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Looking In The Mirror: Ending The Cycle Of Parental Judgement

judgementIt never ceases to amaze me how much judgement goes on in the parenting community.  Even the tiniest decisions become controversial and anyone is willing to judge you based solely on what they see or the very limited amount of information they know about you.

Rather than simply complaining about it or telling people to stop the “mommy wars” I am trying to understand why we do what we do, and look for better alternatives.  I have written about The Ten Things Us Mothers Can Learn from Fathers and about how to look for inspiration in 10 Ways To Be Inspiring and today I am going to talk about one of the reasons why I think we are so critical as parents.

There is a concept that when we look at others what we see a reflection of ourselves, good or bad.  While I used to just chalk it up to my “perspective” when it came to what jumped out at me about people, it wasn’t until recently that I realized it had more to do with me than I thought.

In my case when I look at someone I will tell you the things that jump out at me above all else:

  1. Whether they are pregnant, or might be pregnant.
  2. Whether they are fat or thin.
  3. Whether they have roots in their hair.
  4. What they are wearing.

So what does that say about me?  It’s so obvious I can’t believe I never saw the connection.mirrir

1. I am having issues coping with my fertility and so I immediately notice any and all pregnant women (even if they might be just overweight).

2. I have body issues (and have my whole life) so I either feel sorry for, or jealous, of extremely thin people and likewise scared and repulsed by overweight ones.

3. I incessantly colour my hair, and always have time to do it so I never understand how other people can walk around with obvious roots showing.

4.  I think my appearance is important and my clothes say something about me.  So I look on in a weird mixture of disgust and jealousy at the have-more-than-mes and a mixture of pity and thankfulness at the have-less-than-mes.

Now that you know way too much about me, you are probably wondering why.  The reason is that I believe the reason we are so judgemental towards other parents is because we are all insecure as parents ourselves.

Babies do not come with a manual.  Even worse, there is no one way to be a good parent .  This “freedom” easily leads to confusion and doubt, which can leave parents totally confused as to which paths to take, methods to adopt, and voices to listen to.

So, naturally the first things we see in other parents are our flaws.  Their flaws are either really reflections of our own, or our attempts to make ourselves feel good in that we have successfully mastered certain aspects of parenting.

For example, I have a friend who commented that she doesn’t think big families work because every time she sees a family with more than two kids, the kids are dirty.  From this comment we can make several deductions about her.

Insecurity: Perhaps she is struggling to parent  her one child and can only reassure herself by believing that those parents with more children must struggle even more than her.

Self-Assurance: She has decided that a key indicator of being a good parent is having clean children, and her children are always clean, thus she is a good parent.

Fear: Perhaps is afraid of being judged for having dirty children and she works very hard to keep her children clean.  She is relived it is someone else’s children that are dirty and not her own.

mirror-self-reflection-imageBy taking the time to examine thoughts like these not only can we learn more about ourselves, we can learn to change the way we think.  My friend does not need to validate her struggles.  Parenting is hard, and we all struggle with different aspects of it but that doesn’t  make her a bad parent.  And while finding what works for you and makes you feel good is great (like having “clean” children) she should take pride in her achievements for what they are and not from the fact that she lives up to expectations (which are hers personally) while others don’t.

I believe a confident parent would not notice the amount of dirt on people’s children, and if they did they would not be concerned with how or why it got there.  Instead they would be focussed internally on their own challenges and see the world in terms of themselves rather than others. They would be concerned with living life outwardly and being present rather than internalizing and judging.

Honestly, as parents we would never want our children to think about other children the way we think about other parents or act towards other children the way we act towards other parents.

Your Challenge:  The next time you find yourself judging another parent because their child is screaming through the grocery store that they want a chocolate bar, or you see me and my son walking our dogs with our pajama pants on ask yourself, “Why does this bother me?”  “Why am I noticing this in the first place?” and you will amazed at what something completely external teaches you about yourself.

Creativity and imagination are wonderful gifts and it is such a shame to waste them by imagining horrible things about other parents and creating false realities simply to make ourselves feel better.

Look around you for the things that inspire you as a parent and use them to motivate you and lift you up, and to eventually motivate and elevate others and hopefully one day we can all become part of a supportive parenting community.

