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Passing Judgment on Fellow Moms

Playing the comparison game is inevitable when you’re a mom. After all, there’s no one out there writing performance reports or handing out letter grades. One of the ways we evaluate how we’re doing is to compare our children to other people’s children, and, similarly, our activities to those of other moms (Eek! She donated to the bake sale and fit in a Spin class?). Sometimes the results of our comparisons are positive–we incorporate another mom’s discipline technique, or quick workout, or children’s play activity, for example. Too often, though, we tend to judge each other.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this judgment lately (must be the approach of Easter). Although I may not voice my critical thoughts, they’re there, and I want to work on my attitude.

In “Friends Let Friends Make Different Decisions,” from the latest MomSense magazine, Alexandra Kuykendall lists strategies for appreciating other moms. Here’s my take on them:

1. Clarify what’s important to you

And, I would add, realize that what’s important to you may not be important to everyone. I feel pretty passionately about a few parenting topics–healthy food, early potty training, daily reading, unstructured play. Even my parenting partner, though, has different priorities–child independence, tech savviness, and creative thinking are a few. We don’t all necessarily care if our kid comes home covered in mud (gasp!).

2. Allow others to come to different conclusions

Don’t force your opinions on others. I’ve tried hard since reading China Study and watching Forks over Knives not to shove my nutritional views on my friends. It’s difficult because I do feel passionately about it, but if they ask, I try to explain why I feed my kids the way I do without implying they should do the same. My friends are intelligent, reasonable women, and they can reach their own conclusions.

3. Acknowledge my circumstances

The place I’m at in life right now is not necessarily where I’ll be tomorrow, and as I change and evolve, I need to recognize that other moms may have already undergone that transition. My sister has three children, all older than mine, and I have caught myself saying over the years, “Oh, I will never do that.” She just smiles sweetly and says, “Wait.” She’s always right. Likewise, try not to judge new moms. Try to remember how difficult it was to “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” (I always found that to be the most irritating piece of advice!)

4. Be open to changing my mind

Sometimes it’s tough to change your mind because it’s an admission that you may have been wrong. I was all for spanking our first child as a disciplinary method, but it became incredibly clear after just a few times that it is completely ineffective for her.

5. Admit when I don’t know

Who’s to say whether the Reggio learning method will be best for your child or not? We can’t predict the future, and our kids are certainly unpredictable! My child is different than every other kid out there. So don’t try to tell another mom she should do something a certain way if you don’t know. If she asks for your opinion, feel free to give it.

6. Recognize there’s no right answer

If only it were so simple…but if it were, there wouldn’t be thousands of parenting books out there, covering everything from tantrums to sleep training. Recognizing there may be many “right” answers can save you from unnecessary arguments. Healthy discussion is one thing, but if you’ve never seen a mother’s hackles raise when you question her decisions, count yourself lucky.

I think we’re all pretty aware of our shortcomings as parents. I am totally guilty of letting my kids watch too much T.V., for example. It’s something I work on, when I’m not too frazzled. Nobody’s perfect, so let’s just try to help one another through this very challenging thing we call motherhood.

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