September 17, 2012

A giant leap

I recently came across a blog post written about an encounter between a mother and daughter observed in a store. The blogger confessed she passed judgment based on what she saw, admitting she did not know the whole story.

It was an honest post written with integrity. I found it very interesting, as well as some of the comments:

  • So often in blogging, I read well-meaning but ultimately self-righteous posts about how we shouldn’t judge others’ parenting styles or decisions. But it’s inevitable that judgment will occur; we’re only human, after all. 
  • I get so tired of the “let’s all support each other and stop judging!!” thing. Of course I support women, but I think it’s human nature to judge whether or not we would do something the way other people do it.
  • I do love your caveat at the end about not knowing what really went down BUT we’re gonna make our judgments anyway. 
  • It’s easy to judge something you’ve never experienced from the other side.
  • You have no idea what went down. How can you say she’s “doing it wrong?”

Judging is, to a certain extent, human nature. And I will confess I do it, too. Does that make me a hypocrite as the creator of The Mom Pledge? I don't think so, though you are welcome to disagree. All I ask is that you read on to the end of this post first.

We are constantly bombarded with examples of how other people parent their children, online as well as in real life. Being exposed, and having our children exposed, to different styles and philosophies can be both enlightening and frustrating.

Sometimes we purposely watch situations to see how they will play out. Maybe we hear a child having a tantrum in public, and we want to see how the adult handles it. We wonder if we might learn something. Discover a method we could try out ourselves. Or if we can just feel better about our own parenting.

We may say to ourselves, "I would never do that." We may go home and talk to our spouse or partner about it. We may discuss it with close friends. We may write a generic blog post to open up a respectful discussion on the topic, like the example I read.

Author Jen told me, "I wrote that post not to be mean to this mother but to express my disappointment and almost sadness at the situation. Sure, I judged her but I wish this mother no ill will and I don't think she is a horrible parent. I just disagree and that is fine."

Disagreeing with someone is not bullying. Neither is looking at a situation with a critical eye and determining whether or not we would do something a particular way. That is discernment, and it is an important process. In fact in parenting, it is often vital that we look at different sides of an issue in order to determine what is best for us.

Judgment occurs when we look at the person in the situation and think/say, "She is a bad parent because she did XYZ." There is a fine line between discernment and judgment, one many of us likely cross from time to time. It takes a larger step to go from judgment to condemnation. And a giant leap to attack someone for her parenting choices.

Few of us would ever consider walking up to a complete stranger and saying to her face, "You're doing it wrong." Yet women regularly say exactly that, and worse, to other moms they encounter online. They publicly attack or shame them. Call them out and call them names. Incite others to do the same.

There are individuals and groups of women who regularly engage in a deliberate, sustained effort to harass and hurt other individuals or groups of women. You see it on message boards, Facebook pages, blogs and parenting websites. That is the essence of bullying, and the type of behavior The Mom Pledge hopes to bring attention to, and ultimately to stop.

Because even when we do judge, when we strongly disagree with something another mom does, we can still treat her with respect. The Mom Pledge encourages women to be less judgmental and more accepting of other moms. To engage in civil discourse. Take the opportunity to learn from someone who parents differently. Doing so widens our view and helps us come together.

I am willing to admit I have judged. But I try to view others with an open mind and an open heart. I believe people have the right to make the choices best for their lives. It is neither my business nor my right to tell them otherwise.

It's said often and feels trite in many cases, but it really is true. We are all just trying to do the best we can. I have moments when I'm sure another mother could look at me and judge. Harshly. I judge myself in those moments. I beat myself up about them, reliving them in my head and questioning or regretting my actions and my decisions.

That is human nature, too. And I am constantly reminded by others to give myself a break. To not be too hard on myself. Shouldn't I offer others the same courtesy?

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