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Confessions of a Recovering Judgmental Mom

I’m totally in awe of today’s guest poster, Amanda. She probably thinks it’s because I envy the way she always manages to capture the sexiest selfies, or perhaps her perfect hue of red hair, or maybe even her cute shoe collection. These things are true, and she might be on to something … but no, it’s the writing. Damn, she’s good. Remember “50 Pounds of Poutine“? Yeah, that was her. This time she leaves the fantasy tales behind and shares some deep stuff about motherhood.

Tyrannosaurus Rex 

CONFESSIONS OF A RECOVERING JUDGMENTAL MOM (by Guest Poster: Amanda Jette Knox)

I was having a conversation with a good friend not too long ago. She’s known me for about four years, which I told her was a blessing.

“I’m pretty awesome these days,” I admitted, humbly. “But there was a time before all this” – and I waved my arms up and down my body a few times like something out of a late 80’s rap video – “when I wasn’t nearly this great.”

She sat there, stunned by my admission. No, wait. Maybe she was put off. My therapist once suggested I brag too much, which I’m pretty sure is code for please stop talking because it’s making me feel inferior and I’m the one with the PhD in this room.

But here’s the thing: I do think I’m awesome. Truly. But I think you’re pretty awesome, too. Well, unless you kick puppies. DON’T KICK PUPPIES. But the rest of you? Stellar human beings in my view. And this is a big change from a few years ago, when I likely would have judged you.

I’m looking at you, fellow parental units.

I hate admitting it, but once upon a time in a suburb not so far away, I was one of those judging types. A Judgy McJudgerson. Lady EyeRoll of Superiority Island. A fierce and terrible Judgersaurus Rex with little arms and claws to point at you with.

You?!” My friend gasped. I understood the shock. Her entire world had just fallen out from under her at the realization that I’m not as perfect as she had once believed.

“Me,” I admitted, and tried to comfort her until I realized it had actually been a sarcastic remark. Humph. What a judger. Maybe she hangs out with my therapist.

*****

I got pregnant at 19. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I decided to keep the baby. It seemed like an easy decision until people started saying things like, “You know, if you keep this baby you only have a 20% chance of ever living above the poverty line,” and, “Are you sure you want to do this? Having a baby this young will likely ruin your relationship.”

But the kicker? After Intrepid was born, a friend came over, held him for a few minutes, handed him back and said: “He’s really cute. But you realize you just f***ed up your life.”

30-something-year-old me would have shown her the door – likely by throwing things at her until she found it. Hers was a rude, unnecessary, insensitive comment. I might have been able to brush it off these days (as I cleaned the sugar bowl fragments thrown in her general direction). But the newly minted 20-year-old mom me? It became the comment that broke this camel’s back. What little confidence I had in my abilities to parent the screeching bundle of flesh recently ejected from my birth canal was gone, just like that.

After that, statistics and demographics kept me awake at night. I looked at my baby and worried for him. What if I couldn’t do this? What if we really messed him up? What if he became a terrible human being thanks to our lackluster efforts?

And that’s when I decided that wouldn’t happen. We would be amazing parents. We would defy stereotypes and bewilder statistical analysts. We would be the family that makes it.

But, um, how?

By doing everything right, of course. Duh.

By doing everything right, I would be Queen of Motherhood. The Giver of Perfect Upbringings. The Maker of Productive Well-Rounded Citizens.

So, uh, let’s say you’re 20 and are pretty sure you instinctively suck at this parenting thing. How do you know if what you’re doing is right?

You use your giant brain! (I’m convinced I have giant brain. I can’t find hats that fit me, which I’ve decided has everything to do with how smart I am. Except don’t ask me to say things like plethora or hyperbole out loud because I learned those words on the internet and always mispronounce them… Where were we? Oh, yeah: GIANT BRAIN.) If I read things like books and studies and made decisions based on them, then they would have to be the right choices for my child. What great logic!

Nasty side effect: what happens when you’re so terrified of messing up your kid that you have to be right at all costs? Well, it means other people have to be wrong, unfortunately. I’m so sorry, you guys, but if you didn’t do things the same way I did, you just weren’t doing it properly and I would make sure to point it out to you.

A lot.

On the internet. And at playgroup. Oh, and at the park.

And you usually didn’t like me for it. Weird, right? I didn’t get it. I was just trying to help. I was even polite about it.

Most of the time.

Unless you really didn’t see the infallible logic in my choices, in which case you just needed me to be more direct about it – often very, very direct. And if you didn’t see it my way after that, then I simply felt sorry for you. Poor you. I hoped you’d learn, someday.

So what changed?

Maybe it was the time when I did everything “right” and still ended up with an emergency c-section with our second child. Or maybe it was that, despite all my efforts to be an involved and present parent, I still failed to realize Intrepid was born with hearing loss until he was 6. Oh, or it could be when Gutsy, our second-born, was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. And after all that attachment parenting, even. Wasn’t he supposed to feel really secure? I was sure that’s what the studies promised me.

As the boys and their friends – who are all raised so differently – have grown, I’ve realized a few things:

Being a good parent means many things and is demonstrated in many ways.

There are very few absolutes in parenting (or life).

I don’t have nearly as much control over who my children are as I thought I had.

Instead of judging you, I need to learn from you. Because holy crud, everybody, this parenting stuff is HARD. The more we support each other, the better off we all are.

*****

“And that’s how I became the amazing human you see before you,” I finished, raising my coffee up in celebration.

She shot me a Please go get a room with yourself, narcissist. look.

And then I shot her a Stop judging me. Have you learned nothing from my wisdom? look.

But because I’m all mature now, I accept her despite the fact that she doesn’t see things my way. That’s what growth is all about.

The end.

Amanda Jette Knox is a freelance writer, editor, and screenwriter. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and three sons and blogs over at The Maven of Mayhem. (Big huge thanks for sharing your writing here today, Amanda! Yes, I know I owe you a big huge fancy Starbucks coffee.) 

Image credit: Dino illustration is by Nobu Tamura. Permission for me to adapt it for this blog post via Wikimedia Commons.

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Comments

  1. I followed a very similar evolutionary path as a mom. I was determined to be a ‘perfect’ mom when my first child arrived. 3 kids/8 years later I’ve come to realize that there are some many definitions of ‘a good mom’ depending on the individuals involved. I so agree…this parenting stuff is HARD – we need to support each other, not judge.

    • Yes. Exactly! Once I realized I couldn’t possibly hold myself up to such a high standard I had to admit I couldn’t hold anyone else up to it either. We’re all better off when we just chill out a little.

  2. eeek! mommy’s like you ate me for breakfast. i considered myself the sacrificial lamb for mom’s who liked to gossip about bad parenting – i always felt like i gave them lots to talk about!

  3. MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

    Dear Maven, honey:

    Gotta admit it. I really wanted a four-bedroom place (with a pool) on Superiority Island but somehow I landed on Gilligan’s Island with three other castaways and a blue dog.

    People are calling me a shipwreck survivor.

    Please send help.

    oxo

    • Please ignore the silly comment (above) about a great, thoughtful post. My head is full of air and drivel today.

      • Hah! I actually loved that silly comment! I had meant to reply to it and then ran off to something moms do and it completely slipped my mind.

        My place on superior island was nice, but the neighbours were awful. 😉

  4. as usual, your post speaks to so many of us! and as for being an “amazing human”….of course you are!

  5. Spot on with this write-up, I really suppose this website needs far more consideration. I’ll probably be again to learn far more, thanks for that info.

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