Grab a random bunch of moms, stick them in a room and it's 100% guaranteed that there will be heated debates about every pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting topic about every stage, from the time before conception onwards. A mom or two will sit back quietly and fly under the radar, but most will find it next to impossible to resist sharing their experiences and opinions with each other.
There is, of course, no problem with people sharing with each other, except for that one mom who has to overshare everything including how her lady garden had to be stitched back during labor, but some mommas overstep from sharing into arguing because everything has to be their way or the highway.
These overly insistent moms can be pretty judgy. They are mothers who are quick to tell you how wrong you are for your parenting choices and how you should do what they do, usually without bothering to speak with you.
So what kind of things are moms judged for by other moms? Oh, just about anything but when I put out the call for moms to share their experiences of being judged by their peers, these are the stories that came to the fore.
19 Cut It Out
Mom of four under four Jessica, adopted for an elective cesarean section for her fourth child because she wanted to plan around the exact date of birth. Jessica explained how her husband was deployed and wouldn’t be able to come home for the delivery and she lived hundreds of miles from family and friends. Her mom could book two weeks off of work to come and help with the newborn and the older kids but had to set the dates six months in advance, and Jessica didn’t want to risk losing a moment of help.
“Other moms look down their nose because they think I was trying to avoid pushing or because they think I was looking for an insignificant convenience.”
18 Free Range Mom
Laura believes that by allowing her child a certain amount of freedom, she is equipping him with life skills he may not otherwise develop, but her comfort with allowing her nine-year-old to take public transit to school alone has made her a target of unsolicited comments from many other parents.
“He rides five stops alone and jumps off outside the school gates. We talked through all of the different situations that might occur, like what to do if the bus doesn’t come and we are both comfortable. I think some parents are overprotective and that includes the strangers who have come up to me at school and told me I should be reported...”
17 No Sports For These Boys
“Our kids don’t have any extracurricular activities. They do not want to go to any groups, teams, or classes, so we don’t make them,” so says Rachel who has three sons, not a single one of which has ever shown any interest in sports, scouts, or other pursuits other than hanging out at home and doing their own thing.
“I have been told I should force them into something sporty so they will enjoy sports in later life and I have also been told how they will grow up antisocial loners if they do not mix. People just don’t seem to understand we have three quiet boys and there is nothing wrong with that.”
16 The Stay At Home Mom
This one is personal. I have been a mom who worked outside of the home, traveled for work and have spoken professionally and provided consultation services to businesses, governments, and NGOs across the world. Now, I am lucky enough to be able to work from home and be here full-time for our kids.
It drives me crazy when people assume I am some poor downtrodden woman with no option but to stay at home with the kids. Just because I am a SAHM does not mean I do not have a brain, nor does it mean I am forced to be here by an overbearing husband, or that I do not have things to contribute to the world. Also, it doesn’t mean that the world of a SAHM is less valuable, less rewarding, or less challenging than the world of a mom with a professional career.
15 I Chose The Bottle
Lisa knew from the very beginning, even before she became pregnant, that she did not want to breastfeed. What she did not anticipate was the level of judgment she experienced when she told people about her decision.
“People I knew became very heated,” She told me, “They would demand to know why I didn’t want to breastfeed, even though that was none of their business.”
This is not unusual. Many women I spoke with encountered situations where strangers would demand explanations as if the mom concerned could be “pardoned” by them if only her excuse were good enough.
14 It’s Feeding Not Flashing
It can be difficult to breastfeed in public when the public feel they have to “do” something in response. These responses vary from studiously looking away, so they are not perceived to be staring, to making comments like “can’t you do that somewhere private?” or “That’s disgusting.” Strangely enough, I find it just as bothersome when people try to make a big positive deal out of it.
I do not need you to decide if it is right or wrong for me to breastfeed in public. I need you to go about your day in the same way you would if my child were older and sat on my lap with a piece of fruit. They are eating, nothing more, and that is not an activity requiring judgment from you or anyone else.
13 I’m Not A Duggar
Hands up who assumes that moms who homeschool their kids are either, a) religious zealots who are probably raising their own followers, b) hippie weirdos who are doing their kids a disservice by keeping them out of the “real world”, c) pretentious snobs who think they know better than the school system or, d) all or any combination of the above?
“I am so sick of these stereotypes, and of people judging me on them,” says homeschooling mom of three, Tanya. “My kids have special needs that couldn’t be addressed in the wider school system so I homeschool and they attend lots of groups and classes in the community while schooling takes place around medical appointments.”
12 I’ll Check Our Schedule
On the flip side of the family who does not enjoy lots of activities is the family who is never home because everyone is always on their way somewhere else.
Clara told me “I know lots of people think we overschedule but the children only go to things they want to. If I am happily driving them around every evening and weekend, and they are happy changing clothes in the minivan and eating on the run, what’s wrong with that? I am sick and tired of hearing ‘aren’t you making them do too much?’ and ‘do they get enough rest?’ why do people feel the need to comment on every area of my life?”
11 My Kids Are Plugged In
“Unplugged Fun,” “Play Without The Screens” these are the kinds of articles you see every day, urging parents to reduce the use of their children’s time in front of screens.
