deal? No. But it can indicate that there's something up preventing you from helping your child.

I know there must be a million posts written by black and biracial moms who can explain the significance of hair care. Maybe I'm opening a big can of worms even talking about it since I'm white. Maybe I shouldn't even have noticed a symbol in a code I don't fully speak. But that's a different topic entirely.

AmyinMotown

Michele, I LOVE that story (only because I can relate!).

Moxie, I have been thinking about this a lot, also because of Lent and my annual attempt to be a better person through spirtual discipline (I'm not doing so well but hey, that's why it's 40 days, right?). A wise woman (um, YOU), once said that most of the time when people get their panties in a bunch over other people's choices, it's because of insecurity about their own.

To that point, our local paper ran a story today (lifted whole cloth from what appears to be a Philadelphia area paper) about a "holistic" parenting group. Holistic was defined as attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, unmedicated or home births, etc. I felt my hackles rise as I was reading this, until I thought "Wait, you actually AGREE with a lot of this." Judgy Judgy judgy bad me. The reason, of course, is that my experience both in real life and especially online, is that I feel the most harshly judged by people of that parenting philosophy
However: one of the moms in the article was quoted as saying she felt really judged because when her daughter was 8 months she was the only one of her friends still breastfeeding and babywearing. She was thrilled to meet other parents who did the same. A faciliatator of the group said parents will sometimes cry at their first meeting because they are so thrilled to find friends who feel the same (WHY they, or any parent of any stripe, would only feel they could be friends with people who do the same things they do is another question for another day). That made me think that maybe people with these parenting philosophies come off as judgemental, or actually ARE judgemental, because they in turn are made to feel like freaks for simply doing what feels right.

I am trying, this Lent, to shut off the judgy and view people, ESPECIALLY other moms, as doing the best they can. God knows this job is hard enough without feeling people are looking down their noses at you for doing what you feel is best for your kid, or letting some things slide because other stuff is more important. Maybe that's what we can do about it: next time we feel the judgemental voices start clamoring, realize that it really is none of our damn business, and find something to compliment instead. We've all gotten flat out or implied nasty comments --how about be the person who says something unsolicited and nice? Who among us wouldn't feel good if someone said something kind out of the blue about our kid or our parenting? I like the idea of being someone who puts kindness and encouragement out there instead of glares and nastiness and negativity.

I don't think it's just NYC; it's wicked here in MI, although I do find that the more working-class the social group I am in, the less overt judging goes on. I think age and education can lead to more of it too. A friend who lives in CA, but is a good bit younger than me, says she has a hard time finding other AP parents and feels very judged for being AP, while my circle of friends who are masters-degree or above and new parents in their mid-to-late-30s tend to be much more intensive both in their parenting and tI feel judged by them for NOT drinking the Kool-Aid but instead taking from here and there as I see fit. My very traditional and affluent SIL and her family also make me feel judged for being so lefty. Perhaps it's because these are people who are used to achievement and being top of their class, and they can't turn off that need to strive for A-plus valedictorian?

(as an aside, the little girl with unkempt hair? Maybe she's like Maggie, who flat out refuses to let me give her a "hairdo." It's just not worth the hassle and so she walks around with a mullet. Sigh).

pnuts mama

timely topic for us as well- we chose passing judgment on others as what we were going to give up for lent because it is sooo hard. we are in nyc and lord, yes, i feel way more judgment here than i ever did when we lived upstate, but on superficial things and choices, whereas up there we felt judged more on deeper moral choices, etc. for example, i know that everywhere i am people (women, mostly) are looking at what i'm wearing, driving, stroller i use, bag i carry, sunglasses, shoes, etc etc. and now with pnut she gets subjected to that same scrutiny. not to say i think all eyes are on me but i just assume since whenever i am in conversations with many women those are the things they discuss and often at the expense of critiquing others. folks have actually suggested ways we could get 'nicer' things (!!!) and then are surprised when we tell them that the X5/louie bag/ralph lauren whatever isn't on our list of ways to find satisfaction. consumption and flashing it around is just a way of life, here, moreso than other places i've lived or visited. so yes, i think in terms of appearances=social class/worth/money, moxie, yes, nyc (and probably other major metro areas) are hyper-sensitive when it comes to judging each other. i guess it's how people justify feeling better about themselves, athough we could spend hours dissecting that false reality.

on a different vein, i've noticed that i am guilty of judging moms and their choices (mostly in my head), specifically when they are different than mine, and it is something i've tried to work on very much (see above lent reference). because the past few months i've started to really think about why on earth i care whether or not she supplements or doesn't co-sleep or uses daycare or starts solids early or late or whatever. ultimately, i think it stems from my own insecurities and anxiety in decision-making for what has worked well for our family, and i guess i transfer that to others, as in, they should be making the same decisions that i sweated and bled over. because if they make a different decision and it works for them, maybe i need to second guess my own decision as being incorrect. what i've been thinking about lately is how on earth could that be fair? how can i believe that we are all unique individuals with our own realities and not let that allow each of us to make different yet equally valid decisions for ourselves and our families. ultimately, i've come to a place where i can accept that each one of us can be "right" without doing the same thing.

