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Selective Judgment: Moms Judging Other Moms

By Nichole |

Photo Credit: bluntcard.com

In a recent piece on Today Moms, The Mom-Judging Olympics: A competition nobody meant to enter, Rebecca Dube explores why it is that we judge other mothers.

We all want to say that we don’t do it.

We want to give the impression that we respect each other’s choices.

But do we always?

As you probably remember, I caught some major heat here a few months ago for judging another mother.

And I was told off in every way possible.

I was completely condemned for judging her.

Then, I tried to explain myself, and, subsequently, I was judged for that.

The judgment that I dealt out was returned right back to me. In spades.

The negative comments trickled in for weeks.

But, I’m not alone.

Dube reports, “Nearly 90 percent of us judge other moms, for everything from breast-feeding habits to bratty kids, our TODAY Moms/Parenting.com survey of 26,000 moms found.”

We all judge…we’re just selective in our judgment.

We can overlook another mother’s decision not to breastfeed, but not her decision to delay vaccinations.

We judge another mom for having an epidural, but not for giving her older child chocolate milk with every meal.

We condemn another mother for not using cloth diapers, but overlook the fact that she hasn’t taken the pacifier away from her 5 year old.

Because we see ourselves in other mothers…the parts of ourselves that we like, but also the parts that we don’t.

And I wonder if we can have a conversation about that.

I wonder if we can admit to ourselves, and each other for that matter, that we judge.

What do you condemn most harshly?

If you feel that you don’t criticize other moms, can you share some insight in the comments for other moms who struggle with it?

Do you feel judged? And if so, how do you handle it?

Related: Not here, please! 10 places we don’t need parenting advice

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About Nichole

nichole

Nichole

Nichole Beaudry lives in Sacramento, California with her husband Craig, their daughter Katie and baby boy Matthew. In her former life she was a college English professor, now she shares some of her small moments in her Practicing Gratitude column each week at SheKnows and works at AllParenting as the Assignments Editor. She was a contributor to Babble, and currently keeps a personal blog, In These Small Moments.

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35 thoughts on “Selective Judgment: Moms Judging Other Moms

  1. Diana @Hormonal Imbalances says:

    I’m probably the most judgmental person alive. I judge everyone, and I wish I didn’t. Because when that same thing/choice happens to me? I tend to fall flat on my face – doing the same thing I was judged for.

    It’s an awful thing. Judging is human nature and sometimes it’s a necessity, but most of the time it’s pure insecurity.

  2. Rachel {at} Mommy Needs a Vacation says:

    I know I am judged…and I admit, I judge. If your 5 year old is walking around the park with a pacifier? I judge. I admit it. However, if I feel judged by someone else, I just try to roll with it. Life is too short to worry about what other people think.

  3. gigi says:

    I love that you followed up the first post with this. And I agree. We all may judge, subtly or not, on different things. Even me, who claimed in my comment to you last post that we shouldn’t judge.

    I do.

    I’ve learned in my 8 years of parenting and its associated life experiences to NOT judge on a lot of things that at first I was judgmental on, and for that I’m grateful. But I still judge on less obvious topics. I think it’s no different than any other aspect of life…do as I say, not as I do :)

    Fab post, Nichole.

  4. Sherri says:

    Oh, I have a post in my drafts about this very thing….and I admit we all do it, and it’s not right. I try not to worry about what others think of me, but it’s hard to completely let it go!

    Great topic.

  5. Tara Wright (@tarabitesback) says:

    I used to refer to my nanny that I had when I worked (full time, mind you) as my babysitter to somehow diminish that I had full time help. She was a nanny, in fact she was, for a time when I was barely functioning as their mother (in the middle of sad divorce while going back to work) more their mother than I was in some ways. And yet I couldn’t give her that credit, which was lame. And I couldn’t just say: “I have a nanny” because I feared what people would think of me. As if I was indulged, rich, foolish.

  6. Karen (SubMommy) says:

    Most things I don’t make a big deal about. Here’s the two that I do:

    1) Moms who don’t vaccinate. If you’re not familiar with the term “herd immunity” it would be a good idea to take a look into it. Now – delayed, spread out, etc. Fine. Don’t do it at all and try to tell me that vaccines are a racket for doctors and pharms to make more money off of you? I’m judging you. (That’s actually happened to me.)

    2) Moms who give their less-than-three-year-olds soda pop regularly. This seems to be kind of a duh. Rotten teeth? Poor eating habits? Ya think?

