I sat across the table from another mom, and we shared our struggles. We realized just how similar we are and wondered how similar we are to other moms out there. We look around and see others’ lives and think they’re so much better or worse off than we are, but how can we really know that unless we take the time to get to know them, listen to them, share with them? Even then, we’re not going to be able to get to know everyone. So, the least we can do is not project our expectations onto them or assume they’re projecting their expectations onto us.
It hurts when someone doesn’t respect your choices as a mom, especially when it’s someone whose respect has value to you. Don’t be surprised when someone thinks your choice to be a stay-at-home mom means you don’t have much to do or that you are solely dependent on your husband or others. Maybe people think you’re too child-focused or not smart enough to get a “real job.” Perhaps they think you have it easy because you’re home all day. Also, don’t be surprised when someone things your choice to work full-time is a priority of money over caring for your kids, that you’re more interested in your position than your kids’ security. Maybe people think you’re shirking your parenting duties. Perhaps they think you have it easy, because you can do what you want instead of letting your kids’ schedules influence your choices (as if any parent really believes that’s a real option).
No matter what your choices—and sometimes a lifestyle you didn’t actually choose—people will stereotype. So will you. What do you assume about unmarried moms, divorced moms, older moms, teen moms, working moms, homeschool moms, work-from-home moms, adoptive moms, homeless moms, and the list goes on? In some cases, you might have an immediate positive response, but I imagine you also have some strong negative responses or assumptions. We think someone has it easier than we do, someone is slacking, or someone is doing the whole mom thing wrong.
Why do we do that?
While it might not be true all the time, the main reason is: we’re threatened. We don’t understand why someone would choose the way we didn’t choose. We want to justify ourselves. But it’s not all about choices. And even when a choice was involved, who are we to say that person didn’t choose the best option for herself and her child as they faced their specific situation? Even when she didn’t choose the best option, shouldn’t we be a bit more understanding? After all, I certainly haven’t made the best decisions every step of the way.
Be more compassionate and understanding. You can encourage someone even if you don’t completely understand or agree with how she’s parenting. Maybe a little patience and compassion is just what she needs to take the next best step. Judgment certainly isn’t going to help.
Meanwhile, lighten up on yourself a bit, too. When someone judges you, extend compassion and patience…to her and to yourself. Someone else’s expectations of you don’t define you. Neither do your own.
Who have you recently judged?
Identify the assumptions you’ve made, then extend an apology, patience, or mercy.