All too often we judge others over issues we know little to nothing about. We point fingers and condemn rather than seeking to understand, and we criticize rather than assuming positive intent. Why is that? My guess (unfortunately) is that it’s just human nature. By some twisted form of logic, putting others down makes us feel superior. “She has her kids out at the grocery store at what time? I would neeeever do that” or “Did you see that temper tantrum? I would never let my kids act that way.”
But what we don’t know is the backstory. Perhaps that mother you are busy criticizing for having her child at the grocery store at 9:30PM is a single parent who just got off work, and this is the only time she is able to get groceries. Or that child throwing a temper tantrum…perhaps that kid is going through some major life changes at home and is acting out as a way to deal with the stress. The underlying point is that you have no idea what that temper tantrum signifies, and without even trying to understand, all you do is exacerbate the problem by making an already stressed-out parent, more stressed. Mommies can feel the stares from watchful and judging eyes, I promise you.
Needless to say, I was shocked (but shouldn’t have been) at the backlash I received from what I thought was a smart parenting choice as a single mother. My crime: I used an Uber to pick my (then) 4-year-old son up from our babysitter’s house after a night out with friends.
After ploughing through a 40-hour work week, heading home to my other full-time job (parenting), and spending a week being cooped up in the house with cartoons, corn dogs, and toy trucks, I needed a night out. I craved some free time to spend with adults, doing adult things, having adult conversations. I could even cuss freely if I wanted to…which I did! I never even thought twice about the choice to drop my son off at his babysitter’s house with plans to Uber it home with him later. Taking an Uber was nothing new to my tiny family of two. We lived in a big city and used them frequently (still do). Why the heck not? They ware fast, convenient, and inexpensive.
So when the Uber arrived shortly after midnight at our babysitter’s doorstep, I ran inside and carried my sleepy boy to the waiting car (with booster seat in tow). And together we finished the short trip home. Easy peasy.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong. What I thought was a responsible choice had other people reeling.
Why wake him up so late to take him home?
Why are you out instead of being at home with your son?
Why were you drinking?
Don’t you think that was irresponsible?
I can’t believe you tell people you did that!
Did I feel bad for going out and having a couple drinks with my best friend? No. Did I need some time away from being a mom to just relax? Yes. Did I think I acted irresponsibly? Hardly! So what was my reaction to the incredulous questions I received? I laughed them off and did my best to ignore them. Until now.
What I need for all of the super-judgy people to understand is that being a single parent is hard. If you’re married, you know how it feels when you are left to do things solo for (gasp) a whole weekend. If you don’t have kids, please do not even consider telling me what a “responsible” parent does. While I would likely take your advice somewhat seriously, I find that a lot of people talk about what they “would do” in a given situation, but act completely different when actually in that same scenario. Thus, I do not find you qualified to speak on the subject.
Here’s the underlying point. These frustrations from other people made me second guess myself as a good mother. And dammit I am a good mom. And there are thousands and thousands (millions actually) of other good moms out there. There is no one single way to parent “correctly”, and the amount of judging and grief we give to moms (especially single mothers who are already barely hanging on to their sanity by a thread) is ridiculous and has to stop. So what if they take their children grocery shopping at hours you deem unacceptable. So what if they abandon filled-to-the-brim shopping carts to deal with an unruly child. So what if they let their kid wear conflicting color patterns. So what if they Uber it home at night with their kid. Give me a break. And give single moms everywhere a break.
Mothers are some of the most creative multitaskers this world has ever seen. They survive on less sleep in a week than most of us can even fathom. These women work hard, they nurture, they discipline, they run households and hold down jobs...and sometimes they take a break from being a superhero to just enjoy an average-adult type of night out. So when you see a mother out and about at 3PM still in her pajamas and two-day old ponytail, stop judging. When you see her feeding her infant with formula vs. breastmilk, just quit it. When you see a fellow mother out at happy hour with her friends, stop assuming she is irresponsible.
We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others. Just something to think about. Love more, judge less.