By Jaclyn Weidner
Before we begin, can we all just agree on a few things? First, let’s just agree that motherhood is hard. Period. Second, lets agree that we are all doing the best we can at any given moment! Finally, let’s agree that we all screw up, make poor decisions and respond in ways we wish we wouldn’t but are working on being better, acting better, and doing better. So even if the surface doesn’t look amazing, deep down we are all doing our best.
Ok. So are we all on the same page?
Now that I know you’re with me I can let you in on a secret. I can tell you something I rarely tell anyone.
And not because I am embarrassed. But because it is about you. Yes you. You the person I have never met. It’s not that I have a problem with you. It’s just that I am afraid of you.
When my kids were little I feared so many things. I’m going to save you the unnecessary panic and not describe them here, but you know what I’m talking about. Our brains do weird things when we have a baby. I’m sure its the hormone/sleep depravation cocktail combined with newly being entrusted with the life of a tiny, fragile human being that throws us over the edge.
I cried as we drove home from the hospital with our first. No real reason, but why were those cars around us driving so darn fast? Didn’t they know there was a precious little human beside me I was trying to keep safe?!
And as each child grew and I added to my brood I discovered I held a fear inside me that was larger than the daily safety concerns I had been wrestling with.
It was the fear of other mothers. Namely, judgment from other mothers.
I think it started off with some innocent enough Facebook articles… “The best way to discipline your kids” and “If you give these foods to your children you are a horrible mother.” Well something like that anyways.
Then I would be on a play date and I would imagine the other mom was judging me for how I disciplined (or didn’t), which snacks my kids ate, how long I had breastfed, bedtime routines, the list was endless. I created scenarios in my head about how all of these women were judging me even though they had not actually said a word. It was the words I heard them saying about others. The way they casually judged other mothers as if it was their job.
Gossip was not the word used here, it was assessing others parenting styles. It was expressing concern over the way someone else was doing something. It was inquiring about whether another mother was “ok.” It may not have been called gossip, but gossip it was. And it planted a seed of fear in me. If this was the way they talked about others, what would they say about me?
I imagined I would soon be the topic of discussion if I was not on the ball in every way in my parenting. And this fear grew worse through the media.
I remember reading an article a few years ago in the wake of a few tragic accidents that happened back to back. The author couldn’t believe how the public had turned and pointed fingers at the grieving parents. He shared a sentiment that I found especially sobering. It was along these lines, “As a culture we simply don’t allow for accidents anymore” we love to point a finger and lay blame. “She should have been doing this.” “He should have been more careful.”
As a result, the fear in my heart grew. If I was tidying something on the top floor of our home but my kids were in the basement I would suddenly feel a sense of panic that if they got hurt while out of my eyesight the headline would read “mother makes poor choice and children suffer the consequences.”
The result of this “accidents are no longer acceptable” mentality is an entire society of mothers stressed beyond capacity to get everything right and keep everyone safe. Don’t even get me started on Pinterest perfect parties....
So I have a simple request for you. I’m asking that we offer grace instead of judgement. We just don’t know what someone else is walking through and I deeply believe every mother is doing her absolute best with what she’s been given and where she’s at. Her best could be better, yes, but she needs your love and support to get there, not your criticism.
I don’t walk around in this fear anymore. I have grown in confidence as a mom and with my decisions but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me ever. I still have moments where I think, “What are they thinking about me?” “Did I make the wrong decision?” “Am I doing something wrong?”
And if you find yourself there mama, paralyzed by what others might be saying about you can I offer a bit of advice? There’s only one opinion that really matters. He sees you, He loves you, and He doesn’t offer words of condemnation. He gave you those kids and has given you everything you need to care for them. Lean into Him and let His voice wash over you where words of criticism (real or imagined) may have tried to get you down.
Accidents will happen, mistakes will be made, and for all of those things there is grace.
Jaclyn is a part-time high school teacher, and full-time mom to 3 energetic and talkative little girls. She loves to dive deep in conversation to get to the good stuff. In the words of her 4 year old she’s “just a little bit funny”. Her and her husband Brendan live just outside of Vancouver, Canada. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook.