Unless you're wearing a curly white wig and holding a gavel, please don't judge me. This is easier said than done, I know.
Mothers compare parenting skills. It's what we do. We glance at the mom scolding her child at the grocery store and think, "SHE has clearly has lost control of this situation." We eyeball the contents of school lunchboxes on the days we volunteer and think incredulously, "Seriously, she packed processed cheese on white bread?"
We judge strangers all the time. If you say you don't, think again. Have you ever silently "tsked, tsked" a mom at the park for losing it on her tantruming toddler? You don't know her story, but it's human nature to make snap judgments. I'm sure even Mother Theresa silently judged her Mother Superior on a bad day.
When it comes to close friends who understand our circumstances, we expect support, not judgment. I felt that sting recently when we finally, after a year-long search, settled on a new school for our daughter. My husband and I didn't take the decision to leave her current school lightly. We fretted and researched and second guessed ourselves. We visited 20 schools in an attempt to do what we thought was best for our child. When we found "the one," the perfect fit, we were relieved to be moving forward.
When I told some of the moms at our current school, their reaction threw me for a loop. I expected some disappointment, but didn't anticipate the harsh criticism. I was horrified. I was already insecure about my decision and their catty judgment was crippling. I questioned our decision and also myself. Did we make a mistake? Was my child going to be forever damaged by a choice we inflicted upon her?
I've come to realize that every parent is insecure about their own decisions; from whether to circumcise, to how much TV is ok. We agonize over these details and look for validation from our fellow moms. Clearly my decision to change schools made these mothers uneasy. Instead of, "We'll miss you, but we're excited about this new opportunity," perhaps they heard, "We're leaving you for something better." I don't know. I do know their judgment and verbal beating hurt.
It's normal human behaviour to make judgments. It's a crucial component to critical thinking and out of your control. What you do with these judgments, however, is completely within your control. Before you share your opinion, consider how your message will be perceived. Are you sincerely concerned and trying to help, or are you trying to justify your own choices by questioning somebody else's?
Follow Tracie Wagman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HelpWeveGotKids