How often do you feel like you’re being judged as a mother?
You walk into the grocery store dragging your toddler by their arms while they scream bloody murder. You’re worried someone is going to think that you’re either kidnapping or killing a child (and maybe you’re tempted to do one of these things).
Other people pretend that you don’t exist, or as if you’re the one doing something wrong.
Like..why is it almost always one or the other???
Every once in a while you will get a sympathetic look and nod from another veteran mother who can empathize with your state of being right now.
But those women are far and few between.
It’s so easy to feel alone. To feel judged. It’s understandable that we think this way. Hell, this feeling can cause us to go on the defensive, and perhaps we start judging them a little…
We spent some time at the park last weekend after my three-year-old’s gymnastics meet.
Well..”meet” is a loose term. It just consisted of a lot of two- and three-year-olds running, jumping, and screaming. My toddler was convinced it was a “party”, and I have to say I kind of agree.
I haven’t made friends with any of the other moms that have kids in gymnastics. I am always afraid that they are secretly judging me, and tend to dismiss the potential for a relationship right off the bat.
Plus…I LOVE being a mom..but I don’t quite fit in the box that we put moms in.
As I was standing up there with all of the other moms, I felt myself being put in that box.
What does this box look like?
OUR IDENTITY IN A BOX
Our identity as moms is summed up by our association with motherhood, and what that’s “supposed” to look like.
We LOVE our life (and duty) as a mother and partner to our spouse. We’re good at cooking homemade bread and we feed our kids organic.
Our job as a loyal housewife is something we love – and we also love the patriarchal gender roles that have been around for 12,000 years.
Our version of “fun” is taking our kids to French lessons and ballet. Oh. And cleaning. We LOVE cleaning.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE BOX
The biggest problem with the box that we’re put into? It’s grossly inaccurate.
I would dare to say that many of us aren’t actually good at cooking. And some days turning on an episode of Peppa Pig so you can get some peace is the “funnest” thing you’ll get to do that day.
There is an aspect of this box that I think is accurate – and it can be dangerous.
We identify SO much with the motherhood role; it’s very easy to let it affect our self-worth.
When that suffers…everything suffers. Many of us end up not practicing self-care or having any friends or hobbies.
I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with this. Being a mom is the most special and important duty I have, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My identity rests A LOT with my affiliation with motherhood.
On the other hand, I also recognize the importance of being a person outside of this sliver of my identity.
ARE YOU BEING JUDGED AS A MOM – BY MOMS?
Short answer? Usually, to a point.
Most people WILL judge you – to a point. It’s a scientific fact and has to do with the way our brains naturally process information.
How they judge you depends partially on the perception you convey (which sometimes there’s nothing for it.)
I live in an area where a particular religion is very predominant, and I am NOT a part of that religion.
Not only this – but I also don’t subscribe to their strict lifestyle rules (setting me further apart from the population in general).
There are moms truly judging me.
A family member gently pointed out that perhaps it was just me and my attitude. While I think her statement had a lot of merits (more on this later), I also know that I was treated much differently when members of the church did not surround me.
Not only this – but countless women I know have experienced the same thing (seriously – check out the area you’re going to before you move!)
HOW COMMON IS IT?
You know the religious ladies I talked about before that I feel judged by?
I talked with my therapist about this, and she brought up the fact that these religious women feel the exact same way.
Even when they sit with other moms during their church meetings, they are still doubting and comparing themselves to everyone else and thinking that those other mothers fit in that “box” better and that their self-worth is tied to that.
The critical thing to note here is that we ALL (or at least most of us) feel this way.
Even that mom who seems to have all her shit together with her organic school lunches and perfect hair.
She doesn’t have it together. None of us do.
And she’s worried that she’s being judged for not fitting in that box well enough either.
WHY WE NEED TO STOP MOM SHAMING & JUDGEMENT
We have one thing in common with these women – with ALL mothers – and it’s pretty significant.
We’ve all gotten terrible parenting advice from our parents, who tell us things like “give your baby Karo syrup and condensed milk if you run out of formula,” or “give’em a shot of whiskey to calm him before bed”.
We’ve all dealt with the late nights where our baby wouldn’t stop screaming, and we felt so inadequate for not being able to make it better.
We’ve all deal with the toddler who has a meltdown in the middle of Target because they can’t have a cookie.
We’ve all experienced the exhaustion, overwhelm, and mom guilt that’s synonymous with motherhood.
These women that we make into our enemies are the only ones who truly understand what we’re going through.
Now..I’m not saying we should befriend #allthemoms, but we need to exercise compassion and understanding for them – because you KNOW what they’re going through in the trenches.
HOW TO DEAL WITH BEING JUDGED AS A MOTHER
Being judged or mom shamed happens. Good news – you can do something about it. Below I’ve outlined some actionable things that have personally helped me with feeling less judged by other moms.
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Find places where people who have similar values and ideas as you hang out. They key is scoping out and finding other kid-friendly hangouts where you’re sure to find others like this.
Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. I’m a coffee-drinking mama, which is not the case with people who’re members of the church.
In a city 15 miles away, there’s a small coffee shop that has a really big play area for kids. Hanging out at this coffee shop is sure to land me among people with similar values.
Motherhood’s a lot less lonely when you feel like you have people on your side.
Empathizing with other moms has been the biggest game-changer for me.
We can be a positive force in the world when we stop making everything about us (and assuming the worse while we’re at it).
If you find yourself feeling like you’re being “judged” because those other moms won’t talk to you, or you received a look that was obviously an attempt to mom shame you, kill’em with kindness. I think you’ll find that most people will reciprocate.
We all crave meaning and connection in our lives… A lot of differences can (and will) be set aside to avoid the cost of no connection.
I have struggled with confidence for much of my life. I think that’s true for many of us.
