I want to put a sign on the front door of my house that reads: If this house is messy, if the clothes are unclean, and if the child is unkempt, judge the man of the house as much as you judge the woman.
What I’m talking about here is mother judgment. It’s when women hold other women to impossible standards of housekeeping and child-rearing. The critical part of the equation, though, is the part where we talk about one another and how we don’t approve of the way she’s doing things and point out how much better we believe we are.
In this way, it seems we women police one another and create a pressure to always be “up to standards.” I recall one day hearing another mom point out how she was walking along the sidewalk and watching another mother walk ahead of her small child. The mother in the story apparently went a good stretch without looking back to check on her child. The mother telling the story was horrified and invited the other mothers listening to judge her just as harshly.
Meanwhile, it occurred to me that if she was so busy watching this other mom, to the point where she was sure this mom never even took quick glances, how could she have possibly been completely keeping an eye on her own two kids? But then, that’s just me judging her!
I just wish we could stop is all, you know? Just be kinder to one another and also not expect so much of ourselves. It truly is the women that society holds accountable for these standards, not men. Awareness of this fact, that society expects certain things from us, is part of why women do up to three times as much housework as their husbands and five times as much childcare. As a ratio, that last number hasn’t changed in 90 years!
Do you feel judged by other mothers? Do you judge other moms? Or have you found a way to rise above this stuff?
Karen Bridson is a journalist, TV producer and author of Stunned: The New Generation of Women Having Babies, Getting Angry and Creating a Mothers’ Movement (HCI, 2009). She blogs at http://angrymamas.blogspot.com She also produces a parenting show for Canadian Public Television.