Full disclosure: I let my eight-year-old drink coffee. It’s not like I’m feeding her cappuccinos at 10 o’clock at night, but I do let her drink it in the mornings. In fact, I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. We’re like the Folgers family, but without the millions of dollars and fame.
Sometimes, when I tell other moms about my daughter’s coffee-drinking ways, they respond with side-eye and it makes me wonder why.
It’s not that some judgment isn’t natural. Raising your brows is a normal reaction when parents don’t make their children wear seat belts or allow their kids to run up and down the aisles of Target, screaming and feral.
Yet, lots of it is overkill and it’s gender specific: We don’t judge men the way we do women.
The Gender Gap
A friend of mine once told me a story about traveling on a plane with her newborn daughter. She held her baby, fussy and crying, as strangers glared at her and asked her aloud why she couldn’t silence her child. On the return flight home, her husband took over, comforting an equally fussy infant. Instead of dirty looks and subtle accusations, people offered empathy – they oohed and aahed, gave warm advice, and even offered to help him.
So why is it we reserve patience and understanding for fathers but cast mothers off on islands to fend for themselves?
You could argue that America still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality and I’d be right alongside you, nodding in agreement. But it’s not misogynistic policies perpetuating this predicament. It’s also not, by and large, fathers judging mothers. It’s women doing it.
Mom-shaming, it seems, is for moms, by moms. But what’s behind the blame?
There are lots of factors, including the most obvious and human: People believe their way is right. Thus, if your parenting style is different than theirs or – my stars – completely counter to theirs, you can’t possibly be correct.
Another reason we judge is because of biology: We’re wired to do so. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain is the driving force behind emotional aspects and it’s geared to judge others on an innate level. That’s why so many of our judgments feel intuitive. We may also rely on past experiences, histories, and traumas to help us decide how we feel about something.
Others judge because it silences their own insecurities and makes them feel better about themselves. It’s no different than the school bully who cuts his fellow peers down in order to bring himself up.
Still, none of this is as simple as the conscious decision to knock someone else; evolution plays a role, too. Even during the cavemen era, there were likely social circles with people vying for the highest status. If one cavewoman had to spread a rumor about another to get there, then so be it. They were probably game to point at Karla’s hairy legs and insist that she descended from the woolly mammoth.
But, perhaps, one of the most potent reasons we judge moms is a reason we don’t always consider: It’s what’s being done to us. Judging, like violence, is a cycle and an unrelenting one; moms who shame are far more likely to have had their parenting called into question as well.
So, how can we stop this cycle? Start by remembering there is no right way to parent, even if you’re certain that you’ve discovered it. Studies and expert opinions regarding child rearing are often contradictory. But they’re also irrelevant because no kid is the same and, thus, no parenting style can be the same, either. What works for you is what works for you.
Next, try to avoid getting sucked into social media or the abysmal abyss of internet comments. The world wide web makes everyone feel anonymous and that gives them cause to say whatever they want. Being a part of this as a writer, or a reader, isn’t helpful.
But, most of all, remember that parenting is hard. It’s always hard and now many of us are doing it in the middle of a
So, if my daughter wants coffee in the morning, she can have some. And if I want to replace my coffee with wine, I will do that too. If people want to judge me for this, that’s their problem and not mine.