going back to lent, i guess what has helped me shape this new way of looking at others is the reminder that in God's eyes, we are all equal. and for me, that is profound. to know that the one who creates and loves us does so equally, well, who am i to argue with the logic of the almighty? ultimately, for me, the message of the kingdom of god will only be realised when we can all accept our equality- that in no way are any of us better than each other. sorry to get all theological here, all this lent talk is on my brain, i guess. gustavo gutierrez is a recognized expert in the field of liberation theology and the radical equality of all human beings if you are ever interested.

iheartnewyork

What a great conversation. I definitely fall into the judgy rut myself and have to give myself a swift kick in the ass from time to time. Who am I to judge? Parenting is hard. Every kid and every parent is different.

I LOVE this comment from AmyinMotown:

"We've all gotten flat out or implied nasty comments --how about be the person who says something unsolicited and nice? Who among us wouldn't feel good if someone said something kind out of the blue about our kid or our parenting? I like the idea of being someone who puts kindness and encouragement out there instead of glares and nastiness and negativity."

Wow. Thank you, Amy. If we all put some kindess and good thoughts out there into the universe when we catch ourselves being judgy, the world would be a better place.

pnuts mama

another thought about that girl- if she has a white mom, perhaps she is unaware of the social significance of hair for african-americans? or if the nanny is the primary caregiver maybe she can't figure out the hair either? or, like amyinmotown suggested, perhaps the kid is just in a phase of can't sit still long enough to get the hair done or won't let anyone near it? if the rest of her appearance is ok, then maybe it's no biggie.

Hillary

I didn't have time to read all the comments, so forgive me if I am an "echo" here.
Cut yourself some slack. You were worried about this little girl and you wanted to take care of her. You are a mother and a protector.

Without that instinct, you wouldn't be able to notice the girl who really does need your help. Sometimes judgement is a tool that can saves a person.

Leah

I'm a second-time-around parent - a 15 yo girl and a 13 mo son (+ preg again). I use to NEVER let my daughter out of the house without a clean face, shirt and hair done...and as a young parent I was often very frustrated and frazzled. I look back now and realize I missed a lot of the fun stuff with my daughter in favor of nutrious meals, brushed teeth, clean faces, and impeccable manners. All important issues to be sure, but I could have been a little less stringent about it. My daughter does report a happy and loving childhood but I sure do parent my son differently. I now know not to sweat the small stuff (lunch all over my son's shirt) and to just let him be a kid (jam-hands and all). And as for judging other parents - I'm not nearly as critical now.

Maybe I've lowered the bar in my parenting, but I sure am enjoying it more this time.

Linda

My main concern when I judge other people (not going to bother saying I don't) is that they are making uninformed decisions. I worry that someone chose formula because they were never educated about the benefits of breastmilk or that someone wanted to cosleep, but was told it was wrong and dangerous and their baby would die. If you choose not to vaccinate your kids, I hope you've done a lot of research. If you are making an educated and informed decision, I am all for that. If you are taking the easy or ignorant or lazy way out, that's not right.

I have a couple friends who are both pregnant with their first children and who are the first among their friends to have kids. They keep asking us about parenting/childcare issues. I have no problem telling them what worked for us, but keep emphasizing that the most important thing is that they making an informed decision. It doesn't have to be what we did. It just needs to be their best educated guess.

susan

Here in Canada, we don't judge, especially not Americans! hahaha anyway ...

When I was childless and my best friend had 2 small (crazy) children in her (crazy) household, I could've judged, really, I could've. But right away a bell went off and I thought "I have no idea how to be a parent and she's just doing the best she can do. I respect the pants off her as a human being and those kids will rock" ... or something to that effect.

Now that I have an almost-toddler, I am living exactly that: "we do all we can do as individuals with different personalities/idiosycracies/priorites/etc with our equally unique children" (barring crazy stuff like Moxi mentioned i.e. crystal meth, abuse, etc).

But, I count my ability to be non-judgemental as one of my most prized qualities and I think I might've been born that way. I always tell myself and anyone else "who the hell am I to judge?"

Lisa

But Linda, what if we are informed about breastfeeding or co-sleeping and still choose not to? Do you judge then?

Your post sounds like people who make the decisions you agree with are the ones who are "informed."

Linda

Lisa,

If you're informed and educated and chose everything opposite of me, that's fine. I am an advocate for education and informed decision-making: learning the risks/benefits of whatever and then deciding what works for you and yours.

And yes, I am against people making choices because of a lack of education. It makes me sad and it is something I work against, like Moxie is doing with this website. What is this website for except to inform and then let us choose what's right for us?

Imara

I am an African American mother of a 6 month old daughter whose hair is a completely different texture from my own. Her hair is thicker than my own curly/wavy hair and to be completely honest, I can't always comb her hair in a neat/presentable way all the time.

