On the Brain

Today, I had exactly 3 friends post thoughts about motherhood and how much flack one can receive for choosing to do things certain ways. Seriously, 3, all in one day!

It’s brought up some interesting thoughts for me, so I thought that maybe I could be number 4?

Personally, there have only been a few times during this past year where I have felt judged or criticized as a mom. The solicited/unsolicited feedback I’ve gotten has mostly been encouraging and supportive. Case in point, when I wrote about the depression symptoms I was experiencing a few weeks ago (which I talked to my midwife about, in case you were wondering. She said that since medication could actually harm the baby– category C– she wouldn’t prescribe it unless I was in danger of harming myself or Gregory…yikes! not there yet! knock on wood!). I was nervous about posting something so personal ( I’d rather post about boobs and poop), but I’m so glad I did. I received so many emails, so much prayer and support. It made me grateful to have a blogging community that can offer advice from the “been there!” perspective. So, thanks to all of you who took the time to offer your support and encouragement– it was so very appreciated.

I can, however, remember times where I have been criticized for the way I parent G. And it hurt. Definitely.

But I also know how many times I’ve read about someone doing something different, and felt criticized, even though the person said nothing to me. They probably weren’t even thinking of me when they wrote it!

Did that intent matter? No. The comments still hurt. They still made me feel criticized.

But it makes me ask, who did the criticizing? Who do I have to blame?

I think that I could blame it on a society that’s made me paranoid. Worried that I’ll be less than perfect as a mom, worried that I’ll fail in front of others or raise the next Britney Spears for a daughter.  And there’s probably a lot to that. Society, in particular, advertising, has a way of trying to make us feel bad. Because when we feel bad, we buy stuff. Selling strollers by showing us fit moms who have time to walk in the sunshine and go to the park “just because they’re awesome!”. “This pacifier is made from an all natural tree in New Zealand. If I buy it, I’m a conscientious parent!”….etc.

Basically, we wouldn’t buy stuff if we didn’t feel like we needed it, and we wouldn’t feel like we needed it if we felt like things were already perfect as is.

But instead of blaming it wholly on society (too easy?) it could be the fact that I’m super self-centered. I can’t see what someone else is saying and take it at face value– instead, I apply it to my own situation before I’ve even realized it! Because it’s all about me, right?

Usually, when something touches a nerve, it’s because that nerve is already raw. If something someone says on a blog offends me, it’s probably because I already felt self-conscious about it. And that’s no one’s fault but my own. Because if I wasn’t so focused on myself in relation to others, I probably wouldn’t be aware enough to be self-conscious in the first place.

In other words, the reason someone was able to make me feel judged is because I was already judging myself.

If I felt 100% confident that what I’m doing is the right thing, based on what I know and what others don’t (let’s face it, each mom really does know their kid better than others), then I wouldn’t feel judged, no matter what. But I don’t feel confident. I look to others for validation, look to others wondering if they’re doing things like me. I look to others to see if they agree with my practices. Because without others, I’m the only judge. And, if I’d venture a guess, I’m like most other moms in that I’m a pretty harsh judge when it comes to me. It’s hard not to be– I love my kid so much that I have a hard time forgiving someone who messes up in his regard, especially if that person is me! I need other people to validate my parenting because it’s become the only way to breathe a sigh of relief and feel okay about what I’m doing!

So what right do I have to get mad at others for judging me, when I can’t stop doing it either?

That, my friends, is what they call hypocrisy.

Without fail, whenever Jesse talks to his spiritual father, he’s told, “no, that’s not the problem. The problem is hypocrisy. Persecute hypocrisy within yourself. Ceaselessly.”

There’s definitely something to this. If we are persecuting hypocrisy within ourselves, without ceasing, will we have any time to judge others for judging?

I think that if we spent more time working on our own faults (including being too judgmental of ourselves! We’re our own worst enemy!), we’d not only spend less time being offended by others but also less time judging others. We’d be able to share our problems with one another without fear of altering any sort of “perfect parenting perception”, because everyone would be too busy to form one.

Here’s a great article on how to NOT judge other mothers, written by one of my favorite Christian bloggers.

My favorite part (especially the last paragraph):

Here is my theory: If principles are the content of what is being said, methods are the languages used. We agree that a good principle is “love your children.”  So we each say it to them in our own language. Some of us might say it in schedule feeding, and some of us might say it with a sling. The problem comes in when someone overhears someone else “talking” to their children. Quickly translating into her own language, she overhears something like, “I do not love you, and you are a fink!” Outrage ensues.

We want to hear people speaking in our own languages. We have labored over all our translation manuals, worked to have just the right accent, and so it grates on us to hear someone come say the same thing in pig latin. We often refuse to admit that it is the same thing – it just can’t be.

Now the point of this is certainly not to say that there are not objectively better ways to communicate to our children. Some people may be speaking in pig latin, some in a random smorgasbord of cliche sayings, and some only speak to their children in Italian sonnets. Some methods are better. Some methods are dumber. My point is not that we shouldn’t have an opinion about methods, but that we should be comfortable with different languages. When people speak in different languages, it ought to give us joy. The world is a crazy place. The church is a crazy place.

So, next time someone says the clearly outrageous, just remember this: there is a wrong way to be right. There is also a right way to be wrong. And there is always a greater right than being right.

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