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We’ve all started a sentence with “I don’t want to judge, but….” We know full well that we’re about to pass a judgement (usually a negative one when we start the sentence this way). We use these words to let ourselves off the hook, to feel less guilty about speaking badly of someone/something. It’s exactly the same as starting a sentence with “no offence, but...” Here you’re saying that you know you’re about to say something offensive; you just don’t want to be made to feel bad about doing so.
The fear of being judged is one of the greatest struggles for many mums. Sometimes we feel like everything we say and do is under a microscope. It’s daunting, overwhelming and sometimes all-consuming.
We all alter our behaviour to avoid certain judgements. How many of you have given your child what they wanted during a public tantrum just to shut them up and avoid being judged for your disciplinary choices?
We also alter our behaviour to attract certain judgements. How many of you have posted photos on social media of your perfect little family on the perfect little outing with a perfect little caption to match because you want people to think of you in a certain way?
As parents, we don’t want to be perceived as too strict or too lenient. We fear giving our children too much but don’t want to be viewed as too minimalist either. We feel judged if we adhere to strict routines but also if our routines are too relaxed. We sometimes feel self-conscious when breastfeeding in public. We worry what other people will think if our children are on the iPad at a restaurant. We stress about disciplining our children in front of family and friends, as well as strangers. We think people are constantly looking at our bodies, judging us for not having lost the baby weight, or having lost too much. We compare our babies to other babies, sometimes wondering why our baby hasn’t reached the same milestones. The list is endless.
Being non-judgemental is a quality we seem to value as a society. But it’s not an attainable one. None of us are immune from being judged. None of us are immune from making judgements either. We can’t help it. We’re human. We cannot escape the ability we have to use logic and rationality.
The judgements we make are what shape our choices. They determine the way we parent. It’s pretty important to pay attention to where our judgements come from then, isn’t it?
Judgements fall into the following 3 categories:
We can’t avoid making judgements or experiencing them. But judgements aren’t what set the tone for who we are and how we parent; that’s determined by what we do with them.
We can choose to keep judgements to ourselves or to communicate them to someone else. We can use them to help others or to harm them. We can rely on them to reinforce the beliefs we already hold or we can let them broaden our minds. We can choose to disregard them or to listen to them. We can choose to become caught up in one judgement or we can choose to look at the big picture.
Mums, be aware that you are your own worst enemy. No-one judges you more harshly or more often than you do. Take comfort in the fact that most people want to raise you up, not bring you down. Be kinder to yourself. Give yourself credit. Judge yourself fairly.
And when it comes to other parents, always judge reservedly. Be mindful. Prioritise the kind words you have at your disposal. And be sure to always taste your words before you spit them out.
I'm married to Sam and I'm a mother to Henry.