I am a bit offended by your statement that - "...hair is a big signifier in black culture, and it's not just about asthetics. My perception is that it's one way of telling how loved the child is". I assure you the state or condition (or lack thereof) of a an African American child's hair by no means reflects how loved that child is.

I cannot always comb my own child's hair in way to make it 'presentable' to other parents, including African Americans, and I AM African-American. Frankly, I don't care. But I assure you the condition of my child's hair, or any African-American child's hair for that matter, does not reflect how loved my child is.

Might I also add that in the African American community, we sometimes let our hair go 'natural', which for some means curly and big, which may be mistaken for 'unkempt' or 'uncombed' by others.

I just wanted to add my persecptive as an African-American mother.

Amy

I need to work on caring less about other's judgements of me. As a new mom who voraciously read parent blogs throughout her pregnancy (which so often describe the horrors of judgement and competition among parents), I became terrified that I would be the brunt of the Playgroup Snub or somesuch. I'm so worred about it, I've isolated myself a bit too much - I'm terrified to even join a baby swim class with my daughter, or accept an invitation to lunch with another mom. I can actually pin this fear to something very specific - I am so terrified that I will be judged for no longer breastfeeding my 6-month-old daughter (and I tried --- ohhhh, I tried so hard!) that I choose to isolate us instead. I know many moms will totally understand my struggles, but the thought of bringing out a bottle of formula when my daughter fusses, while the other moms are able to use their breasts for comfort and nourishment, just makes me freeze. I live in a city that apparently has the highest number of breastfeeding mothers and a hugely supportive breastfeeding community - which is fabulous, if it works for you. But when it doesn't ... well, obviously, I need to get over it.

caro

This was one of my new year's resolutions--not critiquing other people's parenting, even in my head, and I started thinking harder about it again yesterday as Lent began. (I should add, my main clue that it's Lent was that on the way out to a big meaty dinner we got caught up in a minor traffic jam caused by Ash Wednesday service goers at a giant church).

I imagine people are judging my parenting all the time, although I don't think I've ever gotten a real parenting drive-by. I think the reason I can imagine so vividly what people are critiquing is that I myself think all the time in terms of what that mom is doing that I would never do, what "wrong" thing I just saw that made me feel all smug about my own parenting by comparison, etc. etc. etc. I think it is absolutely right that a ton of this comes from insecurity about my own imperfections as a mom. Yuck.

I love the comment that an antidote to this is to look specifically for traits or actions we admire in other parents, and then compliment them out loud.

I also have noticed, for myself, that the times I am most judgmental of other parents are the times I keep quietest. If I'm chatting with another mom and we have a difference of opinion or difference of style but I'm not having the ugly "how awful for her kid" thoughts, we can talk about it openly in terms of our situations and choices, and it's good. If I jump to conclusions / judgment about another parent based on what they've said, I often don't say anything at all, and I'm sure that my silence conveys as much as an outright drive-by would. So I think (in situations where we at least sort of know each other, anyway) honest talk about (perceived) disagreements is another way to get out of the judgmental way of thinking.

I think this is so important. Not just on a personal level -- although it's that, too: I think my own judgmental ways often keep me out of being in good relationships with other parents. But I think it makes parenting harder for all of us, knowing that this sort of thinking is so rampant. Like we need anything to make it more difficult!

Madeleine

I think this is a really useful conversation about judging in general. I think most of us do it, and we can all work at keeping it to ourselves and also, as Amy said, giving the unexpected compliment when we can. I can snark to myself plenty, or to my husband, so I am no angel. But I try to remember every one is doing their best, blah, blah.

I know the hair question is just an example, and not the real focus here, but I will give my 2 cents anyway in case it is useful to someone else.

I am white, with a black husband. I just wrote and deleted a detailed rant about why my biracial daughter's hair looks messy by the end of the week. (Moxie, if you are seeing this child on the same day each week, you may be hitting the low point of that family's hair cycle. My daughter's hair looks great! on Sunday evening and terrible! the following Sunday morning.)

Long story short, like all other issues on which we make parental judgments, unless you know how much effort that child's hair takes and how that fits into that families' schedule, you can't assess the situation.

It certainly doesn't mean the child isn't loved.

Nelle

Moxie, I think that you’re correct in your perception that hair care is a big deal in the black community. It can be a hot-button issue for many reasons. I’m a black woman, and I have an11 month old daughter. Trust me, I could go on and on about the issues surrounding black hair care, complete with personal experience, but that’s another post for another time and place.

In terms of judgment, you have made a judgment about how the black community will respond to the little girl, and I think that judgment is completely off-base. No one is going to reject a child because her mother does a bad job of grooming her hair. There may be some women who would give the mother a hard time about it, but that wouldn’t be taken out on the child.

