There was an article this week in The New York Times Sunday Review called “Only Children: Lonely and Selfish?” The author, the mother of an only child herself, cites several studies and a whole bunch of data to refute the stereotypes that only children will be lonelier and/or more selfish than a kid raised with siblings.
What struck me is that the author writes the article with such a defensive tone that I had a vision of her standing in the four-point stance of a defensive lineman the entire time I was reading.
Now, I’m sure she feels defensive because she has experienced judgment firsthand for her own decision to raise “only” one child. Yet, the whole time I was reading, I just kept thinking, “WHO the hell cares how many kids you have? Who ARE these people to whom she’s defending herself?”
Let me be clear. This is not a blog post about only children or the author of that article.
This is a post about judgment.
It can be really hard not to judge people, especially other mothers. If I claimed to never have judgmental thoughts, I would be a giant liar. And while personally, I do not give a shit about how many children ANYONE has (except myself…. in fact, every time I hold a newborn, I think about how four would be a good solid number. Aaaannnnd that sound you hear is KJ gasping for breath. Just kidding KJ! ), I have certainly passed judgment on what I have deemed questionable parenting choices. (And possibly on some people’s poor hair color decisions as well.)
I’m not proud of this. But it’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. So I try not to feel judgy in the first place, but if I must, I sure as hell try to keep it to myself.
Why? Well, why do I do any of the “right” things I do? So that my kids will be good people. (If it weren’t for them, I’d be the bitchiest, road ragiest, drunkest… ok, let’s move on.) Hell, before I had kids, I wrote a gossip column insulting celebrities. I earned a weekly paycheck for critiquing people’s choices. In other words, I was judgmental for a living.
But as a parent, I’m trying to do that “modeling” thing the parenting books talk about… demonstrating the behavior I expect from my kids. It’s so effing HARD! But I tell my kids, just because someone does something differently than you, does NOT mean that it’s bad or weird or wrong. No one made YOU the decider about what’s acceptable and what’s not. As long as that person is not hurting anyone, let him/her be. So I try to remember that myself.
We’re not born with the “judging gene.” We’re born with a natural curiosity about the way people look and act. But at some point,* that curiosity morphs into a distaste if the looks or the behavior deviate from what we deem acceptable.
*I’m pretty sure it’s in 5th grade.
From that point on, we are always looking… evaluating… critiquing…
What is she wearing?
What’s up with her hair/make-up/shoes/piercings/tattoos?
What does she spend her money on THAT?
Why does her home look like THAT?
What does she see in him?
Why does she let her kids wear/watch/eat/do that?
Why is she breastfeeding?
When will she stop breastfeeding?
Why does she work?
How can she stay at home?
Why did she only have one kid?
Why does she have 19 kids? (Yeah, I’m talking to you Michelle Duggar)
Why doesn’t she look differently? Why doesn’t she act differently? Why doesn’t she parent differently?
It’s never-ending and it’s exhausting!
So here’s my reminder to myself:
Appearance, relationships, parenting philosophies, professional and financial choices are all personal decisions, so BACK THE EFF OFF.
The only thing that is open to judgment in my book is intentional unkindness. Mean people? Judge away. And maybe throw stuff at them. Soft stuff. We don’t want to get sued.
Remember, none of us is The Decider of What is Right.
And parents, ultimately, it’s Us vs. The Kids,right? So let’s just have each other’s backs.