I Didn’t Understand What It Meant Not to Judge Until I Had 3 Kids

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Scary Mommy and Jamie Hodgson/Getty

“I’m sorry about the mac and cheese,” she apologized. “We had it two days in a row.” I looked at my friend and just wished she would have understood for a second how thankful I was that she had jumped in when I needed her most. My sitter had moved and I was in a bind trying to find childcare so I could finish out my teaching obligation for the school year.

Plus she must have forgotten my recent proclamation to stop cooking. I had committed to radical self-care and I meant it. I gave up cooking in order to find time to go to the gym five days a week. I started buying frozen pizza and mac and cheese (which I had previously sworn off when it was proclaimed that powdered cheese was toxic) to fill the daily demand for dinner.

I think my “come to Jesus moment” was the day I almost had a breakdown at the supermarket. That particular day, it seemed every item I picked up had a potential danger to my kids. The fruits and veggies weren’t organic, the cans contained BPA, and there were chemicals and words I didn’t recognize that I knew would cause cancer. I was breathing fast and feeling panic. This happened to coincide with my parents’ new commitment to becoming whole foods plant-based vegans who avoid SOS (salt, oil, and sugar). If you don’t know this particular type of vegan, they can basically eat organic kale (as much of this as possible and most certainly at every meal), fresh organic fruit, and beans you soak yourself. This didn’t help me — a busy working mom of three, who’s just trying to feed her kids.

And that’s when I told myself to STOP. My children were about to starve because my cart was empty out of fear. I realized I had to come home with food. Also if I came home without any food, this highly coveted alone time at the store would likely not happen again, as my husband would suggest he start doing the shopping. I was not about to lose my happy place, nor let my children starve. There was no other option. I filled the cart with things no one in my house recognized. But it was all edible and for that, I felt good. And I didn’t judge myself about it. Because this was what I needed to do — for now.

That was also when I stopped judging everyone else’s cart in the store … but also all the other things moms do that I have no right to make any judgments about. I don’t walk in their shoes and they don’t walk in mine. Maybe this was because we now had three kids. A third tipped the scales in favor of the children in our household. Which means more often than not they win the battles. They know how to break my husband and I down. And we give in so much faster.

I love my friends who don’t judge me either. I am totally convinced my daughter is the worst eater out there. She can make a full day’s meals out of sugar alone. Donuts, cookies, and candy have solely filled some of her days. She is also almost four and still obsessed with her pacifiers. I’m okay with it. I tried last summer to get her to stop. Two days in I met my friend at the park and was near tears. “I’m exhausted and she won’t sleep without it,” I cried. “So give it back — is it really worth it?” she asked. No, it wasn’t … and I wasn’t sure I this didn’t have more to do with her growing up and less to do with her paci. But I didn’t care. I will admit that her teeth are crooked and her speech is off, but I made this bed and I’m going to lie in it.

Coincidentally, I have been sleeping exclusively in my daughter’s room for the past three months — on the floor. She was upset when our sitter moved and I wanted to be there for her. This one brings about lots of judgment: “Oh no, don’t do that,” or “You’re creating a bad habit that will be hard to break.”

I don’t know if having three just removes your standards, or with each child I’m also getting older, but I don’t give a shit. And I’m grateful for that. I have far less concern about what others think than I did with my first or even second kid. It has made me a much softer and kinder person — one who knows you don’t get to judge the way other people parent. I am proud of the mom I am, I’m not perfect and I’m never going to be. But I am SO much happier without the guilt or judgment I used to place on myself and other moms.