It is very, very hard not to be judgmental. It is human nature to draw conclusions from our observations and our previous life experiences. But unless we are in the middle of a situation and have all of the facts, we aren’t in a position to draw accurate conclusions.

I think the thing to do about judgments is to realize that we’re making them, and to also realize that we could be completely wrong. I also love Amy’s suggestion of looking for positives when we find ourselves picking out the perceived negatives.

emily

Thank you Imara, for making the point I was about to! I was one of those girls with outta control hair, due to a confluence of genetics, parenting style, and well, the 70's. Well-loved always, not always "kempt" by any measure. Should my mom have imposed a buzz-cut or cornrows (neither appropriate to my gender or ethnic identity, btw) just to make sure I was safe from potential judgment? Looking back on some of my school photos, sometimes I wish she had (half-joking here), but really, whose business was it but mine and hers?

Moxie, I don't know where your notion of "hair as love-o-meter" comes from, but if nothing else you've hit on the loaded hot button of judging race and appearance, which is maybe what you were getting at anyway. I understand the continuum between child neglect and laissez-faire, and that it's easiest to judge others by outward traits. I have worked with children of *many* backgrounds, ethnic and economic, who were truly neglected, and it showed. But something about this example really irks me...maybe it's the idea that there is one ideal "presentable appearance" depending on race, and that compliance with that ideal expresses the level of normalcy (i.e. caring, attentive parenting) or *acceptability* of that child. There seems to be a class element too -- should the parents of this little girl, who can afford a nanny and fun activities, be more careful not to let her run around looking "that other kind" of kid? That a parent of one race might be judged more harshly for not living up to the ideal than another parent is so grating -- I am thinking of the affluent little white girls at my local library who tromp around with snarly hair and smudgy faces, and does anyone think of their mother (as she loads them into the Lexus SUV), "How can she let them go out of the house like that? What will people think?" Well, maybe...but it's just not the same constellation of issues.

Sorry to ramble on, I think your point about quick judgments is a great one and thank you for sharing.

emily

OMG, just have to add -- Madeleine, the "Hair Cycle" you describe? That. was. my. life. as a little girl! :D

liphovela

I will add two things to this discussion. I hate, hate, hate when strangers say even small innocuous things to me about me and/or my kid and what I should or should not be doing with myself/him. This is one of my pet issues. Thus, I try very hard to not notice too much what other people are doing. In the interest of fairness, basically. If I am in a situation where I see parents and children that I could watch, I try to put my brain in "idle." None of my business.

RE: the specific example that has generated a bit of a kerfuffle. I am white with a biracial son. I want him to be happy and tidy. I don't like when he cries. His little 'fro is optimized subject to these constraints. I'm going to work under the assumption that everybody gets this.

A bit of a digression, but I have to laughingly agree with the commenter above who said what a white liberal kind of worry it is to say "Its not me; I worry about what Black people will think. [not that I really know what that is, but I read, I do.]" I say this as another white liberal. I was really all exercised about appearances (broadly defined) of my black son and my mixed family to people pre-birth and for the first year or so. Geared up for the personal as political etc. Some funny things, some cringe-worthy things, and some sort of yucky things have happened to us. But I am back in my misanthropic ways, thank goodness. My son has a journey to make in the world as a Black man. Judgments like yours and the ones you worry about other people making are going to come up. My job is to give a few tools about how to let this roll away. Or, as you said in another thought-provoking and useful post "f these f'ing f'ers."

I've read this over and hope it does not sound too harsh. Forgive me Moxie if it does. I hope you know that this is my favorite blog and the only one that can actually bring me out of lurkdom.

fishtail

Ok, I'm not a parent myself, so maybe I'm off base, but I think the way we are critical and judgmental of parents is because kids are vulnerable and everyone thinks their way is the best.

I want kids to have good safe lives and sometimes other people's parenting looks a little sketchy from the outside. Doesn't mean it is, just means I worry because I don't want a helpless little kid to have cold toes or donuts for breakfast every day.

But the real kicker is the "everyone thinks their way is the best". Most people just aren't tolerant of differences even when they think they are. Various parenting styles do not invalidate other ways of parenting. Having piercings or tattoos, breastfeeding, formula feeding, baby wearing, using pacifiers, buying expensive purses, these are just personal choices. If you don't like them, don't do them, but don't try to shame, guilt or 'educate' another parent for choosing them. Sometimes people make uninformed decisions, but no one should have to justify their choices to every stranger on the street with an opinion.

Shandra

Just a few things to add to this great discussion.

There is a difference between exercising judgment and judging, and for me that's the key (not that I don't do both). It's perfectly fine to observe people and make decisions for myself, or even establish boundaries with those people if necessary. But it's not okay to sit in judgment on them except in specific cases (like to call CPS, which I have had to do at a job, and then let CPS do the judging).

The second though is "why do parents judge others, esp. primary caregivers?" and I think there's actually a case to be made that it may in fact be biological - how else do we learn to parent if not by observing other parents, and accepting or rejecting what we see? We are tribal creatures. :) I know that when I was pregnant I found I could not ignore watching other mums with their babies. I just couldn't. I felt drawn to it on a very deep level.

