Hey, you know all that Mommy Wars crap where we are all supposed to be judging and hating each other? Except that really we are all supposed to say that judging other moms is crap and we would never do that and that we personally think that whatever you choose to do with your life and your kids is fabulous and perfect for you and a-ok?
Well, I am totally judging you.
Wait, hear me out on this one, because I think you are totally judging me too.
This mommy thing, this is the biggest thing I will ever do in my life. Yes, I absolutely will do other things that I hope will be good and valuable, but since I am unlikely to cure cancer or single-handedly bring about world peace, I can't really imagine anything I could do that would be more important than raising two entire people to be kind, empathetic, confident, what have you, adults (who can then tackle cancer and world peace).
And I'm trying really hard. I'm working at it, and I'm examining my choices and trying to make the right ones, and when I make the wrong one and, for example, spend the first year of Mia's life too scared to leave the house with her, I try to find a way to do better. I think I'm doing a pretty good job. I think I'm usually doing the right thing, I think I have at least a 70% chance that neither of my children will hate me with a fiery passion as adults.
Because I am so invested in this job, because I agonize about my parenting choices, when I see someone making different choices, I make judgments. They aren't always negative judgments. Last week, Mia refused to put her pants back on after a diaper change and I started getting very snappish with her. A friend who was here for a playdate cut in with a laugh and smile to ask Mia if she was such a big girl she could put her pants on all by herself. Which Mia was all too happy to prove that she could. And I thought wow, that was a much better way to go. She is much better at this truculent toddler thing than I am, and maybe I can learn to do it her way instead of just getting frustrated and bitchy.
I have one friend who is the only person who ever tells me that she disagrees with my parenting choices, and it is one of the things I like about her. She thinks I cater to much too Mia's bedtime and sleep whims. I know she thinks that because she has told me so, gently and kindly, without rancor or recrimination. She disagrees with me, she thinks I'm wrong, but she doesn't think I'm a bad mother or a bad person, just that in this area I make bad choices. And knowing that helps me. It helps me to hear that someone I like and respect has a different opinion, and not just in general but specifically about a choice I have made. Because maybe she is right. Maybe I am too easy on Mia, maybe her method would work better for me. Maybe not. But if I can be open enough to accept kind and concerned criticism, maybe it will make me a better mother.
Or maybe it would just piss me off. Or hurt my feelings. But I'm a grown-up, I can take it.
I think I know how we got here. I think we have all forgotten how to disagree. I am very rarely told that I am wrong, but I am fairly frequently told that some opinion I express has deeply damaged and offended someone who read it, or that I am an ignorant cow for making the choices I make. I think it makes us so scared to express our opinions that we get situations like the one I recently heard about where a friend of a friend has her four-month-old baby on a diet. She doesn't want her baby to get fat. And none of her friends will tell her that she is wrong, because they don't want to hurt her feelings. But hey, she's wrong. She's wrong and someone needs to tell her so.
I'm not recommending we all become the Hat Police and walk up to strangers in the street to criticize their parenting. But with our friends, I think we have an obligation to talk openly about our different choices. I think if we really want to support the moms we know and love, it means expressing our opinions. Nicely, of course. I usually go with "Huh, I have a totally different approach to that."
So feel free to judge me. I'm not scared of opinions.