    And yep – that was super judgy. I admit it.

  7. Natalie says:

    There’s a big difference between expressing an opinion or arguing a viewpoint in a format like this and being rude to people in person. I assume that people are here on Babble to read about parenting and to engage in discussion. If someone writes an article or a blog post that runs counter to my parenting philosophy, I’m going to push back and make my case – passionately if need be. That’s because there are some things I’d like to see change in the world. I do this however, because a) this is a place for that kind of interaction and b) because it’s an anonymous/semi-anonymous place to do so. I don’t EVER criticize people in person. Not friends, not strangers. Mostly it’s because I’m a chicken, but it’s also because that’s not really the way to change anything. If I write a comment on a website, I hope I might be planting a seed in someone’s mind. If I tell my friend that I don’t think she should have made decision X, she might not want to be my friend anymore. If I criticize a stranger, I might get punched!

  8. Jenna says:

    I’ll admit it, I judge and then get my panties in a bunch when someone else is judging me. I realize this is all happening and how outrageous it is but so far have been helpless to stop it. And since we’re being candid the thing I feel the most judged for was not being able to breastfeed and the thing I judge the most for is people who are all snappy and short with their kids. Sigh… guess I’m not perfect either.

  9. Sara says:

    I totally judge. I judge moms who post pictures of their children in FILTHY houses. I’m talking dirt, dirty dishes and clutter to the extreme – I’ve seen it. I don’t have a perfectly clean house but I wash the floor once a week, I don’t have month old dishes on the counter and empty pizza boxes in the middle of my kitchen floor. I can’t handle that. I judge big time,

    I also judge people for not trying BF’ing or giving up quickly without any medical reason, but I will EQUALLY judge a BF’ing mom who tries to shove LLL down anyones throat when they are considering quitting.

    I judge a lot. I’m not afraid to admit it. I just TRY to take the high road and not call anyone out for their “unique” parenting style.

  10. Sara @ Pensparade says:

    I totally judge. I judge moms who post pictures of their children in FILTHY houses. I’m talking dirt, dirty dishes and clutter to the extreme – I’ve seen it. I don’t have a perfectly clean house but I wash the floor once a week, I don’t have month old dishes on the counter and empty pizza boxes in the middle of my kitchen floor. I can’t handle that. I judge big time,

    I also judge people for not trying BF’ing or giving up quickly without any medical reason, but I will EQUALLY judge a BF’ing mom who tries to shove LLL down anyone’s throat when they are considering quitting.

    I judge a lot. I’m not afraid to admit it. I just TRY to take the high road and not call anyone out for their “unique” parenting style.

  11. Bridgette says:

    Great topic. This is a subject I think about often. I try to not judge. I try to put myself in their shoes. However, it is very hard. I am not a mainstream mom. My kids don’t watch TV or eat sugary sweets. I cloth diapered, breastfeed until they were 3 and we go to a Waldorf school. All of those choices put me up for judgement often. I get strange looks when I let my kids dress themselves or wear costumes out in public, but I believe in free expression. I understand that I’m different and I understand that not everyone makes these choices. I try to respect that we are all on our own paths as mothers. My choices are best for my family situation, but might not work for someone else. That being said, I have a hard time not judging sometimes. I see so much disrepect and anger geared toward children. People expect their kids to conform to their schedule. Kids are overbooked, don’t get enough sleep and are expected to not complain. For the most part I keep those judgements to myself (but do share some with my husband). Mothering is hard, hard work. Judging is just a part of life and motherhood we have to deal with.

  12. Abbey says:

    I think there is a very fine line between judging and bullying. Bullies judge others for not acting or looking a certain way. It doesn’t hurt a bully for another kid to dress a certain way or be overweight or have a different sexual orientation, but the bully will make it his or her business, I think because bullies are insecure and want to draw attention away from their own shortcomings. There seem to be a lot of mom bullies out there. If another mom doesn’t bf or cloth diaper or take away the pacie, it doesn’t hurt the mom bullies, but they speak out anyway, I think not so much for the sake of the other mother’s child but to legitimize their own choices and to minimize their own imperfections.

  13. Becky says:

    What’s worse than mom’s who judge? Women who are not yet moms, but still judge. Really, some of my childless friends embarrass me with their comments against our mutual child-rearing acquaintances.