However that doesn't excuse the /actual/ drive-by where you then open your mouth, of course. But I think to think it is all right - it's good to have a counter-voice going too though.

Shelley

I never managed to get breastfeeding to work with my daughter (long story that began with a NICU stay), and felt very judged whenever she was fed in public... but then realized my harshest judge was myself. But yeah, we all judge, no way around it, and I do my best to notice it when I do and remind myself to get off it. I mean, decent parents are making the best choices they can, but nobody lives up to their own ideals all the time.

And, to those who may be offended by the judgement Moxie describes making, or more specifically, the cultural assumptions the judgement was based on -- she has been brave enough to admit this fully on the Internet, people. Challenge her assumptions all you want, but I do think it's appropriate to cut her some slack. I personally think it was brave to put that out there, judgement, cultural assumptions and all.... I for one don't possess the guts to do the same.

Amy

Amazingly, today's post over at Girls Gone Child (http://girlsgonechild.blogspot.com/) is also about judging others - particularly moms who still like to dress up, or wear spike heels to the playground, or whatever.

Sue

I read your blog every day, Moxie, and appreciate that you have taken the time to do these Q&A's. I have found your answers and the comments of others to be extremely helpful.

On this topic, I know I have become more judgemental since having my twins 10 months ago. It seems like just having kids has polarized my emotions. Being a very tired parent has brought out the best and worst in me. On my good days, I am patient and giving. On my bad days I am prone to thinking my way is, of course, the right way.

It hasn't helped that I live in what I call the "BabyWise Capital of Canada", or that my relatives kept giving me formula coupons, samples and promo bags despite the fact that I was vocally determined to breastfeed. My husband, the voice of reason and beyond patient with me, the bitchy mother, once told me that "Even if....(insert bad behaviour by anyone, including questionable parenting techniques)...that doesn't give you the right to be nasty about them." Oh to have enough sleep to be rational again.

I think the best reason for me to try and be more kind is that I want my kids to see that kind of behaviour the majority of the time. I don't think we can hide our prejudices from kids, and I'd hate it if my kids were as mean (mostly in my mind) as I seem to be these days.

judge-y mom

I am a horribly judge-y person. I live next door to my baby-wearing, bf-ing til 2, vegetarian-raising, full-time lifesaving (she's a doc) sister. I judge her, I judge myself, I judge the moms who have single kids, especially girls (I have 2 boys). I judge young moms as being immature, and old moms (of which I am one) as being indulgent. I judge my own (dead) mother for not being here to help me and my (living) mother-in-law for trying too hard to help me.

I veil my judgments in humor, and pray constantly for compassion. And most of all, when I am faced with a situation that brings out my judge-yness, I remember that I have done nearly everything I judged people on (how dare she put cereal in formula! take medication while bf-ing! ferber a 5-month-old!).

Laura

Your discussion is raising soooooo many issues for me! I am not only the mother of an almost-three year old, but a teacher of 10-11 year olds. And while we try to keep it professional, it can be very difficult not to become overly judgmental of some parents' handling of their kids' issues.

Kristina

Interesting post! I am the mother of a biracial child (I am black and hubby is white) and I am always worried about her hair. I think that if she is with her father and her hair is unkempt then people are going to think, "that is why white people can't raise black childdren". If she is with me I know they are going to think that I'm lazy because, after all, I am overweight and therefore must be lazy.

On the flipside (and sometimes I think this has a lot to do with being a HS teacher) I know I have had horrendous thoughts about people and it wasn't until after having a baby that I started feeling horribly about these thoughts. This isn't to say that I have stopped, but I am more aware of my thoughts and I try really hard not to judeg people.

It's hard though. I know that often times I am judegemental because I see a lot of myself in the very people I am judging. I don't always do my hair. SOmetimes my clothes are not ironed or spotless- especially now that I am a mom. Other times I judeg because I need to validate my choices. I think that is why the breastfeeding debates and the SAHM/WAHM debates exist.

I think the key is to realize that we are not always perfect and to check ourselves before we judge so quickly. We have to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has bad days. And everyone has off days.

Moxie

You guys are making me think!

Imara, I'm sorry for offending you. "Natural" hair is very popular here with the black and biracial kids/parents I know or see around, but what I observe is that it takes maintenance to keep up natural hair, like conditioning and combing. This child's hair looks like she was just sleeping and woke up and no one looked at her before she went out of the house. The moms I know (both white and black) of kids with similar hair texture seem to put more effort into it, even if it's just slapping in a couple of barettes to match the socks.

And maybe I'm projecting because I hear what the nannies from the islands say about adults and children on the playground. It can be extremely critical and often shocks me.

Emily, I also think your analysis of this as a class issue is dead on. I grew up very solidly middle class, and would never have been allowed out in public without ahving my hair brushed and braided or put into a ponytail, at least. So the idea of looking neat in public must have been imprinted on me as part of my upbringing, which was firmly based in my midwestern class identity.

