Motherjudger

Caryn: Probably a month ago now, our pet snail Trappy died. When my 7-year-old son asked how I think she died, I said, “Well, she had 10 babies within a month’s time. I’m guessing she was exhausted.”

To which my son said: “Yeah. But she was a terrible mother. She totally ignored them. So I don’t know why she’d be so tired.”

To which I said: “Good point.”

Truth be told, Trappy was a terrible mother. Seriously. Never once did I see her anywhere near any of these crazy baby snails (and if anyone out there can tell me how and where these snails came from—when we don’t have any boy snails around—I’d appreciate it!). It just seemed like every couple days, we’d notice another tiny shell in the tank and Trappy would just be business as usual–hanging on the gravel, sucked onto the side of the tank, just looking for her algae.

And I have to admit, I loved Trappy for being such a bad mom. It was nice to have my children periodically comment on how she never played with her babies or got them food or snuggled them or anything. They would tell me this in contrast to me—a.k.a. the best mom in the house.

So I sort of encouraged this view of Trappy the Bad Mom Snail. Putting her down lifted me up. Of course.

I didn’t feel at all bad about this—or convicted in any way—until her babies started dying. When Trappy went to Jesus, her babies started kicking off too. We had 10 when she died. Now we have 2.

At first I attributed the snail deaths to something in the water—the thing that perhaps killed Trappy—but now I’m wondering. Was Trappy perhaps not such an awful mother? Was she actually caring for her snails in some way and now that she’s gone, her babies can’t survive without her?

So naturally, now I’m riddled with guilt. While I still have no idea why our snails are dying (and you’ll notice that I’m not talking about how I rushed out to seek help for them…..), I am convicted of my ever-quick willingness to judge another mom. Whether I know anything about her life or the way she raises her children or anything.

I seriously though that my whole journey as a mother who felt so judged by the world “cured”‘ me of my own motherjudgement, but my harshness to Trappy is kind of bringing to mind a bunch of other situations where I STILL tend to judge other moms—different moms—pretty unfairly.

So I don’t know what my point is–but I just wanted to come clean a bit and say as much as I try not to and as much of a “good game” I talk about mother being a motherjudger, I am. Probably always will be.

Carla: Maybe Trappy died of shame because she could feel your judgmental stares. I think she totally knew what you thought of her. Her last moments on earth were probably spent thinking, “You know what blondie? You try having 10 kids. Let’s see how long you last. And don’t pretend like dinging around on Facebook is any more maternal than sucking on the side of a tank because it’s not. Think I’m a bad mom? Watch how the kids do without me….”

I am pretty much over feeling judged for my mothering, mostly because my eldest child has turned out so well and I figure even if I go one out of three, that’s pretty good. But I do find myself having to turn off my internal motherjudger more often than I’d like.

I find that I rarely judge moms I know. Instead, I save my sense of superiority for total strangers. I think it’s because it’s so much easier to imagine that some random woman is dumb or lazy or careless than to cast aspersions on women I know are anything but. And really, isn’t the whole point of the judging thing to make ourselves feel better?

If I may quote the brilliant Bruce Cockburn for a moment, “Can it be so hard to love yourself without thinking someone else holds a lower card? Grow up you.”

Caryn: Judging might just be my favorite sin. (Don’t forget to keep checking here for more information on the Mommy Revolution event at Christianity21. Just over a couple weeks away!!!)

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pixie on September 24, 2009 at 6:28 am

    OK so I was curious about your snail and did some googling. Your snail should have been named Trappo/Trappy because he/she may was most likely a hermaphrodite and able to reproduce all by his/herself. So, you were judging a father as well as a mother. (To be fair, I don’t think you were guilty of judging an intersex snail because humans with ambiguous gender aren’t able to reproduce by themselves & generally identify as one gender or the other. From my limited understanding I think true hermaphrodites only happen in animals). Have fun explaining this one to your kids 🙂

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  2. I had a moment this week. A moment where I felt judgement from other mothers come crashing down on me. I hardly ever (EVER) notice these things so it caught me off guard.

