I used to write more about mom on mom judgment than I do now. But, every now and then I see a conversation online, and it brings me back into the common discussion of what is acceptable to “judge” and what is not.
On PhD in Parenting, this conversation comes up every once and again, and it did on this post on parenting styles on vacation.
Here is my reply to the cries of “don’t be so judgmental!”:
I think there is a fat line between mommy judgment and deciding which parenting tactics aren’t for you.
I hate it when I see parents yelling at their kids, repeatedly, for doing something when they could get up and do more effective disciplining up close, but are too busy with their own texting or book or conversation that they don’t want to bother. Know where it’s worse? On a school playground. With both of my kids, I observed the playground first before choosing a preschool. If the adults huddled in a corner and yelled at the kids from afar, and missed acts of aggression, you betcha my kid didn’t go to preschool there.
But, I am not condemning parents who I see do that once as “bad parents”. I am not condemning the adults (teachers, teacher’s assistants, whatever) at the preschool [where] I saw this as awful teachers. In fact, I use this “judgment call” “opinion” or whatever you want to call it to catch myself, too. If I am doing something similar, like yelling at my kids repeatedly from my keyboard (who me? never…), I will think “You’re doing that thing you hate” and hopefully get off my tuchus and discipline more kindly AND effectively.
Are we really defending screeching at children from afar? Of course, a parent may have a hurt foot or a disability. Of course, a child may have an immune disorder, and may need stuff wiped down. I am the type of person to travel with snacks, but mostly because 1. the food at resort style places is obnoxiously expensive and 2. it’s usually pure crap. Do I judge parents who let their kids eat it? No, when I can afford it, I splurge a little and relax my standards for my kids. Are we talking about kids with severe allergies here who need their own food? No. And, again, I would never use that as some sort of end-all-be-all judgment of the quality of parenting.
We aren’t talking about exceptions, we’re talking about parenting choices, here. Screeching from afar = poor discipline, and I don’t feel overly judgmental saying that.
I was stuck in a long line at DisneyWorld once next to a mom who had just gotten out of a tour in Iraq. She was with her young son, who was the same age as my older son at the time. I still remember to this day the nasty and sarcastic way she talked to her son the whole time we stood next to each other, and it was the good part of an hour.
I have no idea what it is like to leave your child for a tour of duty in a war. Just thinking about it, and I do often, because I am a ruminating bleeding heart like that, makes me want to weep for our society. I cannot imagine what it would be like coming home and having to reconnect with a child, while dealing with all of the complex feelings and guilt. I am not judging this woman as a parent. What I do know is that the experience in the line for a mere 45 minutes of their life was excruciating to me, and it broke my heart for the boy.
She could be a great parent. I am not saying I am a better parent. I am not saying that I haven’t been bitingly sarcastic or nasty to my children, or that you couldn’t play back a recording of some things I’ve said that would make me cringe. Or that could easily be torn apart on a blog.
There may have been some problematic points in the original post in which she seemed to be guessing at motivations for the behavior, and I can see how that could rub someone the wrong way. But, criticizing screeching, or valuing a scheduled feeding for an infant who is howling on an airplane over just feeding the poor thing, is just looking at a snapshot of an action and reacting. It’s not mommy wars, in my book, and leaves room for a defense of such choices without name calling.