Like all new moms, I’m up to my neck in judgment—from veteran parents, family, friends, and everyone’s favorite, total strangers in the grocery store wielding an icy glare and some unsolicited advice. It seems motherhood invites judgment. I get it all day, every day.
Or at least I think I do.
Sure, sometimes we are being judged. And maybe sometimes the unsolicited advice we get is actually meant to cut us down and make us feel like terrible parents. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and admit that sometimes, just maybe, it’s coming from a place of concern.
Even the person who adamantly declares, “I’m not a kid person,” can’t stand to watch a child suffer. As a society, we can’t help but watch out for kids even if they’re not ours. Ever see a small child wander too close to traffic and feel your heart jump into your throat? Congratulations, you’re human.
After a recent trip to the urgent care clinic, I came to the conclusion that a lot of this perceived “judgment” is actually in my own head. I brought our toddling 9-month-old son in for a gash on his upper gum that he got from falling in the bathroom and hitting his mouth on the tub. As I suspected, he was perfectly fine. The cut would heal on its own and mostly it just scared us both and bled a lot, as head wounds do.
Racked with fear and guilt, I tried my best not to bristle when the doctor asked if I was in the bathroom when he fell. I politely answered yes, but what I wanted to say was “Of course I was in the bathroom! Are you accusing me of neglect you judgmental asshole?!”
I tried not to take it personally when she said slowly in a sweet high-pitched tone, “Now lets talk about precautions you can take at home so the little fella doesn’t have to go through this again.” I forced a smile and nodded as the concept of childproofing and the importance of keeping a close eye on these curious little buggers was carefully explained to me in painful detail.
So after this humiliating lecture, why didn’t I lose my shit? Clearly this woman was judging me, right? This doctor on her high horse accusing me of letting my infant son crawl into the bathroom while I rolled a joint and enjoyed a long leisurely nap, obvi. This stuck-up doctor who assumed I hadn’t childproofed our home and had littered the floor with broken glass and cigarette butts. The nerve. I mean that’s what you heard her say too, right? Who the fuck was she? Where were her children? Did she even have children?
We’ve all had these nasty thoughts after receiving comments just like these from doctors, friends, and that nosy old lady who is always behind your in the checkout line at Target when your kid has a tantrum. It doesn’t matter what Target or what city: She’s always there.
But I stayed calm and tried my best to push these thoughts out of my head because, and this is a big one: She’s coming from a place of concern. I don’t know what has happened to the other injured children she treats every day. I don’t know if this clinic sees a steady stream of neglect cases. I don’t know if she failed to see signs of abuse in one of her pediatric patients and is still losing sleep over it. Regardless, this doctor was not “just doing her job”—she was doing her job very, very well. And everything she said and did came out of genuine concern for my child.
And that concern deserves gratitude, not anger.
Perspective is everything. You can choose to see these little comments as horrible attacks on your character intended to let you know that you are indeed failing at motherhood, or you can choose to see them as a total stranger taking genuine interest in your child’s well-being. I’m trying hard (and it’s hard) to choose the latter because it gives me some faith in humanity. We could use a little more of that right now.
So the next time the nosy old lady behind you in the checkout line mumbles, “I didn’t even bring them to the store at that age,” dig deep, force a smile, and thank her for her concern because no one is judging you.