And, yeah, I'd be super-judgmental of a mom with a white kid with matted-down hair every week. Messy hair from playing? Fine. Dirty from being in the sandbox all day? Fine. But not even an effort to brush hair or wash the face, week after week, would make me wonder what was going on. Lexus or not. (maybe even especially with a Lexus.)

But I spout all this because I have boys. I keep their hair cut short because it's easy to keep neat and clean. Who knows what the reality would be if I had a girl?

Charisse

Oh man. Had to wait to comment until I had some time. I think I tend to judge the parenting choices that my parents made (the ones I didn't like) and the ones that smack some deeply held tenet of my mothering style...and I think I get judged on similar sorts of things. Here are my lists (this is totally embarrassing):

-Bugaboos (Maclarens vs. Bugaboos is practically open tribal warfare in Cole Valley, SF)
-parents who fit what I once read in a Salon article as a stereotype of some SF neighborhood that I swear was mine: "Parenting ability is measured by mainstream pleasures denied"--people who won't let sugar cross their kids lips or TV of any sort cross their eyeballs (and that was totally my parents on the TV and it took a lot of recovery for me, so I'm just thinking of the children, right? ha)
-the single father by choice across the street who had his lovely baby via egg donation and surrogacy and now has a full-time nanny and goes off on trips all the time (this is so not my beeswax, they all seem happy)
-people who get caught up in the preschool rat race, which is big and hard to avoid here
-parents whose daughters are in too much pink
-most heavily of all...parents who sleep train. My heart sure tells me it's wrong, and if I ran the world it just wouldn't be allowed. So there.

What I feel judged about:

-not sleep training (I think I got more pressure about that than any other parenting decision)
-being a happy working mom--I get lots of conversational opportunities that are clearly openings for me to tell people how I wish I could stay home and regret putting Mouse in daycare--neither is true, and even when I got laid off I didn't pull her out for the 6 months I was off and looking. I got straight-up open flak for that one.
-not being fabulously out and about town and having all kinds of regular date nights and weekends away. In fact Mouse is nearly 3 and I haven't spent the night in a different house from her yet. I'm almost scared to admit it even here, and it's not even really a conscious decision. But it feels like being a 25-year-old virgin or something.

And I get it about the AP group--sometimes it feels like it isn't Ok to talk about being happy with--or even proud of--your choices or your good fortune. I don't talk about my unmedicated labor to this day, unless I ascertain that someone is in the "club" and not going to be peeved.

Now, about the sleep training and the working. Here's what's interesting. My very best mom friend in the whole world, whose daughter is just 2 weeks younger than Mouse and who I met when the girls were 8 and 10 weeks old and who used to live a block from us (miss you Jess if you're lurking on here!)...anyway, this good and true friend made totally opposite decisions from me on these key issues. She did full-on, Weissbluth, hours of screaming sleep training--multiple times--and she would have been dragged through fire before she would have put her daughter in daycare (Which Mouse began at 7 months). I don't judge her. We're still best friends. I held her when she cried from the stress of the sleep stuff. She held me when I cried about the 5th weekend of sickness in a row, all daycare-originated. It's her business.

It's strangers I judge, strangers I almost have the freedom to judge...but this all makes me think of something my favorite yoga teacher passed on, which I should attend to more often:

Practice happiness towards those who are happy.

The deal is, not approval, not commendation--just happiness. It's really powerful and not at all easy to do. Thank you for reminding me of it, Moxie!

A

This is a great topic. I haven't read all the posts but my younger child (girl - 30 months) DETESTS having her hair brushed...so I try everything from hand brushing to using detanglers but the moment I even so much as touch her hair she runs the sprint. So very often my gorgeous girl leaves home without a brush even so much as touching her hair. And even if I have hand brushed her hair the hats and the hoods mess up her hair anyway. I end up apologizing at school (day-care) for her but what this has taught me is to try to stop being judgemental about other parents. We try our best as parents to turn out disciplined and well groomed children. The trouble is being judgemental is part of nature and we all suffer from it...unfortunately. When my children act up and make a big fuss about coming back home from school, I worry that the other parents are judging and wondering why I can't have my kids march out the moment I walk in to get them. But then I took a moment to watch other kids with their parents and boy a lot of them faced the same drama...so my worry was unfounded or at least to some extent.

I like the idea of assessing vs judging like one other person suggested.

Amy

I love this topic because it's something I deal with all the time. Before I had kids I was the classic "I'll NEVER do THAT when I'm a mother" sort of a person. When my son was born, I continued being judgemental about people who were "ahead" of me. "I won't give my toddler THAT!" You know the routine. I guess it was when baby #2 came along that I started to realize that we all do what works for us. Honestly, my children go out with dirty faces and barefooted all the time. For me, that's something I can let slide. But I can't spend time with them without touching them. My hand is always playing with their hair, or I've got them pulled close somehow while we're standing in line. To me, this is critical. But I know mommies who are the opposite. They don't feel the need to caress their children all the time but they are fastidious about how their children look.

