Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What a Terrible Mom!

On a hot summer day, I arrived at the McDonald’s indoor playground. All week, it had been too hot out for this pregnant momma and her two kids, so I decided lunch and indoor playtime was in order. So off to McDonald’s we went.

As we ate and the kids went to play, I noticed the other people in the room.

Nearby was the mom whose daughter wasn’t allowed to have a happy meal or a soft drink. A few tables down was the mom with at least five kids, and from the looks of it, perhaps more. Sitting with her was the woman whose baby lay in an infant carseat while drinking its bottle. And there was also the mom whose two year old was allowed to drink a sweet tea. (That last one was me.)

So, according to the hierarchy of mommy judgment, where do we all rank? I thought it over and decided I would probably rank myself somewhere below “no happy meal” mom because of what I was letting my kids eat and drink. I also decided I’d probably land below “mom of 5+ kids” because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the energy or patience to bring five children to a McDonald’s playplace. Or perhaps anywhere. ;)

But I do breastfeed my babies and carry them instead of bringing them inside in carseats, so does that mean I rank above the “bottle and carseat” mom? Some people might say yes. (I don’t think that, for the record!)

Then again, we were all sitting in a McDonald’s playplace, so that kind of puts us all at the bottom of the list compared to the all-organic non-consumerism types who would never step foot in McDonald’s, right?

Of course, this whole ranking system is completely ridiculous. The truth is, none of us rank above or below anyone else. And yet, as parents, at some point each and every one of us have been been judged or have judged others. We find ourselves self-consciously looking around the room, trying to figure out exactly how we stack up and whether we’re doing okay.

Interestingly, as the time at McDonald’s went on, I discovered that the “mom of 5+ kids” and the “bottle and carseat” woman were there together and were babysitters. Some of the children may have indeed been theirs, but many were not.

And that’s a perfect example of why it’s unwise to judge someone based on a snippet of their life that you just happened to glimpse. You just don’t know other people’s situations. Here are some real-life examples for you: Maybe you’re a breastfeeder and the woman you’re judging is bottlefeeding her adopted baby. Maybe you’re a babywearer and the mom you’re judging for bringing her baby inside in its carseat is battling depression and it was a major accomplishment for her to get out the door that day and come out in public. Maybe the mom being harsh in the store has had a very stressful day– perhaps she’s going through a divorce or there’s been a death in the family, or she’s just tired and at her wit’s end that day. For that matter, maybe the kid who’s throwing a tantrum in the store isn’t a spoiled brat with permissive parents; perhaps he’s overtired, has sensory issues, or is hungry. Maybe the couple who doesn’t have children is dealing with infertility or repeat miscarriages. Maybe the couple with more kids than you would ever personally want to have is absolutely in love with their family and wants to continue adding to it.

And maybe not. But you don’t know. And you aren’t entitled to know, either. You are not entitled to know someone’s story in order to decide whether or not to judge them. 

What good does it do to judge people anyway (whether silently or aloud)? What good does it do to glare, roll your eyes, or shake your head in disapproval? (Non-verbal judgment, loud and clear!)
Instead, why not offer a smile or a kind comment, or even take time to strike up a friendly conversation? Love for others is sometimes that simple. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

So forget about this parenting hierarchy junk. Quit making snap judgments. Stop comparing yourself to others and trying to figure out where you, and they, rank on some imaginary chart. We all have our own stories, struggles, motives, and choices. And we all could use a little more love and a little less judgment.


  1. I like how you begin this with focusing on your "parenting grade" but then show the larger picture with the conclusion to just love each other. It is what Christ wants us to do. Mother Teresa was phenomenal - - truly an amazing servant of God.