I watched out of the corner of my eye when I heard her voice. I was in the parking lot of the grocery store encouraging my own 3 year old to get in the car, for the love, and sit his tiny tushy down so we could all get on with our lives! (Grocery shopping is not my favorite). This mom I was watching out of the corner of my eye yelled loud enough for me to hear 2 rows away. “What are you doing!? GET IN THE CAR!”
I couldn’t see the little child that was frustrating her, but I knew there was a little kid there. Probably pushing his mamas buttons in the worst way. Because, well, he’s a kid, and that’s what kids do. He was probably 3 like my little guy. Because three year olds tend to make us all a little crazier. I smiled to myself as I felt solidarity with this woman who I didn’t know, and would never see again. I instantly gave her the benefit of the doubt. And, felt no judgment towards her.
Carry on, mama. Do the best you can. I thought.
It’s easier for me not to judge another mom after 9 years of being a parent, and 3 kids that make me yelly some days too. I try not to judge any more. Unless someone is abusing their kid, they’ll most likely get my sympathy if they’re having a bad day. My solidarity. My support. My benefit of the doubt. Because this parenting gig is hard.
Recently I found myself chatting with a mom about 10 years younger than me. She was relieved to hear from me that my boys didn’t sleep through the night until they were about 18 months old. She lamented that she felt like they were failing in some way because their 10 month old wasn’t sleeping through the night regularly. I assured her that moms exaggerate and that she had nothing to worry about.
She remarked, “It’s just so hard. You see all these mom friends on social media saying their babies are sleeping through the night, and you just feel like you’re failing.”
I knew exactly what she meant. I was her a few years ago. And, we all feel like we’re failing. The reality is that I frequently find myself in these situations where I’m so quick to give someone else the benefit of the doubt, but I’m forgetting to give it to myself.
Think about this for a minute. You’re scrolling through Facebook or instagram. What are you thinking? It’s usually stuff like, Ugh, look how cute her kids are dressed. Oh, she’s such a fun mom. I wish I made homemade granola and turned it into a giraffe for my kids’ lunch. We are just doling out compliments left and right to our internet acquaintances, but the running dialogue in our heads looks somewhat different.
Why can’t I ever be on time for piano lessons.
I’m such a loser for feeding them mac and cheese. Again.
Why can’t my kid sleep through the night yet? I’m obviously doing something wrong.
I wish I was craftier, trendier, and more fashionable.
I am one. hot. mess.
We’re not judging others…..we’re judging ourselves all day long.
When I was in 4th grade, my cat got hit by a car. I don’t have many memories before 10 years old, but I do remember this one. My sister and I had decided to run across the street to the middle school to play. And, for some reason, we thought it was a great idea to take our cat with us. Because cats obviously like crossing busy streets, and playing at middle school playgrounds. I’m not sure how long we lasted (or should I say, how long the cat lasted) but we were perched on the side of the busy road we lived on waiting to cross to go back home and the cat, who was most likely terrified, scratched my sister’s arms and leaped into the road. She was probably a little anxious after being forced to play at a playground. And immediately after jumping to escape the hostage situation we had her in, she got hit by a car.
Of course, we became hysterical.
We went searching for the cat, and found her. I think we somehow even talked our parents into taking her to the vet, who declared that she simply had chipped a tooth. Cats are lucky.
Yesterday, my own little 4th grader had, let’s just say, an incident with the cat. I won’t go into details so I can protect her privacy, but she did something that resulted in a cat injury. She was beside herself and hysterical. The cat is fine. After all, I ran over her with the car once and she survived that.
My sweet little 4th grader cried and cried. She knew she had made a mistake, and squeezed me tighter than I think she’s ever squeezed me before as she cried buckets of tears for this cat.
And, I thought of that time when I was a 4th grader and made a choice about my cat that wasn’t the greatest.
And, I made sure not to judge her in that moment. I just comforted. I told her it was all going to be OK. I told her the story of my 4th grade cat debacle. I didn’t even say “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!” which was my first instinct.
Instead, I was a good mom and made her feel loved and reassured.
And, I don’t say this to make myself look awesome. I type it out partially as a reminder for myself that despite my shortcomings, I do awesome things too. I have good reactions. I’m patient lots of times. I make good choices just as much as I make the bad ones. I’m learning as I go, but I’m doing good. All the time. Every day. So, I type it out so I don’t forget it.
And, I type it out to remind you that you do good things too. You may not be the trendiest, most pinteresty mom out there, but you’re healing scraped knees, and coaxing the insecure Kindergartener into the doors of a new school, and listening with your full attention to the re-cap of your tween’s latest minecraft success. You’re letting them climb giant rocks while you hold your breath and watch amazed at their bravery. We’re all doing good things as parents.
So, we need to withhold the judgment from ourselves. Even if it takes effort. I know it takes effort for me to count my successes at the end of the day instead of my failures. But, you are not falling short of everything. Your kids are proof of that. Even if they make wrong choices, they’re growing and learning.
So are you. So am I. Don’t forget that moms grow up too. We have to stop that inner dialogue telling us we aren’t good enough. We aren’t being enough. We aren’t crafty enough. We aren’t peaceful enough.
Treat yourself like you’d treat another mom. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Withhold judgment. You’re doing amazing things every single day.
Look at your kids today. And, I’ll look at mine too. Really look at them and think to yourself, “I helped create that beautiful person. And, I’m not screwing it all up. I’m doing good.” and hopefully you’ll believe it. And, hopefully I will too.