The other day, I saw one of the truest memes there ever was. It essentially said, “Of course you judge parents in restaurants before you have kids. That’s how the human race survives, each person thinking they can do it better before finding out no, you can’t.” Okay, it used a little more colorful language which, I must admit, made it a little more chuckle-worthy, but colorful language or not, it’s seriously so true!
Think about that statement for a minute. “Of course you judge parents…” It’s insinuating that we all have done it. It’s pretty much a rite of passage as you navigate that phase of considering becoming a parent one day. There are few events that happen in life that are just not fathomable to anyone unless they experience it first hand. Parenting is one such event. It’s easy for people to think about what they’ll be like as a parent, what values they’ll hold onto, what strategies they’ll use, what angels their children will be, etc. The truth is, once your hypothetical children become real flesh and blood relying on you 24/7, all bets are off and that moral high ground you once clung to is out the window and you’re left eating a big slice of humble pie.
I could use this time to tell you to break the cycle. Skip that rite of passage and just stop judging parents when you have yet to take that dive into parenthood. But like that statement said, it seems pretty natural actually and probably plays a helpful role in people feeling confident enough to even try to reproduce! So instead, I’ll just ask you to use your social filters. Know that those parents you’re judging are doing the best they can at that moment in time, so keep your snarky, high horse thoughts to yourself and move along. Keep notes of all of those things you’re judging other parents about so when you become a parent you can make sure to never make the same mistakes, or more likely, laugh at your ignorance and enjoy that humble pie.
Most people who judge parents before having any kids of their own will likely realize one day (like the meme says) that no, they in fact cannot do it better. They go through the cycle, eat their humble pie and do their best to not judge others moving forward. No big deal. The group that’s the real problem is the parents who judge other parents! This is the group that can really do damage.
No one cares what the non-parents are being all judgy about – they don’t know any better. But the judgmental parents? They are the ones who should know how challenging parenting can be. They are the ones who should know how different every single child is (even if you raise them in exactly the same way). They are the ones who should understand that if you Google something about parenting, you’ll find a thousand different “right ways” to go about it. They are the ones who should know what a difference a little sensitivity and support can make to a fellow parent.
The judgy parents. That’s the group that really needs to be told to knock it off. And guess what…just as we all were the judgy, childless 20-somethings, we all probably also end up becoming that judgy parent at one point or another, at least to some degree. So next time you find yourself thinking something snarky about a parent and their child, I’ve got two suggestions for you:
- Try coming up with three reasons they might be struggling in that moment. Maybe the parent or their child has a condition that causes some things to be more challenging. Perhaps they just suffered a significant loss or set-back and they are emotionally tapped. Or maybe, they’re just having a bad day. No one owes you an excuse, it’s none of your business. But having those possibilities in our minds sure seems to help us show a little more grace.
- Retrain your brain. For every judgmental thing you think, shut it down and replace it with at least two positives. It takes a conscious effort, but practicing all that positivity will soon become a fundamental part of who you are and you’ll find yourself to be a much happier (and less judgmental) person.
We’re all human. It’s human nature to compare yourself to others and judge/believe you can do something better. Think about how that manifests in your life though and how it impacts other parents. Take a good hard look in the mirror and let’s all just see if we can each do a little bit better.