In this post I will be copping to some character flaws (schadenfreude, mostly) in order to make my point clear. I ask you not to judge, but you will. That is what this post is about.
Why is there less camaraderie, tolerance, encouragement, and support among mothers than there really ought to be? We're all just here doing the same stuff and only in slightly different ways. When I am out somewhere and my child is dressed and wearing shoes, did you know that if I see a disheveled child going barefoot I kind of like it because it makes me feel like a good mom--a better mom? That's not good. I don't really care about the barefoot child because going barefoot isn't the end of the world. Sometimes I'm the mom whose kids wouldn't wear shoes that day. I always hated it when people gave me grief over my kids' pacifiers. I think our longest went for almost three years. (There. I've said it.) Why do people care if my child has a pacifier? Do they really care? Are they really worried? I don't think they are. And yet, when I see a 4 or 5 year old with a pacifier I think to myself, "Hmmmm. That's a mistake."
Of course there are true mistakes to make in parenting. And maybe having a pacifier until the age of 5 is one of them. But why do we care what other people are doing with their kids? If it were really out of concern for the well-being of that child then it's great and nice. That does happen. But I think most of the time we notice and comment because it makes us feel superior. But I don't know why. Men don't seem to do that about fathering. In fact, I know that Christian has never EVER felt bad or even thought about what other people (except me) think of his parenting. Formula. Nursing. Cloth diapers. Homemade babyfoood. Lessons. Co-Sleeping. Epidurals. Tantrums. Allowance. Time Out. Sugar. Naps. None of it. And when our kids throw fits at church or misbehave he certainly gets mad and doesn't like it but not because he is embarrassed. His self-worth is not all tied up in having a Christmas photo where everyone matches.
I also know that while I get really great advice from close friends and family and even blogs and books, I am a better mother and a happier person the less I care what people think about my mothering. Because so much of it is unhelpful since not everyone knows where I'm coming from. For example, people have a hard time with my weird and shy kids--especially when they were younger. But they don't know that as difficult as someone like, oh, my son Ben, for example can be, I would rather deal with him than an obnoxious, loud-talking show off. Well-meaning folks think I'm trying to solve one problem but really I'm working on something else. Has that ever been the case for you? It's like how I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's book about eating only local food in season and I'm thinking oh, honey--I'm just trying to go through less than a box of ding dongs a day.
And then there's the explaining, the defensiveness, the treatises on blogs, the self-congratulation, the posting of menus, the bragging, the nit-picking, the sideways glances, the expectant look I get from a stranger in line when they see my daughter hit me and I think, "Ugh. They are expecting me to discipline her in a certain way," so I engage in "loud parenting" to show that I'm a good parent but if they weren't there I would do something entirely different. It's weird, isn't it?
Do we do it because we are insecure? I am guessing that's why. I also postulate that culture, society, and religion has put mothering on a pedestal in a way that they haven't done to fathering so when we are bad at it or do it in our own way there is a LOT at stake. If being a mom is a divine calling (and it is--I do believe that) then having shoes on your kid in public can take on some crazy significance. It's hard to take it seriously and not judge other people. Maybe we put so much thought and effort and concern into it that it really throws us when someone decides making homemade baby food isn't really worth their time. Maybe?
I just wish people would validate me all the time for all the great things I do and give me a break when I'm lazy or tired. That's what I want. And surprise visits (with no expectation that I will have showered) with a big--no a HUGE--Diet Coke from Sonic from people who think I'm funny and smart is also what I want. But of course, we've all sworn off of soda in order to run our marathons, haven't we.