About halfway through Mass yesterday, a family of about ten barreled breathlessly into church, splitting their children up between three different pews and squeezing in without so much at a glance at their bewildered pew-mates. None of the children had clean, or even combed hair. The three-year-old immediately starting twirling out in the aisle, arms wide open, to her parents’ seemingly indifference until she took off towards the front of the church and her dad hauled her back as she kicked and screamed. The mom swayed and rocked her coughing baby, never taking her eyes off the priest at the front of the church, looking devout as her children squirmed and poked each other and shot devious looks at us.
As I watched the family settle in, counting heads in amazement, I suddenly heard the sound of a camera going off.
What in the world?
I looked down in time just to see the flash of a blonde head twirling around. The little boy in front of us gleefully showed his mother the picture he had just snapped of Ada with his cellphone. She smiled and nodded, her neon green pigtails on top of her head bobbing as she bent down to get a better look.
Pigtails, really? I thought. And what the heck does that punk think he’s doing, taking pictures of my daughter? How old is that mom anyways? She looks so young…[Insert gasp here.]
I realized what I was doing.
I was totally judging her mothering because she looked young. Of course she would let her son play with a cell phone and take pictures of unsuspecting four-year olds in church.
She’s just a young mom.
But apparently I am non-discriminatory because I realized I was completely judging the older mom too. I immediately pegged her as one of those moms who make large families look bad. You know, ones that get labeled as the weird, irresponsible breeding type, with dirty, unkept children?
And all of this judging was in church, people.
I am a miserable human being.
Why do I do it? Why do I judge other mothers?
The best I can come up with is that I am so insecure about my own mothering that it makes me feel better about myself to compare and contrast. Well, see that mom is young too, but at least I don’t let Ada play with cell phones in church. Well, sure that mom has more kids than me, but she can’t keep their hair combed.
There is no report card for mothering. No way to know if what we are doing is the right thing or if it will royally screw up our children for life. There is no one way to parent and there are always situations out of our control when it comes to our children.
So, in a way, I think we judge other mothers as a way of judging ourselves.
It’s silly and it’s stupid and it serves no purpose. I mean, really, what does it accomplish for me to judge those other mothers? Does it change their mothering? Does it change my own?
I don’t think so. I think it points more to an insecurity in my own skills as a mother and my own fear of being judged by others.
So I will be working on not judging other mothers.
Especially in church.