I just read an excellent post at Her Bad Mother about cocktail playdates, the ludicrous expectations that are placed on mothers, and the way we all judge each other. The discussion of how we are all guilty of judging other moms and whether this is all bad or not made me think about some of the ways I judge and experience the judgment of other moms.
I live in a fairly crunchy hippie neighborhood, but I'm more middle of the road on hot button issues like diet, TV, sleep training, etc. There are often times when moms I know ask for advice on parenting issues, and I hold my tongue because they would be horrified by my answers. Sometimes when I end up participating in a discussion of how much TV or sweets we allow I lie or at least try not to answer. I've run into problems having some of M's friends over because M and I will plan a fun activity like decorating cookies and then I'll realize the friend's mother would be horrified if I gave her daughter cookies.
But I'm not the innocent party here. I judge these parents too. I might just roll my eyes about what I see as over-bearing strictures, but when I really get up on my high horse is when moms complain about situations they've gotten themselves into then refuse to accept any helpful advice. For example, on a local mailing list, moms frequently complain of being severely sleep-deprived and I know they must be. Yet they refuse to make any effort to reduce the number of times their toddler nurses at night or consider any sleep arrangements other than a family bed. Co-sleeping didn't work for me, but I have no fundamental problem with it. I simply don't want to hear someone complain that they are tired and need help but refuse to make any changes. So I judge them for their choices.
Most of us have parenting issues we feel passionate about to the extent that we cannot accept the opposite opinion as a valid choice for anyone. Is this bad? I'm not sure. I think we do need to have debates and forums where we can express our opinions. If I'd never had the chance to listen to the opinions of mothers that differed from mine when my daughter was a baby, I might never have realized that other perfectly respectable mothers were making choices that could bring back my sanity (like putting my daughter in a crib and letting her cry herself to sleep).
But what made these different opinions more palatable was hearing them from my friends. If we'd judged each other too harshly, we could never have become friends. I think that ultimately what is best is that we all have courage to speak out about our own successes and failures as parents even if we fear being judged. That way we recognize that most people don’t buy wholesale into any one ideology even if they appear to. So maybe if I'm asked today I'll admit that my daughter had some Valentine candy before breakfast, because she went to sleep last night without a struggle. And this afternoon she'll get to eat the lollipop she got at the doctor while she watches Diego and Wonder Pets.