Okay, so I'm rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I spend a lot of time reminding myself that I'm not perfect. And that what is important to me is not important to other mommies and vice versa. It doesn't keep me from thinking judgemental thoughts... but it does help me remember to be understanding as I'm thinking them.

Stephanie

Oh, so interesting. A topic I am constantly bringing up with other groups because I can discuss it endlessly, is how do you champion parenting choices that you believe are best, in order to educate people about them, without judging? The easiest example is breastfeeding.

Sure, not everyone can. But the number one reason for breastfeeding failure is lack of support, and the best way to improve this support is to improve our culture's view of breastfeeding as a whole. I am only one person, but I feel it's my responsibility to be an educator and informer, so that I can do my part to change the culture.

Still, I'm never sure when to say something. I don't want to judge other mothers. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and I haven't the faintest idea what it's like to be the next mom up the block. So I sometimes find myself keeping silent, which is what society equates with respectful. And then I feel guilty, for letting the breastfeeding community down.

How do you pass along information about important things like this without judging?

I also worry about judgement (of me, which isn't the topic), when sometimes it isn't there. When my husband sees I'm beyond frustrated with our son, he will take him from me to deal with the situation. Part of me is grateful, and I truly believe he does it because he can see I need it. But a part of me worries, is he judging me for having lost my cool? He's a wonderful man, so he's never said anything, and I truly believe he would if he was worried, but I don't know how to switch off the mother-guilt. It's built in!

Aurora

I just have to say that if *anyone* said *anything* to me today about my daughter's hair not being brushed, I would completely fall apart. The hair is WAY down on the list of battles to be fought or not, and I feel lucky that I managed to get her to school an hour late, but dressed. And we are both white.
I know, the hair isn't the main issue, but we have NO IDEA what is going on in other people's lives and to make judgements about how much a child is loved based solely on appearance is a huge trap.

Jillian

Stephanie,
I have to respond to your post and, no, I don't think it was off-topic. Just yesterday my DH and I had a misunderstanding because he was losing his normal fun self with our 21-month old, (dinnertime eating struggles of him wanting to put his whole hand in his yogurt instead of capably using his spoon), and I tried to gently suggest to him to go take a break and let me take over. He was so offended and this morning when we'd cooled off he told me how hard he strugges against the archetypical non-involved fathers that were in his life and some of our friends/neighbors who seem to exhibit hands-off father behavior. (Well, I guess that goes back to judging others, doesn't it!) But I say "seem" because except for the males he observed growing up the rest is just a feeling that he has about whose behaviour he does not want to use as a role model.

As a teacher who put her child in daycare at 3 months I get it from all sides in that I fight against judging parents of my students and against being judged by friends, aquaintences, (however that is spelled :-), and his daycare.

I have had constant judgment battles with my SAHM sister of two children, mostly with her saying "you'll see" when I would ask about a decision she'd made or state how I would want to do something and, now, about the parenting choices I've made. (Wow, no TV and videos is such a hot button issue! I had no idea!)

I guess what I struggle with a lot is sharing my parenting choice and another person, (typically my sister, but this happens with others), but them feeling as if I'm judging them for making a different choice.

Sorry for the ramble... thanks for listening!

Kristine

Oh, I was so much smarter when I didn't have a kid. I knew everything, I knew how to fix everything kid related, and I knew exactly what everyone else was doing wrong.

What 4.5 months of parenting has done for me, is tell me exactly how stupid I was.

It's much easier to not judge now that I know I'm being judged. (Or at least it's easier to catch myself at it and try and think of the reasoning behind the decisions that the other parent is making.)

jessica

There's a difference between thinking of someone "WOW they're a crappy parent" and "What are they thinking?"

Like this past weekend...it's been cold here in NYC as you know. I visited some friends and brought my 15 month old daughter. I had her in the Ergo, she was bundled in a winter jacket, hat, scarf, pants, socks, and shoes.

I waited for the elevator in my friends' building. When it finally arrived, a whole family got out. And they had their infant son with them. Maybe 6 or 7 months old. In a foot-less sleeper. No jacket. Just PJs. And they were taking him out in the cold like that, barefoot. Everyone else was bundled up.

And THEY said to ME, "It's veddy coold outside, veddy coold!"

Ummmm......??!!

AmyinMotown

Stephanie, the answer to your question about speaking to people who don't breastfeed is "you don't.'" First because it's such a hot button issue that it's hard to say anything without seeming judgemental, whether it's meant that way or not. Secondly, by the time you see someone formula feeding or whatever, the choice has been made and the milk's likely gone. To say "You know breast is best" or do ANYTHING which makes them feel they need to justify their choices to someone who has already stopped just smacks of Mean, because what precisely are they supposed to do about it at that point?

