Redbook Magazine has declared a "No Judgment" day for moms. Which I think all moms can agree was really a long time coming.
We all know the cynical truth, universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of a baby must be in want of advice. And with advice comes the implicit suggestion that you must really need it.
After ten years of mothering, and four children, I have learned that advice is not the problem. I can take it. I can nod and smile, raise my eyebrows and say, "Wow, that's amazing!" when you tell me the trick is getting up at 4 am to work out and shower before the children wake. In fact, good for you, because I completely understand that we all need to talk about the aspects of mothering that we have succeeded in. To me, advice is harmless.
It's the judgment that was harder to get over. Oh, okay, I'm still not completely over it. I still imagine all the terrible things people are thinking about my family after one of the kids has a tantrum in public. Or even worse, imagining the things other people are thinking after one of us parents has a meltdown while the windows are open.
But one of the significant changes that came over me while having and raising four children is the reduction in the number of things I do solely to impress people.
I am struggling to count them . . . let me think . . . yeah, I'm at zero. (Now.)
Baking pretty foods, spending on trendy diaper bags, dedicating morning getting-ready time for intricate hairstyles for my daughters—that stuff is dead weight.
Getting four kids up, fed, dressed, and in the car by 7:30 is enough of a challenge.
It's all about priorities.
What still lingers, however—the vestige of the things many women do in an effort to make a good impression on others, to attract admiration, even—is an instinctive motivation that I think may never completely go away.
When I am stressed over the time and energy I am spending on something, I sometimes stop and try to identify my motivation, and often I realize it is an effort solely intended to prevent being judged by others.
For instance, matching my toddler's socks? Not worth getting myself stressed out and making all of us late and grouchy. I realized one cranky morning that the ONLY reason I do it at all, the only motivation for searching through baskets of laundry trying to find two miniature cotton pieces with the same color and pattern and size, is so that other people won't think we messed something up.
In my book, getting grouchy over socks IS messing up. Because it doesn't matter.
My mantra these days is PRIORITIES. Prioritizing my family's money and our time is important, most everyone has to do that. But I have learned (the hard way, as with most parenting) that I have to prioritize my energy.
Cooking, cleaning, homework-helping, sibling mediation, book-reading, cuddling, and singing together—all top priorities. (Yes, I am Maria von Trapp.)
Shopping, sock-matching, fancy hair-styling, pretty-cookie making? Way down the list. I can't enjoy them when they are at the expense of the higher priorities. So I am not going to do them. For now.
But when I am a grandmother --when I am not the one doing all the waking and feeding and cleaning and cooking and homework-helping—I hope to enjoy all that stuff with abandon. And I hope it impresses the hell outta my grandchildren.
My son is always asking what superpower we each would want, and I've never put my finger on it before. But "imperviousness" is what mothers need. A magical force field of imperviousness. Or a "JPF" suit—a Judgment Protection Factor. Moms of big families have a high JPF.
Then again, without the fear of judgment, would I wash my hair more than once a week? Would my children ever learn good grooming? Would I ever clean my house? (Which, by the way, is a clear illustration of how high my JPF factor has risen.)
So maybe a little judgment isn't such a bad thing.