    My daughter had taken the remaining folder from her swim team booster club parents. The planning job that no one else would do. So the lovely booster club parents assumed that *I* was working away on this project. Uh, no. I did not take the folder, but I will remind my daughter to either get moving on it, or return it to the booster club. {insert pregnant pause from booster club parents). /end conversation.

    After having the “eyes welling up with tears” in public moment, I realized that what was so upsetting to me was the idea of possibly disappointing/being judged by my child. The judgements of near strangers really don’t concern me. But the judgements of my child? Ouch.

    But THEN I remembered how I judged my own mom. She didn’t always fit well into what I wanted her to be. She was a cheap-packaged bow mom and I wanted her to be a curly ribbon mom(do you remember those gifts in the 70’s and 80’s, with all diferent colors of curly ribbon wrapped around the packages, curled all over the place on top? I wanted that kind of mom. Not the sale priced small pointy cornered bows – usually reused and squashed – taped to the top).

    Maybe I took it all a little too personally, huh?

    And, sorry, this was supposed to be a 2 or 3 setence comment, not an airing of my issues.

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  3. You know, I used to judge other parents mercilessly. They said and did things I swore I would never do!

    I lived in a huff of superiority… until my first baby turned into a toddler. The superiority faded a bit.

    Then, I had a second baby. The superiority vanished.

    I find myself doing and saying things I thought I would NEVER say, and every time I hear myself, my mind races back to the other mother I had previously judged. Having two kids- a toddler and an infant- has humbled me. Now, when I hear someone say something and I feel that internal cringe come on, I listen because I know I will be at that spot sometime in the near future.

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  4. Oh, Kristi I am so living this right now…”I lived in a huff of superiority…until my first baby turned into a toddler. The superiority faded a bit.”

    Yesterday my 20 month old son dumped his crackers in the sandbox and I just put them back in his bag. Then he took one out, dipped it in the sludge he had created with sand and water, ate it and all I could muster was a sarcastic, “really?” The 12 year old girl sitting next to me said, “you know, cat’s poop in here.” All I could give her was a shrug.

    I am 9 days away from the birth of my second son and my first born is very aware he has the upper hand. I am beaten down by a toddler. Thankfully, I hang out with non-judgmental moms who lavish praise on me for my ability to sit on the ground and get back up while 9 months pregnant. I need those friends right now.

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  5. “Well, she had 10 babies within a month’s time. I’m guessing she was exhausted.” That line had me laughing. And then I thought of the woman I met a couple of weeks ago who HAS 10 kids, aged 18 months to 20-some years. It’s mothers like that that I find myself judging the most because I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how they do it. I don’t understand *why* they do it. I said to my mother-in-law, “that’s crazy” and she said, “they’re good at it.”

    I think she meant they’re good at being parents not making babies. I think…

    I call them crazy, but I wonder if it is because I’m insecure in my own ability to raise the one child I have right now. Or if I am questioning the motive and the worldview that typically accompanies a family like that (woman’s role as mom and homemaker, homeschooling, etc.). Either way, I wish I could support mothers like this rather than respond in shock and judgment. In doing so I am aware that I placed a wall between that mom and myself.

    Thanks for making me think about this today.

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  6. Posted by Steve B. on September 24, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    All right, the Dude is chiming in again because this particular post convicted me, hardcore. I am guilty, guilty as charged, of judging other parents (not just mothers). Since I have a slack job and my wife works her ass off, I am one of “those dads” who picks up his kid up after school. Anyway, our daughter plays on the school playground every day after school and that’s where I do most of my judging. It seems that the biggest hellions behave so hellaciously because the parent is simply not paying attention. This is where I am guilty of judging other parents because we only have one child. We pour our time and energy into this one kid because we can. Most, if not every parent at our daughter’s school, have multiple children (maybe not 10) and I am often guilty of thinking that parenting is parenting, regardless of how many kids you’ve got.

