Today, as I was sweeping up the disgusting pile of dust, Lego, dog hair and crumbs from under the playroom couch, I was tempted to take a picture of it for this blog. As I was sweeping (in preparation to move the couch, which is what I do when I am supposed to be writing. I move furniture), I decided that today I was going to write about how frustrated I am with competitive Moms (including myself). Yes, just Moms. I am sure some Dads have their moments of being snarky and judge-y, but I haven't really observed that. We Mamas have cornered the market on "competitive parenting". I've touched on this before, but it's worth re-visiting, because it's really.starting. to. tick. me. off. that we all can't just be kind to each other. I am ticked at myself too.
Because I am as guilty as anyone of doing it.
As I was sweeping up the "gunk" (I really should have taken a photo), I thought, how funny it is that so many people think I am so clean and tidy and that my "house is always perfect". Haha. It's not true, but part of me wants everyone to think it is. Because it wipes away the "dirt" and "messiness" that is my family's reality. Tidiness hides the imperfections of a real life. Everyone who knows my kids may question my parenting, but they can't question my housekeeping right? Well, now they can. My housekeeping is as flawed as my parenting.
But children have a way of revealing our weaknesses, our imperfections, no matter how hard we try to hide them. Unfortunately, it is the times when our "dirty shirts" and "imperfect parenting" reveal themselves that we feel the most judged by all those "perfect" Moms who seem to have it together.
The train of thought for this article started while I was listening to a program on the radio the other day. A Mom who had suffered from Post Partum Depression was talking about her experience. As I was doing the dishes, and listening to her words, I experienced many sympathetic and heartfelt feelings for what she had suffered, but I was also judging, and comparing her struggle to mine. I was reacting to her words in a competitive, judgemental way, comparing how I managed to "survive" the post-partum experience without plummeting into a deep depression. Maybe I was stronger, better prepared, or more likely, I was just blessed and/or lucky that I had a smooth post-partum experience.
I am SUCH a cow! Women can be so cow-y to each other. Where's the grace? Why do I feel "fluffed up" when I am "better" at something than another Mom, or when one of my children is "better" at something than another child?
Is it just me? Am I the only cow?
I don't know, but I am going to take a stab at unravelling this bovine behaviour.
I think I judge, because I feel judged. I feel like this is a competition. Actually, I don't just FEEL judged. I am judged. Ask any Mom, and she'll tell you a story of feeling judged.
Just the other day, in church, my six-year-old son (the one who has ADHD) started pinching my arms because he was BORED OUT OF HIS TREE. When I didn't react to that, (meaning I didn't launch him across the room because he hurt me so bad), he proceeded to throw himself on the floor and kick the pew in front of us. I noted the looks and glances I was getting from families down the row. A judge-y look, followed by a pat on their own behaving child's well-groomed head. I don't know what these people were really thinking, because I am not a mind-reader (thank-goodness for that) but if I was to wager a guess, their eyes told me they were questioning my parenting, maybe wondering about my son's lack of respect in church, or maybe they were even shocked by his "violent" behaviour (and wondering where he learned such behaviour...probably from the father, who isn't even at church). They probably felt bad for thinking those things and judging, but they did it anyway. I understood the looks. Only one elderly gentleman approached me after the service. He and his wife had been sitting behind me during the service. Lightly holding my forearm, he shared gentle words with me about raising his own sons, and how the early years were crazy. He told me to just keep feeding them and loving them and they'd "turn out ok". His parting words were something like this
"How your young son behaves in church will have no bearing on his eternal destiny, or what kind of man he grows up to be. He's a kid. He wants to climb a tree, not sit on his butt. Don't beat yourself up Mom, you're doing a great job." I wanted to hug him (and I'm SO not a hugger). Oddly, his wife just shuffled past me...probably because she thought I suck at Motherhood.
We judge don't we? We all do it. I observe this all the time. The chubby kid with the boogers and the ice-cream stains on the front of his shirt causes the "other Moms" at the park to buzz like bees, looking around busily to identify "that Mom" who:
A: Can't use a kleenex to wipe her kid's face
B: Can't Do laundry
C: Can't feed her child healthy food
Or, we've all seen the kid who's having a complete, red-faced screaming melt-down at the store, and we think "This child needs discipline" or "Why is this child at the grocery store so late? Any good Mom would have their kids in bed". I've thought this. But then I spent six months alone with my children, and I realized that the logistics in one home don't equal the logistics in another home. Sometimes Moms come home from work late at night, and the ONLY time they can shop is after bedtime. Maybe they can't afford to leave their children at home with a sitter. Maybe there are no grandparents to help. And this may be the only time they get to spend with their children all week. HUH. This Mom doesn't need a cold glance. She needs help loading her groceries. She might need a ride. Or a hug. Or a smile. Or a gentle word and soft touch on her forearm.
