We all know that mom, especially on social media.
She’s the one you can count on hearing from when you post that pic of your kid with the Lunchable. She’s the one that can somehow type out an audible “tisk” on a wide variety of parenting topics, from cartoons to co-sleeping.
You read her passive-aggressive words on your thread and your eyes float right to the back of your head.
“Why does she think she’s so perfect?”
She doesn’t. Quite the opposite. Or it was for me, anyway.
Yep, that’s right — I’m a reformed judgy mom. I hate even admitting that, but it’s true.
So here’s my big secret: it wasn’t you, fellow moms, it was me. I was young, so young. I looked younger. I got questioned and doubted everywhere from the grocery store to the pediatrician. I tried so hard, I wanted to be the absolute best for Baylor, but it never felt like quite enough. I was a voracious reader; I consumed as much information as I could on the business of parenting. It wasn’t long before I had a decent store of “knowledge” on the care and keeping and nurturing of little ones…although in hindsight, I fully recognize that knowledge doesn’t really measure up to experience.
My sharing was innocent at first, but then I noticed people noticing, and it became a source of pride.
They think I’m a good mom! Pride snowballed into something else entirely: a shield from those feelings of inadequacy. Well now you’re gonna have to keep this up so they don’t find out you’re a great big fraud. The shield was a lot like the one we made for Bay’s viking costume in first grade: it looked really good and sturdy, but the inside was just cardboard. It couldn’t stand up to much if someone got close enough to hit it. I wasn’t about to let that happen. The only logical thing to do was make a sword.
See, if I knew something you didn’t know, or I did something in a way that my pediatrician was proud of, maybe I was good enough. Those little jabs at other moms were like a sugar high — a moment of boost, and then a sickening crash. I kept reaching for it, and I kept feeling sick. And if we’re being honest? It didn’t actually leave me feeling like a great mom, and certainly no better than anyone else. That sword and that shield were just a way to keep people from getting too close to the truth.
I don’t remember any exact moment that I realized I was
kind of being a jerk. I think the kids just grew and thrived and I realized that they were these incredible little people, and while I was always going to give them my best, I couldn’t take too much credit for their good or their bad, to quote Lysa Terkeurst. I also learned that my best was a sliding scale on any given day, and if I had to accept that for myself, I absolutely needed to extend that acceptance to others. I tried to make amends with my sweet friends whose confidence I’d attempted to hurt in a pathetic ploy to fix mine. I promised myself that from now on, I’d be transparent; I’d be the mom other moms felt like they could come to and hear, with sincerity, “This is fine, you are a good mama, we’ve all been there.”
I’d lay my weapons down, even if it left me exposed and vulnerable.
I see these mamas now and although I also admit that the eye roll is tempting, I hurt for them. I know what it feels like to strike out from a place of insecurity. I know the regrets they risk if it doesn’t stop; your babies will grow, you’ll gain genuine confidence, you’ll find yourself less desperate to prove anything to others. Yes, your skin will thicken, but those wounds you inflicted upon others? They can and will and do leave scars. It will hurt to see them on the people you love all those years later. I wish I could tell them that they’re robbing themselves the sisterhood that happens when you get real with one another; when you replace white-knuckled grasps on heavy things with open palms of “WHAT THE HECK, MAN” over coffee and laughter and tears. I wish I could tell them that their struggles get easier when they’re shared, and setting themselves free from their own expectations will give others permission to let go, too.