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  7. .. veering wildly off topic …

    As a parent of 5, I’ve said more than once that I think having ONE child would be difficult. Yeah, my life is a little crazy. Loud. Chaotic. But I think that having several kids gives me an automatic sense of “norm.” Some of the singleton parents I know seem to struggle (as would I, in their shoes) with knowing what is normal – where that baseline should be. Hard to compare with one kid. Also, being physically able to give your one child everything they want and need … that’s a great big impossibility with several kids. But I wonder if it’s that’s what is best for a kid.

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  8. Posted by Robyn on September 25, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Lately, I have been judging very harshly. Myself. I am my own worst critic. I can pretty easily brush off the criticism of others–why should I care what they think about whether I formula feed or send my kid to daycare? But, my inner voice has been absolutely flaggelating me lately, calling me every name in the book. I’m in the midst of a difficult pregnancy. I have a three-year-old. Oh, and I have fibromyalgia. Lately, I am such a worthless piece of humanity who can’t even muster the energy to push my daughter on the swings or do a load of laundry without vomiting or passing out. I’ve had to call in sick to work more than ever before, which makes me feel horribly guilty. If any of you saw the absolute disaster that is my house, you would be judging me, trust me. I’m probably the one you do judge because why can’t I even do a freaking puzzle with my own kid? Right now, I pretty much hate myself, and I wouldn’t even blame anyone for judging me.

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  9. Posted by Pixie on September 25, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Oh, Robyn…..my heart goes out to you. My son is 2 1/2 and I am just starting my 2nd trimester (I haven’t been good at counting this time but I think that’s where I am). I was diagnosed with fibro late in college and while I haven’t suffered from it lately I can only imagine your pain. I remember thinking often of the wounds of Christ because it seems that was where I would hurt the most – the hands, the feet, the head from the crown of thorns, the back where he was beaten, the hips from that cross bouncing as he carried it, the knees when he feel, and the chest from hanging by his arms for hours (I added a few to the traditional 5). I think I thought of this so often because I really, really wanted visible stigmata….fibro is invisible but if people could see my pain and maybe if I was bleeding and suffered for the sins of humanity I’d cut myself some slack.. I do think that fatigue brings out our inner demons. Just the other day, Kristi asked me how I was doing & got an email full of lack of sleep & wrestling with dark, accusing thoughts. When you don’t have the energy to do the laundry it’s hard to have the energy to fight off yourself. Hang in there, hopefully it will get better soon. Enjoy watching movies in bed with your 3-year-old (I doze but my son doesn’t know or sometimes I have him bring his toys and books into my bed so that I can mutter encouragement as he plays next to me). Not much, but sometimes they really don’t need much more than being close.

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  10. we all have these dark days, no matter what they stem from. we all judge, and yes, it’s to make ourselves feel better. i make myself feel better by telling myself that my house is cleaner than my friends’ houses. but i hardly play with my kids. i can blame it on “i’m always editing,” but sometimes it’s just that i want to browse around on FB instead of play trucks or dinosaurs or listen to my daughter’s stories. sometimes we are just tired.

    robyn, you are not a worthless piece of humanity. you are struggling with the same things we all struggle with, and then some. i really don’t have any great advice, except do what pixie says, because she knows, and i love her, and i know she is shooting straight.

    and here’s a virtual hug. i have to go before i cry. 😦

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  11. Robyn: Hard to hear what you’re going through! Sorry for that. But I think your comments get right to the heart of the judging problem: that it’s easy to do when we don’t understand someone’s situation. Everybody has a story–and once we know it we can show love in much better ways.

    You are not a worthless piece of anything! You’re in pain–and you’re doing the best you can. Another virtual hug. ( )

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  12. Posted by Robyn on September 27, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you. With all my heart.

    Reply

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