It comes up so often that it seems ridiculous that it’s still happening. Judgement. Specifically the judgement levelled at mothers on a daily basis. I am lucky to have great family and friends and to have found a supportive online community. Throughout all of these channels, the overriding theme is one of no judgement so it boggles me, and frustrates me, that others still experience judgement. The subject was raised again on The Cutting Edge last week when the contributors spoke about mammy guilt. The discussion that followed was interesting and for the next few days I found myself at war with myself over some of the statements made.
As a childcare professional, the comments about whether it’s ‘right’ to put children in a childcare setting made me sit up. I have seen many different families choose childcare for many different reasons. The ‘right’ of it really isn’t for an outsider to judge. One of the contributors told a story where she heard about a child crying while being dropped off at creche and this made her question the motives for using childcare. My first issue with this is that this is a story she heard, she did not see the incident herself. Secondly, I have had my fair share of experiences with children crying in the morning and off the top of my head I can think of a dozen reasons why this might be. Yes, the child may have been experiencing separation anxiety but equally, the child may have dropped a Cheerio at breakfast and that was their day ruined. Thirdly, I guarantee that however distressed this contributor felt on hearing this story, no one, absolutely no one, is more distressed in that moment than that child’s parent. And it is up to that parent to determine how ‘right’ the situation is.
Following this, words along the lines of ‘come back when you’re a parent and then we’ll talk’ we’re used and while instinctively I might agree with this, I ultimately don’t think it’s helpful. Our life experiences inform our perspectives and I don’t think there is any life experience that can cause a greater shift in perspective than becoming parent. But here’s the thing, in saying we’ll talk when you’re a parent we are creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ division and in my opinion, it’s in this division that judgement is sown and thrives. Surely we need to be able to have these conversations in order to create understanding and reduce judgement?
I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that I have never judged parents. I used to only be able to see things from the perspective of the child but the more experienced I became and the more I got to know families, the more I realised I didn’t know anything about their choices- nor did I have a right to even wonder at their choices. And this idea was reinforced when I became a parent myself. There are so many nuances to the decisions that parents and families make and the reasons that feed into those decisions are so varied that we won’t all agree with each other all of the time and neither should we be expected to.
We would all be better off if we left each other to it and you know what? If we actually went one step further and started listening to each other and supporting each other. Because none of these decisions are easy and someone you know might be making a decision that they don’t like themselves but it’s best for their family and your judgement is making it ten times harder. Or they are making a decision they are perfectly happy with and your judgement is making them feel guilty. No matter how many perspectives you have, how much experience and education, no matter who’s best interest you have in mind, you will always be an outsider looking into a family and you will never, ever know better than that parent.
And if after all that you find that you still can’t agree, just say nothing and just support. In the words of one of my favourite songs, ‘Judged not lest ye be judged yourself’. And yes, yes, I did just quote Metallica…don’t judge me!!