Big assumptions. Big judgements.
Instead of a kind word, or an ounce of grace, we have that momentary flash of pride that our kids' faces are (miraculously) snot-free (on this particular day), or that our children are in bed early, at the same time every night, because children thrive in a scheduled environment.
Oh come on - we all do it. And it's terrible. It does nothing to build us up as a community of nurturers, and everything to break down our individual confidence.
So what? I didn't suffer from post-partum depression...But I now suffer from "Mom who yells in public places too much".
Oh yah. That's me.
The public "yella".
Want to bring on the snaggy looks at the beach? Here's how:
Let your kids (who are terrible swimmers) get out way too deep with their friends, then, instead of going out to get them quietly, YELL (repeating your childrens' names over and over and over, then try counting to three, using sign language (because that worked 3 years ago), then threaten to take away the Lego FOREVER...all while yelling across the whole lake so cottage owners on the opposite shore feel like they are catching crap for something) while running down the beach kicking sand in everyones' faces. This, because you didn't wear a bathing suit and you can't stand the feeling of wet underwear, so you don't want to go INTO the lake to drag your (lovely) children, who are (thankfully) not drowning yet, nor listening to your freakish screams and threats.
Add your dog pooping in the shallow water while you're not looking, and you've got a home-run of imperfection.
Oh yah...that'll get the Mamas who remembered to wear their bathing suits and who's children listen to the "water rules" better than yours (and probably also remembered to apply sunscreen before their childrens' necks started turning pink) thinking big bad mean-y thoughts about you.
But we all have our bad parenting days. Some days my kids have boogers on their faces. Many days my boys have the WORST bed-head hair. Their shirts are usually dirty by the time we leave the house in the morning. There is only about a 50% chance of all three of my boys being peaceful and quiet when I require that behaviour. They don't always remember their manners. Sometimes (often) they are bossy (aka working on future leadership skills).
But there's no need to judge me. I'm doing the best I can.
And hey, other Moms, I bet you are doing everything you can to raise your kids in the best manner you know how. So I'm going to try really hard not to judge you (even if you have jammy-pants on at 4 pm at the grocery store that say "FRESH" across the bum). We all have different strengths, and different tool-kits of knowledge, different arrows in our quiver. And for goodness sake, our children are made differently as well.
So you Mamas who have wonderful, thoughtful, quiet, calm children...consider yourselves BLESSED. You are probably a really great parent too. I won't take that away from you. And I bet you are modelling fantastic behaviour. But temper your self-awesomeness-rating with a little humility, because if you have never been pushed to your wits-end by a child who may "beat to a different drum", you may not understand how strong that yelling Mama has to be to endure each day with her "wild-child".
We are all different. Our children are all different. Our situations are all different.
And we all "suffer" our children somewhere along the way. If you have a perfect kid right now, that's nice, enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe he'll want to dress like a "goth" when he's a teenager, maybe she'll want to put those ear-stretcher things in her ear lobes, or maybe he'll decided to teach Jazz-er-cize for a living, and stay in your basement eating Doritos FOREVER. Maybe she'll date a drop-out who hangs out at the skate park all day. Or maybe your children will stay perfect. For your sake and theirs, I hope not.
The thing is, the more you think you are perfect, or that your children are perfect, the more likely it is that you are really, really, NOT perfect.
I wrote this, because I need to remember this. The next time I want to judge that Mom at the splash park who's kid is pushing my boys around, and she's not noticing because she is on her phone (ok, wait, that's me, but you get the point), I am going to try to be less judgemental, and remember the gentle words of the elderly man at church:
"Don't beat yourself (or anyone else) up Mom. You're doing a great job".
(this is not my child,mine would never wear a tie, but this is a familiar face :))
(of all COW-Y behaviour)
Silly Mama is the in-house blogger for Silly Souls. Please visit www.sillysouls.com for the most hilarious baby t-shirts and onesies ever...and cute shoes too! And baby surfer booties for Apres-Surf sessions! GO CHECK IT OUT MAMA!