Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

Judging well without being judgmental March 22, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,For moms,Parenting — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 9:51 pm

imagesHere’s the thing about being a mom: you constantly have to make decisions.  From birth onward, it’s nonstop – feeding decisions, sleeping decisions, schedule decisions…  and before long, decisions about issues like discipline methods, potty-training, (pre)schooling.  Is there a realm of life besides parenting in which the decision-making quotient is as high and as consistent?  I can’t think of any.

Most moms, virtually all the moms I interact with, care inordinately about their kids and want to make good decisions in raising them.  We reflect, ask advice of those we respect, read (perhaps), and – for Christian moms – pray.  And we try things out with our kids and take some cues from them – their personality, styles, needs demand.   

My point is this: as parents, we are deciders in our households, making judgmental calls daily.  We are In-Home Judges.  This is part of our calling as moms and dads – to employ wisdom in the day-to-day living of our lives as we follow Christ.  But there’s a funny paradox here, because the reality of our being childrearing judges within our homes should not equate with becoming judgmental of other moms who parent differently.

Who among us hasn’t felt judged in our mothering, at one time or another?  We’re bottle-feeding when we should be breastfeeding.  Our kids aren’t sleeping through the night yet when other same-age infants we know are.  Junior is ill-behaved in public, bringing disapproving frowns.  We aren’t a full-time stay-at-home mom OR we are (both fodder for judgment there, depending on the company).  Among critical-spirited segments of society, moms can be the worst.

And in a way, this makes sense.  Many moms carefully set their priorities carefully and then pursue and guard them diligently.  Thus they have good reasons to be ardent defenders of the Way They Do Things.  There is nothing wrong with this… but it’s a short step from here toward a negative spirit toward others who parent differently.

An old friend ofwith kids similar ages to mine recently started a daily blog about her daily life.  She’s a pretty avid Attachment Parenting-style mom, which I’ve found fascinating since I don’t parent that way.  Her blog piqued my curiosity so I poked around online to learn more about AP thinking- particularly Christian expressions.  I couldn’t believe the strong statements and even vitriol I uncovered.  Attachment parenting is either the only way a mom can lovingly parent her child… or the spawn of Satan.  There was barely any middle ground.  And, I reflected, this is often the way interaction on parenting issues, from feeding to sleeping to disciplining to extracurriculars, goes down — it can be a battleground.

Don’t get me wrong: parenting issues do matter, a lot.  I’m not saying “it’s all the same in the end” because I don’t think it is.  I’m saying we need grace and a generous spirit toward moms who do things differently than we do, even as we walk out the parenting paths we believe God has called us to with purpose and conviction. 

We moms need to take Jesus’ words at face value: “Don’t judge… As you judge others, you will be judged.”  I can be as critical toward others’ parenting style as the next mom, but I’m trying to keep these words in mind – and this too: “Judgment without mercy will be shown toward anyone who has not been merciful; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

So what does this look like in practice in a mom’s world?  It may mean not providing advice or input to another mom unless it is clearly welcomed , and then adding something like this: “This is how we do it, and these are the reasons we do it this way, but it may well look different in other families.”  I’m working toward this.

In one post, my AP mom friend (who isn’t a believer) wrote:” I disagree with that mom’s methods, but who am I to judge another person’s life work?”  I don’t think God could have said it better Himself.  So here’s to seeking God’s wisdom in all our in-home parenting judgments while extending grace rather than judgment to other moms in their parenting.


2 Responses to “Judging well without being judgmental”

  1. Jean Says:

    I see judging as a bad habit like gossiping.

    Talking about something that puts another person in a bad light can be necessary and fruitful if it is done in the spirit of trying to heal one’s wounds or seeking a solution to a personal problem. This can become a habit, though, and turn into gossip if the intent of the speaker starts to be to influence the listener to think badly of the subject person rather than to seek a solution. It is a slippery slope.

    Judging is similar in that you can evaluate another person’s behavior and critique it in the spirit of trying to figure out what is right for you. But, by the very nature of being a mom, we are in a position to be insecure, defensive and and even aggressive about how we parent – and therefore to be judgmental of other mom’s behavior.

    Most of the time, moms don’t get a lot of affirmation for the way they parent. Parenting is generally a team effort between the mom and dad. You hardly ever hear moms say “we” when discussing parenting. Maybe it is an oversight or a recognition that moms make a lot of the parenting decisions ALONE – whether they intend to or not. Couples don’t have the time or the energy at the end of the day to discuss EVERY issue that comes up over a 24-hour period. So, a lot of the parenting that happens is done solo.

    The people we moms end up looking to for affirmation are other moms. Maybe we don’t look for them to verbally tell us “good job” – but in some way, we are looking to see if what they are doing is “good” or “bad” and whether it is similar to what we are doing. It may be the only way for us to make an assessment because it is in the here and now and we see the parenting as it happens “live” and unscripted.

    When we consistently judge the behavior of others to guage “how we are doing” we run the risk of developing a bad habit.

    As the HP author said “So here’s to seeking God’s wisdom in all our in-home parenting judgments while extending grace rather than judgment to other moms in their parenting.” – Amen!

  2. heartpondering Says:

    Some interesting points here – thanks for the comment. I too have noted that most mothers refer to parenting tasks as “I” rather than “we,” even when many issues our team efforts with husbands. I remember growing up, my own mother consciously chose to say “our daughter” rather than my daughter to acknowledge my dad, whether he was present or not, which I think is a good practice (not that I always do that).
    You are right though that an at-home mom makes many, many more parenting decisions throughout the day than a work-outside-the-home dad does. Typically moms are deciders more frequently than moms (even though they may be very much united in parenting goals and methods). And I agree that this also puts more “pressure” in a way on the mom – they calls are most often hers.

    Your use of ‘insecure’ and ‘defensive’ are interesting… I agree that we all can have these tendencies as moms (and need to fight them). One thing I’ve often thought about is the unique nature of our children and/or our household circumstances in developing some if not many of our parenting modes. The first child of my attachment parent friend was colicky, hard to soothe, and a poor sleeper, and she came to the AP style in large part largely because the methods ‘worked’ best in parenting him. Another example: I prioritized consistent daytime napping practices into my kids’ lifes since I’m a work-from home mom who needs regular, predictable time slots for work. Moms’ discipline models, too, can often depend on the methods they find most effective with their kids – and how it goes with a compliant child and how it goes with a strong-willed child can create varying paradigms.

    All this adds to the sense of “Don’t judge your neighbor unless you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” We really DON’T know the circumstances or children of other moms in many cases. And regardless, we should be supporting our fellow moms as best we can and seeking not to add to any insecurity or defensiveness they (or we, for that matter) may feel.

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