Thank you for reading and as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


18 thoughts on “Looking In The Mirror: Ending The Cycle Of Parental Judgement

  1. I agree, we need to stop judging others and helping them when they need it. I’ve been out running errands kid free recently and saw a mother struggling with her toddler getting groceries. In the end, I offered to help her out as I know how frustrated she was. Don’t judge, parenting is hard work.

    Posted by Piper's Run | March 31, 2014, 8:48 am
  2. Great post and I completely agree about our own insecurities guiding us through judging others. This is true regardless of whether or not we are looking at other kids/parents or just people in general.
    The one thing that I will point out, for me anyway, is that I worked in the developmental disabilities/behavioral health/mental health field and because of the abuse and neglect that I have seen with regards to children, I tend to look at things differently. When I see a truly “dirty” child, my mind goes through several thoughts from, that child takes their play seriously, to that parent is overwhelmed too much to care about that detail, to maybe they don’t have the means to address this detail, all the way to maybe that child likes to be physically dirty so they are seen as unfit, not worthy to touch and violate.

    Posted by bwaskren | March 31, 2014, 8:50 am
  3. Oh my goodness, I just read an article about this – but of course I can’t remember where! Love your attitude and completely agree.

    Posted by Laura | March 31, 2014, 9:46 am
  4. Thanks for sharing this one Shannon– Its amazing how we tend to judge other parents. I am guilty of that too. I am convicted in my heart every time!! Its not right, we are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. the best thing we can do is encourage each other along the way!! The person who commented earlier was right on when she saw a mother struggling with a toddler and stopped to help– its what we need to do, asking first if it is ok to lend a hand and not being rude about it. I know I would have loved a helping hand on more than one occasion!! Blessings! vicki

    Posted by vrein11 | March 31, 2014, 10:13 am
    • Thanks for commenting and reading. I do it too, that why I think understanding why we do it cam help us to stop. Look at the IF community, everyone is so supportive of eachother (generally) because they all know what its like to be there. I don’t see why parents can’t be like that too. Have a great day!

      Posted by Shannon | March 31, 2014, 10:49 am
  5. It definitely amazes me how much effort people are prepared to go to in judging others, seemingly in order to avoid having to take stock of themselves.

    You probably wouldn’t gain a good impression of me – roots showing everywhere 🙂

    Posted by Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist | April 1, 2014, 1:01 pm
  6. Excellent post- I love that you looked inward on this one. When I look at what I am judgy about with other parents, it is definitely safety. If I so much as hear about crib bumpers I go a little crazy on the inside (although I don’t say anything). This makes sense for me as I am THE most paranoid mom ever- I watch my crib breathing sensor like a hawk and wouldn’t let my nanny feed my baby even purees until he was 8 months old. After reading your post, I see that my judgment is my own fear being pushed on others.

    Posted by amandasmith33 | April 3, 2014, 12:28 am
    • I am so glad you found it useful. I can sympathize with the safety issues as I was a health and safety professional for a few years but since I never see other parents homes I guess I was saved from that one 🙂 best wishes.

      Posted by Shannon | April 3, 2014, 11:12 am
  7. Amen! What a great way to encourage us as moms to look at ourselves when we are judging. There is so much growing and learning to do when we turn things back around and look inside. I’ve learned the things I tend to judge are the things that are uber-important to me. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t be so important to another mom, but I have to remember there are areas where others might think I’m failing as a mother based on the same premise. We all need to have some self-confidence and give each other encouragement for doing the best we can. This parenting business isn’t for the birds!

    Posted by livinginthedeepend | April 3, 2014, 12:22 pm
  8. Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head. I’d extend this beyond just parents, too, and say it applies in all sorts of realms. People notice the vices in others that they have themselves (and are probably more judgmental of them). Definitely good to be aware of in yourself! Great post (and…I am too lazy to even dye my hair at all in the first place, and I’m graying all over the place).

    Posted by sparrow | April 21, 2014, 9:55 am
    • Thanks! Don’t worry, I don’t even notice the hair any more (I am a little busy lol) but it was a real example. I am glad you enjoyed reading it, you are right. It definitely has broader applications. Have a great day 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | April 21, 2014, 9:58 am


  1. Pingback: Looking In The Mirror: Ending The Cycle Of Parental Judgement | Love & Work - April 3, 2014

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