Even if you never struggled with confidence as a child, motherhood is a whole ‘nother ball game. NONE of us really know what we’re doing, and we’ll face backlash from someone regardless of what we do.
We could go on all day about how to become a more confident mom, but today we’re just going to talk about it in relation to being judged as a mother.
Being confident means allowing yourself to be yourself, and having that be okay. While I think we all have that internal voice that makes us question everything we do, we cannot let it rule us.
Interestingly, this generation of children is growing up with more anxiety and depression. My grandmother who’s a kindergarten teacher is seeing five-year-olds struggling with anxiety.
While we don’t totally understand what a five-year-old has to be anxious about, I’m inclined to believe that our actions and feelings (as parents) contribute to this.
Our children are learning from us how to interact with the world.
FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT
The confidence thing is important for the sake of your kids. While it’s good to show weakness at times (so they know you’re human!), we don’t want this to be your constant state of being.
That means faking it til you make it. Even if you’re overwhelmed by the number of kids and parents at the indoor play gym, try and keep a smile on your face.
Don’t think about your anxiety; think about whatever you’re trying to concentrate on. For me, that means my kids – because we go to an indoor play gym so that we can play with them.
If you keep your mind busy, it’s much harder to worry about other moms judging you.
LET YOURSELF BE HUMAN
If you had to put your baby in the crib and step away for a minute after listening to them cry for an hour – you’re not a bad parent. Hell, not being able to handle it for a half hour doesn’t make you a bad parent.
We all have limits, we all make mistakes, AND we’re always learning.
Perspective is powerful (and changes EVERYTHING), so if you’re constantly beating yourself up over little things, you need to stop.
For me, this sometimes means verbally telling myself that the choice I made was okay. It’s reminding myself that I’m a good mother who loves her kids.
It’s telling myself that I am no different from other mothers – and we ALL make mistakes.
Some of your biggest mistakes will be your greatest lessons – so they’re super important (barring any life-threatening mistake – try and avoid those).
We can’t use other moms as a touchpoint for how good of a mom that we are. Not only is this unhealthy, but you’ll be grossly inaccurate in your comparison.
None of us know what goes on in the homes of other moms. Or the minds of other moms. We use our party manners in public, but we all operate differently when we’re not in public.
Not only this, but all kids are different too. They all have different struggles, and their little personalities are unique to them. What works for that mom regarding discipline may not work for your child.
IT IS IN YOUR HEAD
Some moms are going to judge you – but at the same time….MOST moms don’t really care.
You may get funny looks in the grocery store when you and your kids look like you rolled out of bed and went straight into the store, but I promise you will enter and exit their minds very quickly.
Having this mindset is helpful when you’re feeling judged as a mother – and it’s two-fold. Not only do THEY not care about what you’re doing, but you also don’t have to care about what they’re doing.
Get a funny look? Eh, brush it off. Why should you waste energy on it? Nobody else is.
SOCIALLY ENGAGE POSITIVELY
We secretly assume that other mothers are better than us (because they appear to fit in that box better than we do), and we are NEVER good enough. We tear ourselves down, and we assume other moms see our glaring flaws just as quickly as we do.
In our heads, we are already somewhat on the defense because of this. We act a specific way which ends up yielding the result we “knew” would happen.
I’m not “her” people. What’s the use in starting a conversation?
She probably thinks I handled that tantrum wrong, so I’m just going to grab my kid and get out as fast as I can.
We’ve all seen and experienced first-hand what judgy assholes look like. Often, from our closest friends and family.
As you know, the moment you become pregnant people assume you are free game for unwanted parenting advice.
It’s understandable that we would feel a little gun-shy when it comes to opening ourselves up in any sort of vulnerable fashion. It’s a defense mechanism.
The key thing to remember here is that the mother that you feel is cold-shouldering you may be doing so for the same reason you’re a flavor of standoffish.
She’s afraid you’re judging her, so she’s closing herself off to protect herself.
HOW TO ENGAGE BRAVELY
Most mothers I come into contact with won’t engage with me first. To solve for this, I’ve struck up a conversation.
She may not be engaging because she’s filling her self-fulfilled prophecy about what she thinks your relationship would look like.
Or as in my case..she may just think you look kinda sketchy because you don’t “look” like most of her kind of people.
Having kids in common means you have a LOT in common – and that’s the shit that really matters.
I have a really good friend who’s part of a different political party. I hate to sound close-minded, but I used to assume I couldn’t have a close friendship with a person with this outlook.
I sort of assumed our values would be inconsolable.
It turned out I was dead wrong, and she’s one of my closest friends now. I guess my point is, you don’t have to share the same ideals and values as another person to be friends with them.
In fact, these people usually help us grow.
You’ll find out fairly quickly if you guys don’t get along. If not – move on. That’s okay, but look! You’re working toward breaking away from that mom judgyness stereotype one mom at a time. 😉
THERE ARE BAD MOMS
Now, it wouldn’t be honest for me not to bring this up. I know if I were a mother reading this article, I would still question whether I was a good mom or not and wonder if perhaps I DESERVE to be judged as a mother.
We all know the bad ones exist, so how do we measure up?
Here’s the thing. The fact that you’re reading this article means you’re probably a good mom.
We all make mistakes, but good moms try to be better. Good moms do whatever they need to do for their kids.
Mistakes are going to be made, and the area of mistake is a little gray since some errors can be costly.
Learning and growing paired with love and a sound mind is usually all it takes.
WRAPPING UP BEING JUDGED AS A MOTHER
Let the real you hang out so that you don’t miss out on a potentially valuable relationship because you were standoffish and seemed unfriendly.
This is an incredibly tricky mind-shift, and it’s something I still struggle with somedays. Regardless, I have been happier for it, and I want you to be too.