  14. Amber says:

    I think if we all look deep down inside ourselves we will see that we all judge on some level. I know I do and at times I’m not even aware that I’m doing it. I feel bad when I do. I try hard not to because I know I’ve been attacked by judging people before and I know how it felt.
    My youngest is special needs and I’ve had people who don’t have special needs children attack me for certain things when honestly they didn’t know what they were talking about. They didn’t understand why certain things are certain ways.
    So because I know the pain I try not to. BUT I still catch myself doing it.

  15. sarahh says:

    Strictly speaking, we judge everything we see, hear, feel, smell, taste, etc. It’s how we decide things we like vs. things we do not, etc. Of course everyone judges someone at some point in time, we’re human.
    In this context, however, there is a difference between being judgemental, and either disagreeing with something, or being offended/annoyed by it and expressing that. There’s a big difference between “you’re a bad mother because your 5 year old has a binky” and “the way you said X really offended/hurt me or made me feel defensive because…”

  16. brucee says:

    Picked up your headline on my google news search for interior design. I think this issue of judgement reaches far deeper than mom’s pet peeves about pacifiers and vaccinations. I am a part time stay at home Dad and see mom’s at the playground and at school when I’m dropping off and picking up my son. My take is that mothers put an incredible amount of pressure on themselves. There is the pressure to stay home and take care of the kids verses the pressure to have a career (and often the need to have a career and a two income household). There’s the pressure to do everything right according to the internet and the doctors, keep up with a perfect sex life, get fit, keep the house clean, and find the mystical “balance” that we always hear about. When Michelle Obama says she gets up at 4:00 AM to exercise, I say its the wrong message. I say give ourselves all a break and let ourselves and others off the hook. “Balance”, I think, is near impossible to achieve, and if we could decide to just accept things a little out of balance, we wouldn’t need to feel so judgemental of others, because we won’t be feeling so judgemental about ourselves.

  17. Peggy says:

    I’m sure we all pass judgement on other’s parenting skills at one time or another. It would be pretty hard not to.
    I am the most judgemental when it comes to stay at home moms vs working moms. And even more judgemental to stay at home moms that think working moms are working just to get away from their kids. When in reality they need to cover the health insurance for the family, help pay the mortgage and buy groceries. I harshly judge a stay at home mom who does not take pride in her job (her family & her home). I’m not talking about a mom that’s having a bad week because of a teething baby. I’m taking about the mom that continually complains year after year about her kids as if they are a bother to have around.
    Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now ;-)
    ps…I read both of your post about breastfeeding, and I didn’t think you were being judgemental at all. You simply asked why not?

  18. Theresa says:

    I think we are all so insecure about our own parenting that it is mandatory for us to judge others, whether we mean to or not.

    What makes some moms REALLY judgey is their need to comment on other’s parenting and choices. Keep it to yourselves and make sure your own house is in order.

    http://www.amountainmomma.com/

  19. Nay says:

    I judge my godkids’ mom, because my sweet little “niece” and “nephew” have become hell children (their dad’s rule is “the kids don’t make noise.” If mom sends them to time-out, they cry, and he flips out on her. So the most discipline they have is “if you don’t be quiet down, I’m telling your dad” – which only works on them when their dad is home. That includes when they threw the cat out the window, or if they hit an adult in the face.) Otherwise, I’m generally fine with whatever, including kids throwing tantrums in a store/at a restaurant. Kids are kids, parents have to run errands and pay the tab. Breast-feeding, vaccinations, diapering… None of my business (though I’m on the delay/spread out/omit vaccine boat and I try to sway others to delay – I was almost killed by a vaccine and my brother-in-law has mild vaccine injuries, so my kids will likely be susceptible to vaccine injury. And there is NO need for a chicken pox or hep B vaccine until puberty, when chicken pox becomes vaguely dangerous and sexual activity is less damaging than hep B.)

