The laughter after the tantrum. Photo by Michele Mateus Photography
It was a beautiful summer afternoon, and I was tooling around the neighbourhood on my bike with my toddler, just enjoying life, when I heard from across the street: “Stop making it look so easy, you are making us look bad.” Stunned, I made a joking reply about how the bike riding was easy, but everything else required wine. I tried to laugh it off, but this wasn’t the first time that neighborhood mom had made a comment like that to me. I fumed on the inside. Who the hell did she think she was? She had no idea what my life looked like on the inside. She had no idea what struggles I faced.
On the flip side, I recall asking for support from other moms to help me keep an eye on my toddler during a group playdate. He was going through a hitting phase, and I was trying to find a way to get some mom company without stressing about him every second. I can’t remember how the line ended, but it start with “Well, if it was MY child, I would…” The judgment poured off her in waves that knocked me down. I didn’t attend the playdate after all.
We’ve all been there. We’ve been the mom who judges and the mom who feels judged. We’ve been the mom who looks like she has it all together and the mom who looks like it’s all falling apart. And wherever we are on the spectrum at any given moment, what others may see does not encompass who we are as a parent or as a person. And whether we are being held up in the eyes of another as the model or torn down, it feels bad. Because we are not being seen for who we really are. Because in that moment of judgment, a distancing happens. Up on a pedestal or down in a pit, either way we are separated.
Modern motherhood is freaking hard. Most of the women I know, myself included, are parenting with very little support. We don’t have extended family to rely on, and even when we do, those relationships are often their own source of stress. We are overwhelmed by information flying at us daily about all the ways we are doing it wrong, and we are making hard choices about when to be firm and when to be soft, and we don’t know how anything is going to turn out.
So moms (and dads) can we just come together more often? Can we freely share our joys and our struggles without worrying about how we will be judged? Can we just remember that the 5 minutes we see that other parent at the playground or the school parking lot does not define who they are as a person? I think we could all use a little more compassion, and a lot less judgment.