For years, well actually the last four, I have struggled with what I believe to be “Self Imposed Mommy Judgment and Competition.” I have the sense of paranoia that other Mommy’s judge me and even compete with me based on my child’s behaviors, cleanliness, appearance, development and manners.
Why do I feel the judgment to be self-imposed, you ask? There are a collection of stories that showcase my “Not Good Enough Mommy Moments.” And I have over-evaluated, loathed and poor-mouthed my own parenting to anyone with a set of ears.
I remember one ocassion at a friend’s over-the-top toddler birthday party when my child became the “Main Event.” To say that my little Prince Charming is strong-willed would be an understatement. He began his “show” by running and screaming through the yard during what would’ve been THE SWEETEST STORY-TIME EVENT EVER. All of the other children were quietly sitting on a blanket in front of Mother Goose, sipping juice boxes, and listening to EVERY SINGLE WORD she read. After repeatedly trying to coax him to sit down (by all means necessary), he began launching rocks at Mother Goose. Holy Mother of God, I felt my face burning. Finally and thankfully, the story-time portion ended and everyone was left unharmed UNTIL…..Operation STICKITTOMYFRIENDS began.
He single-handedly swiped every child’s party favor and claimed it for his own, then started a grand game of Keep-Away (from his Mother). Once I finally caught up to him, he collapsed on the ground at my feet and began throwing the Mother of All temper tantrums! I felt what I believed every Mother fears in that very moment. It was the sting of every judgy Mommy eye glaring AT ME! SOLELY AT ME!
I left there with the “All Judging Eye” burned into my retina. I just knew they had gathered around and swapped equally horrifying stories of my failed parenting. I could imagine their snide, judgmental comments as we left followed with a round of roaring laughter. “Did she just lose control of her two year old? Seriously?”
There have been many more elaborate stories that showcase my failed attempts at successful parenting. Yes, I have been guilty of forgetting to brush my child’s teeth before preschool and later realized it halfway to work. (He sleeps with his mouth open!) I have also been known to let him dress himself to go to the grocery store…which usually entails mismatched clothing and some article on backwards. It never fails, we run into a Mommy we know. I leave feeling embarassed we left the house like that and imagine her judgment and what she thought of my failed parenting, “Bless her heart, her child always looks like an unmade bed. I should really stage and Mommy intervention.”
At times, I have allowed my child to eat non-organic, sugary substances like a piece of cake (or two) before his school day begins rather than fight with him. And sometimes in the evening, when I am dead-dog tired, I may even forget to ensure that he has adequately eaten from all of the four food groups (ie, I failed to serve that green vegetable) or, regretfully, even read his favorite bed-time story. Again, I envision what a perfect Mommy would think of me. “Did she really just feed her child that? I’m pretty sure I witnessed her feeding him cardboard chicken nuggets with french fries, an ice cream cone and a sugary drink to wash it all down.”
For years, I have felt inadequate to all of the displays of Parenting Perfection and believed that these Mommas existed only to shine the spotlight on my “not good enough” parenting. I have continuously shamed, criticized, ridiculed and even hated myself. The thought that other Mommas would find my parenting unsatisfactory haunted me and I often compared myself to them, “Sally Sue ALWAYS looks so well put-together and even finds the time to make sure the triplets have matching tops and bottoms. She even goes the extra mile to braid their hair and hand-ties equally impressive matching bows.”
I was equally convinced that if you lined me up and graded me along with each and every one of my fellow Mommy peers, I would be the one responsible for setting the curve. Even worse, I would’ve willingly removed myself from parenting circles so that I could avoid being identified as “THAT Mom.”
But then I had the epiphany that my shame only existed because I believed in it and allowed it to be there. After sharing my woes with one of my Mommy friends, she very truthfully informed me “Krissi, we do the best we can to get by. Do you honestly believe we invest our well-deserved down-time worrying about what YOU perceived to be your parental shortcomings. Get a grip and start believing in your unique gifts.”
She was right. I needed to hear that and I believe very differently now. I recognized that there were all “types” of Mommas out there. Feeling judged by other Mothers was an extremely self-serving, egotistical way to live. I now believe no one was actively judging my parenting. I was doing a fine job of it myself.
I realized that most Mommas were trying to carefully weave together a family life while using their personal talents. It wasn’t that they never faced life’s challenges. They simply knew how to work with the tools they were given to the best of their ability. And although I imagined they were spending a great deal of time judging my inadequacies while rubbing their perfection in my face, they were actually far too busy enjoying their beautiful lives than to concern themselves with what I was or wasn’t doing in mine.
As it seems, there is a very vulnerable nature to parenting. For most women, parenting may very well be the most important and difficult job we will ever have. We are all just a little afraid we are sometimes doing it wrong. Even when we are scared, we have a choice. We can choose to believe it is a competition and others are judging us, or we can choose to believe that we are members of an elite sisterhood of Warrior Moms….Fighting for one goal and as one united team.
Today I am in a much calmer, comfortable place than I was before. It allows me to feel at peace with my efforts in parenting. And when I have those moments that make me question my parenting skills and I feel inadequate, I am reassured that other Moms like me have my back.
AIBC Team Member
- Mommy Guilt (jennifermarshcurtis.wordpress.com