  20. elendy says:

    ok we ALL judge – it’s human nature; and anyone who claims that they don’t judge is just lying (and being sanctimomious to boot – nyah!)
    That said, I do have this theory though that the amount of judging a parent does (oh yeah there are dads who judge too! although I admit women in general are worse) is inversely proportional to the amount of time they have been a parent. I think it starts – and peaks! – during that first pregnancy (maybe due to a combination of hormones, discomfort, and the insecurity that comes with so many unknowns) – all the judging of other moms -on what they do/don’t do during pregnancy, how/where they give birth, BFing, parenting – all things they haven’t even done yet!
    Birth is often a great equalizer though and reality check, as it rarely goes exactly as planned and is forever full of surprises, both good and bad. So hopefully, the really obnoxious ladies shut up a bit after that.
    But then there’s those first-time moms, you know – the really insufferable ones who happened to have had the perfect waterbirth at home and now have a beautiful perfect baby (and really, aren’t they all perfect before they can talk back!) and voila – expert parent! one birth, one child, but now they know everything there is to know about all births and all children! (isn’t that handy!) If we’re really unlucky her perfect baby will go on to be one of those freakishly well-behaved toddlers (i actually had one of those myself, but I’d like to think I wasn’t delusional enough to think it had anything to do with my parenting….or,you know the gluten- and dye-free vegetarian diet we adhered to…).
    There is still hope yet for those ladies too though. In a word: siblings!
    Nothing is quite as humbling as that second child (who will, invariably, be the exact opposite of the first, and force every parent to re-evaluate everything they thought they were doing so perfectly with their first!)
    Rare is the mother of two or more who is so judgmental that she has the energy, time, or audacity to judge other moms.
    And if you find her (b.c, well just look around at Babble – she does indeed exist) Run

  21. Polish Mama on the Prairie says:

    I will absolutely confess that I judge mothers who smoke crack and drink and pop tons of pills and sleep around without protection, etc. while pregnant. And mothers who endanger their children’s health.

    That’s not about “seeing parts of me” or whatever. It’s that basic mother’s desire, that drive to protect children.

    Just my opinion.

  22. 4badmommies says:

    A very long time ago before I was a mother I judged my sister-in-law for homeschooling her children ( discussed privately with my husband ONLY. I never said a word to her) Seventeen years later, due to circumstances I would have never predicted, I now am the mother of three, two of which I home school and one that attends public school. I still laugh at the karma I’m being served, as I’m judge from both sides of this issue now – both by those that can’t understand WHY I’m homeschooling at all, and those that think I’m awful for sending one to public school. In reality, I’m serving the needs of the individual child, putting them where they do best.

  23. Powermommy says:

    I used to live my life by the judgement of others. When I decided to break away from this nonsense, I was happier and so were my children. As mothers, we have to define motherhood ourselves and have the courage to live our life with power. Judgement hurts. Here is a reality check, there is no such thing as a perfect mother. Not even the one in the mirror. http://www.powermommynation.com

  24. Katie says:

    I don’t post about a lot of things regarding my birth choices and breastfeeding choices because there are so many naysayers out there.

    Instead of just accepting that these were my choices, they try to change my mind as if I am ignorant of my options and what they all entail…as if they think I am trying to take the “easy” way out.

    Nothing about becoming or being a mother has been easy for me. And when people start to pick apart what I choose for my own mental health, it gets me so angry.

    On one hand I am told, “take care of yourself. A baby needs a healthy momma first and foremost.” But when I actually make those choices to be a healthy me? Judged all over.

    This is a GREAT post, Nichole. Awesome topic. It so needs to be out there.

  25. Lyzz says:

    For the most part, when I judge, it’s people who never know where the hell their children are. Or parents who let their siblings raise one another. Women who never really tell you why they don’t have their child, but confess proudly that they are a mother.

  26. Elizabeth Flora Ross says:

    To a certain extent, judging is human nature. We all do it. But there is a HUGE difference between judging someone and a) attacking them for their choices (parenting or otherwise) or b) not respecting their right to make those decisions. It is no more acceptable to attack and bully people on the internet than it is in person. We can certainly have discussions – and we should. But shouldn’t we strive to remain respectful and work to understand each other? Our interactions can be civil, even when we disagree or judge.
    http://themompledge.com

  27. angela says:

    I judge, but I try not to ACT on that judgment. I try to keep it to myself (or of course my lucky husband who gets to hear all of it.) I will try to engage in discussions if asked, but a lot of things I just keep to myself.

    What I really try to follow and remember, even though it’s hard, is that I can judge/disagree with a behavior without judging the person themselves. Of course, I’m talking about parenting CHOICES here – pacifiers, feeding, sleep habits, discipline, etc.

    I absolutely judge parents who endanger their children, without apology. My girlfriend works for Child Protective Services, and the things she sees on a regular basis take my breath away in their awfulness. But I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about here.