To use an analogy: I am Catholic. I love my church, and there are a lot of misconceptions out there about it. All I can do is when someone says something that shows they have a mistaken idea of what my church is, I tell them that is incorrect and why. I don't go around telling everyone "YOU HAVE TO BE CATHOLIC OR YOU KINDA SUCK" because that's not true and certainly not the way to inspire people or a good way to represent my faith. If people know my beliefs and want to have a sounding board to explore their own, great. But I am not trying to get my committed atheist friends, or even committed Protestants for that matter, to do wwhat I do. Works for me, I'd be glad to tell you what I do, but I fully respect that it may not work for you.

Stephanie

Amy -

Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, I don't think it's that cut and dried, because your response doesn't speak to how we can change our culture to be more informed and healthy. Not saying anything ever obviously is the easiest answer when it comes to individual people's feelings, but I fear it might be at great detriment to our society.

Right now I tend not to say things, and certainly not to strangers! I open a door for dialogue by, for example, nursing in public, or mentioning casually that I am headed out to a leche league meeting to family or friends. I just wonder if it is enough.

Also, your religion example seems to imply that feel some religions work for some, and some work for others. If that is how you feel about breast vs bottle, then we don't agree on the core issue, anyway. Which is okay, it's just difficult to figure out the right balance between speaking up and remaining silent when you feel very strongly about the advocacy.

And, Jillian - thanks! Sometimes it's the most helpful gestures that can be misinterpreted and seem the most hurtful, isn't it?

Maman_du_Petrus

I judge and I am probably judged too as a parent. Our son is 17 months old. My husband and I talk about parent-child interaction situations that we see in the street, at our daycare, etc and as I am reflecting on this topic, I see that what makes us judge and talk always has the same basis: a parent that does not treat his child as a complete respected human being. Example seen:

-Parents come to pick up twin daughters (22 months) at day care. They talk about them in front of them, refering to them as "the twins", and talk above their head like they can't understand
-Daughter is having a snack at daycare after the afternoon nap. Father comes in earlier to take her home, apprently can't wait 2 minutes until she finishes her cheese, lifts her up in the middle of a bite, and when she protests, calls her a spoiled princess baby
-Mother is dressing up her 16 months old daughter to leave daycare in a winter suite. Daughter cries and whimpers (its hot in there maybe??). Mother turns to another mother whos son is staring and not making a sound while being dressed (that would be me) and explains how she would trade her daughter for that boy anytime. IN FRONT OF HER.
-Same mom complains that her daughter is STILL not walking and how lazy that is, compared to this and that kid that walked much earlier. The kid is 14 months old...

If you do things like this, I judge you. I may be judged for my choice on breasfeeding, cosleeping, pacifier, daycare, tv, juice, buying organic, whatever, but hopefully nobody can ever judge me for not treating my son as a whole, respected human being. If a parent chooses the opposite choice that I chose for my son on an issue, if that action is respectful of the child, well, I have nothing to say. I am certainly not better for judging others even though I think its on a right basis, and I never make comments to the parents (except my own extended family and only regarding how they threat our son,like talking about him when he is present,or asking him to smile or perform an action like he is a circus dog and not a human being, not the other kids and grandkids). I think I sound like I am full of it, but its probably because english is not my first language, what I mean is that if we treat our children respectfully, what we do exactly with them is up to us, like with any other social situations.If people still judge us, then, well..there is nothing we can do.

Liss

Oh, what a topic. I try so hard to avoid being Judgy McJudge about parenting choices but it is so hard. I find, though, that I really don't care if a kid is covered in food or a toddler is wailing like a banshee. What I find really hard to turn off the judgment on is things like smoking while holding the baby.

I generally feel like there are certain choices that, all things being equal, one is probably better than the other. But that's the thing - rarely are all things equal. It's not an experiment with controls, it's life. And we are all doing the best we can. Even people that might seem to a casual observer to be screwing up pretty severely are more than likely doing the best they can.

Here's my hardest experience with judging. I was lucky enough to have a totally natural birth at a birthing center, attended by midwives - even though labor lasted about 42 hours. I don't for a second think anything but that I was lucky to be able to do that. (Well some might also say totally crazy and perhaps unusually tolerant of pain.) So many complications can arise that forbid it. But then, afterwards, when I hadn't even talked about it to people, several people gave me grief for being judgmental of their childbirth experiences! Similar experiences with my cosleeping, baby-wearing, breastfeeding decisions. Believe me, it would be fantastic if my girl slept without me next to her, or didn't wail when I put her down. But she does, so I do my best to keep her reasonably happy. If she weren't so high-needs, I probably would back off a bit. But the criticism I get for that doesn't just stop at me. It turns back around and I get accused of being judgmental of people who don't make those same decisions. Sometimes I feel like I'm already being castigated as judgmental, so I might as well actually be so. Which, no, I'm not going to actually act on, but still. It can be really hard when just going about my business is interpreted as a judgment.

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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