Parenting is filled with moments of wonder, moments of all-encompassing love, and oh so many difficult moments in between. Sometimes those difficult moments happen out in public — with the world watching — and it can feel like those around us are just watching and waiting for us to make a mistake.
The fact is, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and as human-beings, we all make mistakes. One powerful post reminds us all of this fact, while also bringing up an interesting point: Have we become “a culture who watches for faults instead of opportunities to help?”
Megan Orr Burnside begins her post by recounting an experience she once had where she called the police on a mother who was struggling with her 10-year-old son.
Turns out, the boy had autism. According to police, the mother had contacted them in the past to help her with him, because he was very violent. They also mentioned that the mother was “doing the best she can.”
Burnside says in her post that she regrets making the call, but not because she had been concerned for the child’s well-being. What she really regretted was her snap judgment of the mother, and that she hadn’t taken a moment to see if she could help her first.
“In my eagerness to protect the child, I neglected to offer help to the mother,” Burnside recalled. “Instead I ‘turned her in’ to the authorities.”
It’s a very difficult situation. Of course, you should report abusive behavior towards a child, but as Burnside points out, things may not always be how they first appear, and she regrets not doing more.
“I have felt guilt even years later that I didn’t get out of my car and offer her some help,” she explained. “If I had helped in that moment, it may not have led to more violence.”
In the post, Burnside goes on to recount a future incident where she witnessed a mother at the end of her rope with her two children while shopping.
“She was so angry and explosive at both of them, the whole store was aware of them,” she noted.
This time, Burnside stepped in to help (instead of gawking like those around her) and the mother was so grateful she was moved to tears.
My husband and I once had an epic shopping trip to the grocery store where not one, but all three of our boys were throwing a huge fit — right in the very front of the store. This was not a normal circumstance for us, but a culmination of a lot of things. Our kids were hungry, tired, and we were all feeling done with this shopping experience. I remember feeling everyone’s eyes on us and feeling so judged as a mother.
Burnside says in her post that the mother in this circumstance was frazzled and apologetic. “She told me she worked nights and she couldn’t even think in the day,” she added.
We don’t often stop to consider that we may be witnessing someone on their worst day, and that we have no idea what is going on in their life. Burnside says she told the mom that she knows what if felt like to be overwhelmed, moving the woman to tears.
What Burnside wrote in her post next is so powerful that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:
“I know there’s a place for the authorities to step in, but I feel like we have become a culture who watches for faults instead of opportunities to help. We have become more separated and condemning, instead of compassionate and loving and serving. If we helped more, we would have to call the authorities less.”
Burnside says the reason that she was inspired to write the post is because DCFS was recently called on her dear friend, who she describes as a mother that she aspires to be like. Burnside says that her friend had been suffering with a respiratory infection when the call was made.
“I don’t know what this person observed that they thought was a problem,” she noted. “Maybe her kids were running around without parental supervision? Maybe a parent wasn’t feeding them so they were foraging for themselves?”
Burnside goes on to make a powerful point: “I am sad that the person who called her in didn’t ask how they could HELP HER.”
She tells Babble that the case has since been dropped.
Burnside ended her post with some valuable advice: “It’s time to stop judging each other and start helping each other, or we will only perpetuate isolation, depression, addictions, violence, and suicide.”
Amen to that!
She also said, “When people are overwhelmed they need help, not condemnation. I know I have been guilty for doing this very thing and I see clearly how I probably perpetuated the problem instead of helping to uplift and assist others.”
The post is quickly going viral with over 10K shares. When asked how she feels about her message being shared so voraciously around the web, Burnside tells Babble she has been “astounded by the huge response.”
“I feel like one of the reasons it has touched so deep a nerve is because we can all relate to feeling judged on our parenting, and we are all secretly afraid we are horrible parents,” she says. “In a way, none of us really know what we are doing, and we want to know that it’s going to be okay and someone understands that we are doing the best we know how to do.”
She is absolutely right, and it’s something I hope to remember the next time I witness a parent having a difficult moment.