    And I’m judged. Just the other day I let Abbey wear my old winter formal dress out when we were doing errands (over her regular clothes). We happened to go to a very fancy toy store, and wow did I get some looks!

  28. wendy says:

    Judge and be judged. Like it or not! I am sure people have judged me: “my wild boys,” “those hyper twins,” “that messy house!”. I know I have done the same. Mostly, my judgments of others, are measures of my own reality. I am so happy to NOT be the only one who uses laudry baskets as a closet (rather than unload them) or has a son who thinks furniture is a playground. I guess, in the end, judging makes us feel better about ourselves!

  29. Cynthia555 says:

    I admit it, I judge others at times but I keep my thoughts to myself. I on the other hand have people’s criticisms of my choice brought up to me. My husband and I decided to have just one child and for some reason people feel the need to give me their opinions about MY choice. “She will not know how to get along with other kids”, “she will be spoiled and selfish” I find those comments very offensive and I wish these people would mind their business. I would never say anything like this to any parent because it’s hurtful.
    http://www.peoplesinsight.com/articles/1-parenting/24-raising-an-only-child

  30. Tonya says:

    Great topic. Touchy topic.

    You’re right, we would all be lying if we said we didn’t judge. And not just on parenting styles, but on everything!

    I judge. I hate it but I do it. And I know I’m judged. I hate that too, but I get it.

    We’re human.

  31. tayarra says:

    I agree I think we all judge. I do it. But I have been a lot better about it because I realize everyone has a story and a reason and the little glimpse I’m getting is not the whole picture. Maybe that 5 year old with the binky is only here because of a medical miracle and his parents chose not to fight over that small little thing. I know that isn’t the case every time, but we don’t know. When I feel judged I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I absolutely consider what they are saying and if I need to make a change then I will but, I know I’m a good mom and I also know that I’m not perfect. I know in my heart that I’m doing things that I feel are best for my family and I stand firm behind that. So most of the time it doesn’t bother me. However, I’ve never really experienced completely hateful comments about me as a parent or about my kids so my tune might change if I do.

    I must have missed your other post. I don’t remember the drama.

  32. Kir says:

    wow, yes, I tend to judge as a defensive mechanism, I know that people might look at me: I used IVF to get PG, I diaper, I didn’t push most things (like PTing instead I just let them happen) Jacob still loves his nuk and I have no intension of taking it away yet , I didn’t breastfeed and am very vocal about why I didn’t even think about doing it, I work, outside our home, my kids are in daycare/preschool for about 11 hours a day, I don’t feed them enough fruits or veggies….and the list goes on and on, so I think that when I judge, it’s mostly because I don’t want to feel guilty or bad about my own choices.

    That has been me since I’m a little girl, I want to feel good about my own choices and when I think they will be judged or looked down upon, I judge those that are judging me. It’s not my finest moments, but it’s something I will admit here since we’re talking about it.

    what a great conversation to start and something I really want to think about and change about myself.

  33. Paulette says:

    I’m probably guilty at some point or other of judging other moms. These days, I try real hard not to. What changed? It changed the day I realized that my troublesome son was diagnosed first with ADHD. Turns out it was only partially right. 3 yrs later the full diagnosis is BPD/ADHD/ODD. Now when I see a mom (or anyone) with a misbehaving child my first thought is not what is wrong with that person that they can’t control their child. Now I just say a silent prayer that all will be ok for them. We’ve had our share of public meltdowns and not all of them handled brilliantly. At the end of the day, being a parent of any child is never easy and we should all just be there for each other. Sadly, some of us thinks it’s a contest and that we are better parents therefore others should do just as we do. We’re all different. That’s what makes us special.

  34. Rhonda says:

    I think we all judge each other. It’s how we choose to voice or rather not voice those judgements that make us who we are. It’s perfectly fine for us to not agree, but unless we are asked for our opinion we really shouldn’t comment.

    floridagirlinoklahoma.blogspot.com

  35. Laurie C says:

    @Nay – You’re judging the wrong person then. Judge the father if he’s the one that’s limiting her ability to discipline her children.

    I judge my SIL for keeping so much candy in her house, for trying to buy my daughter’s love with candy, my inlaws for giving alcohol to children to “calm them down”, and the fact one of my SILs is always on a diet. I feel it sets a bad example for her daughter.

    However I try to keep this to myself and only talk about it when I’m sure they won’t know what I have to say. I try to keep the peace for the sake of my SO.

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