“I don’t care if people look down their nose at me,” says mom of three Melissa, “If my kids want to spend their downtime watching YouTube videos, playing games, or doing something else on their tablet or laptop then I let them. No one would bat an eyelid if my kids had their heads buried in books, so why should letting them bury their heads in their tablets be any different?”
10 No Tech Tots
Karen’s children are aged 12 and 10, and neither of them has a cell ‘phone, a tablet or anything else electronic of their own.
“I am often asked ‘but what if your child needs you in an emergency?’ But I they are never in a situation where there is not a responsible adult with them, so why do they need phones? There is a family laptop which can be used by either child, and we will buy another when they both need them for school, but people think I am depriving our kids of life skills and that I am keeping them in the dark ages. They know how to use the internet, can do basic programming, have social media accounts, but it’s not integral to their world.”
9 Spoiled Rotten?
“I think other people are just jealous,” says Nicole, who is happy to buy her daughter anything she asks for. “I never had much when I was a girl, and I don’t want my girl missing out and feeling disappointed all of the time like I did.”
Nicole went on to say about her daughter's paternal grandmother, “Her grandma doesn’t approve and tells me so all of the time, but that's just her opinion. I’m not doing anyone any harm. It’s not her child so she should keep her opinions to herself.”
8 Think Before You Speak
Having a child with a disability that is not obvious can cause a particular kind of misplaced judgment. For example, if your little one cannot walk far because of an illness or disability, but the reason for this is not physically obvious, pushing them along in a stroller is pretty much guaranteed to bring out the judge Judies who are quick to tell you how your child is too big to still be in a stroller and should be walking.
It is easy to jump to a conclusion, but far more difficult to reserve judgment. Better yet, we could all stop judging each other.
7 Work It Baby
It is a brave woman who will stand up and say “I prefer to go to work than to stay home with my children.” We may have come far in the last century, but it can take several generations before society starts to look at things differently, without a second thought.
Another area is with regards to women and work. People, in general, may agree that as a woman you should have the opportunity to fulfill your potential, but a large slice of the social pie still feel that once you become A MOM, you should want to trade-in your career. If you don’t, if you find motherhood a boring drudge, you are somehow less of a mom, or you are not “the maternal type” and placed lower on the scale of “mommsie moms.”
6 Say Cheese Kiddo
Sharing photos and videos of your children online - Yes or No? This is one of the first big debates of modern parenting that our parents never had to consider.
“People think I’m neurotic by keeping photos off-line.” Says Min “But I don’t want strangers looking at my kids or stealing their photos to be used elsewhere. Laugh or sneer at me if you like.”
Meanwhile, on the other side, Leah says “I post photos with my kids in them on my blog and social media accounts all of the time. People judge me for that, saying I’m using them for attention.”
5 The Hot Topic of Co-Sleeping
One of the many, many reasons that parenting is so tough is because there are often at least a dozen different pieces of science fact, science fiction, scientific opinion and non-scientific ‘facts,’ thoughts and opinions about every aspect of raising a child.
Co-Sleeping is an area where there is strongly conflicting information supporting both sides of the debate.
Karen says “Our children have all slept in our bed, whenever they have wanted to. Other parents who don’t co-sleep think it is dangerous or creepy. It has happened for centuries so I am happy and that’s what counts.”
4 What’s Wrong With A Hand?
“One moment someone will be quoting that 'It takes a village to raise a child' the next they will be looking down on you when they find out you are a mom who does not work outside of the home but still has a nanny to help look after your child,” says Laura who actually has two nannies, so there is always somebody available to take over the childcare.
“I am always able to give my daughters the best version of me because if I am not at my best for them, I can hand them over. Others assume I am lazy, but I am only concerned for their well being.”
3 My Choice And Not Yours
“Between other women who seem to look down on me as some breeding machine who has let the side down and those who jump down my throat because I am using up too many of the world's resources, I am always being judged for having six children,” said mom Elaine.
“They all fail to realize that having access to contraception and using it is a choice, not a requirement and that my kid's environmental impact is probably much smaller than that of some other kids in smaller families. The impact is about choices and how you use resources, not just how many of you there are.”
2 I Wanted A Mini-Me
Amy wanted to have a child but didn’t want to hold on any longer, waiting for a relationship that would lead to a long-term commitment to each other, so she went to a donation bank and made a withdrawal.
“My son has a mom who wanted him very much and is not in an unhappy relationship. He doesn’t have a guy in his life who is unhappy to be a father either. This is more than plenty of other kids in conventional two-parent families have. A widow with a son is seen as acceptable because she is seen to have been married and has become single through no fault of her own. Go ahead and plan to have a child as a singleton and you’ll need a strong umbrella for all of the judgments that’s gonna rain down on you.”
1 Rein It In Mrs. Judgey
“I can’t believe you are walking your child like a dog on a leash,” so said a complete stranger to me as we walked along a riverbank with our 2-year-old son in a set of reins. “Actually, I’m letting him run as freely as possible while making sure he cannot go too close to the water and possibly fall in” I replied.
My view: “I am keeping my child safe and allowing them some freedom.”
Her view: “You are treating him like an animal.”
The reality? We all have our own opinions and ways of doing things and should learn to embrace and respect those differences instead of turning everything into an“I am right” issue.
References: A whole host of blogger moms, moms in Facebook groups and actual flesh and blood, real life in person moms who I chatted with and were kind enough to share their stories and allow me to share them with you.