Today one of the pages I follow posted an article from the Huffington Post entitled “10 Uncomfortable Confessions From an Imperfect Mom.” One of the confessions, which the page featured, was, “I know that every time I feel defensive or judgmental about someone else’s parenting choices, it’s because I am less than confident about my own.” Commenters were asked to agree or disagree. While there were other confessions that resonated with me almost to an eerie level of discomfort, this one did not.
Let me be clear: I know I’m not a perfect mom. I’m far from it, in fact. If parenting could be judged by a report card, I’m sure my children would give me varying marks ranging from A++ to F, and those grades in each category would change in any given day. My mother would probably give me different scores, as would a Pop Culture Dad and the rest of society. Heck, I would give myself a broad range of scores. But (and as I responded to the post) I went into this gig knowing that perfection was a ridiculous standard, and I would never fall into those traps setup by the Mommy Wars where I would be forced to feel defensive about being less than perfect or even just different. So I accept my imperfections, but also know that I truly am doing the best I can do—whatever “best” looks like in that moment—within my comfort level. If someone thinks I’m doing it wrong, s/he is certainly entitled to that opinion, just as I am entitled not to give a flying f*ck what someone else thinks.
That’s not to say I don’t judge other parents. I do (boy, do I!). We all do. Judging others is natural. Anyone who says they’ve never judged another person is a liar. Even if you don’t mean to, often you do. And, while I’ve certainly seen some harsh judgments come from obvious places of insecurity, that isn’t always the case. Judgment can also come from a place of feeling in your bones that your way is better. No, just because you have that feeling doesn’t make you right. Unfortunately, your opinion can never be right. Even when your opinion is fact-based, the facts upon which you base your opinion can be right, but that doesn’t mean the ultimate conclusion you derive from those facts is correct. Yes, there are some universal truths out there about which we all may have opinions; but most of us are dealing with shades of gray, penumbras of life in which no universal truths are challenged.
More to the point, though, just because you judge someone doesn’t mean you have to vocalize it. That’s what I think we all really mean when we say people shouldn’t be so judgmental. Yeah, sure, we are all going to be a little judgy; but there’s a huge difference between (i) keeping that judgment to yourself or a conversation among like-minded individuals and (ii) bombarding the person or group you are judging with your “facts” (opinions) about how crappy their parenting is. Generally, unless someone asks you for your opinion; they’re in “your house,” so to speak… (blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, journal, etc.—anywhere you should be reasonably expected to voice your opinion about your feelings); you are in the midst of an open debate/dialogue/discussion; a person is operating on truly wrong intel; or someone is doing something that any reasonable [the standard for “reasonable” here not being “totally agrees with me”] person would agree constitutes a “universal bad,” no one really gives a rat’s patootie that you think they’re the Worst Parent in the World for [fill in the blank with polar-opposite-of-yours parenting style about which you’re really judgmental]. And that’s fine that you’re confident about you parent. I’m confident about the way I parent, too. But we’re both wrong… and right… and neither of the above.
It’s the same way I feel at work when someone gives me a draft that doesn’t use Oxford commas. At the end of the day, neither one of us is right; we just have different preferences. My judging a writer for giving me a memo devoid of serial commas doesn’t mean I’m insecure about my use of them. And even though I have many grammar and legal writing books that say [paraphrasing], “In America, unless you are a periodical, we use the Oxford comma, dammit!!!” doesn’t make me right. It’s okay to silently roll your eyes and mutter “man, they’ve got this all WRONG.” When I’m controlling the document (just like when I’m running my household), it’s perfectly okay for me to change every single one of the comma clauses to suit my preference. It is not okay, however, to throw the document at the other person and tell him/her how stupid s/he is for not doing it your way [and, yes, that has happened to me too… I was a big firm lawyer for 12 years, after all].