As a mother, I’m used to being judged.
From the moment you announce you are pregnant, there is unrelenting unsolicited advice from friends, family members and total strangers. Once you have your baby there’s a constant barrage of opinions filtering in on everything from the way you swaddle your baby to how you feed your baby to well anything else you could imagine. Almost 4 years and 2 kids into this mom gig, and I’m pretty used to being judged. I’m used to hearing opinions about my choices as a mother, and despite the occasional moment when I allow the opinions of others to interfere with my own maternal instincts, I tend to let those opinions roll on by like background noise in a restaurant – it’s there, but unless I’m bored or it’s a really juicy conversation worth eaves-dropping in on, it’s just that, background noise.
But today…today was a first.
After a particularly hard day at the end of a particularly exhausting week, in which I may or may not have screamed into a pillow out of frustration, I managed to get my sick preschooler and very very cranky baby into the stroller and carrier respectively for a late afternoon walk. Because well, I needed to get OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. I needed to not have to deal with another tantrum or screaming baby bout. I needed to get some fresh air and sunshine so I could regroup and muster up the energy and mental space to handle dinner, bath and bedtime with grace.
However, instead of a relaxing walk, I was essentially judged and bullied by a total stranger for no reason.
As I was walking down the street, a man pulled over to tell me I was a bad mom (and not the cool kind of bad mom from the movie with Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis). He wanted me to know that he thought I was failing at parenting my children. You see, I was texting my amazing husband to let him know I was having a rough day and to get an ETA on when he might be home so I could mentally prepare myself for solo dinner/bath/bed if need be. And apparently, this man felt that I shouldn’t be texting while pushing my stroller and carrying my baby. I admit, I had my phone in my hand as I went across the cross walk (mostly because my pedometer app doesn’t register my steps when it’s in the stroller and I like to count my daily steps) – but, after the little white man signaled me to walk, and as I approached the sidewalk at the end of the intersection, I got a text and glanced down approximately 3 steps from the end of the cross walk. Now maybe it wasn’t the safest choice. Maybe someone could have run that RED light and plowed through all the completely STOPPED cars that I made sure were stopped before I started walking across the street. But let’s be honest, text or not, if someone ran that light I’m not sure it would make much difference what direction I was looking. But that’s beside the point.
This MAN felt that he had the right to pull over and proceed to (in front of my children) tell me what a horrible mother I was. He was just driving in his car and felt like hey, I should stop and tell that mom juggling two children that she is a terrible mom. On this lovely friday afternoon he needed to let me know that I should be ashamed of myself. He told me that I shouldn’t ever look at my phone when my children are around. He continued to yell and berate me, then called me “mother of the year” and sped off.
In the moment I was too shocked and upset to put him in his place. I was too busy explaining to my frightened son why the ‘angry man was yelling at us’. I am ashamed to admit he made me cry.
Here is what I wish I had been able to say to that MAN.
You have ZERO right to judge me.
Setting aside the fact that NO ONE has the right to judge another human being…as a MAN, you have NO right to judge what you will never ever know – being a mother.
You don’t get to have an opinion on my choices as a mother.
You don’t get to decide whether or not I am doing a good job, because you will never ever know what it’s like to be a mom. I’m fully aware that as a man, you may in fact know what it’s like to be a parent. And you may even know what it’s like to be a primary caregiver. But you will NEVER know what it’s like to be a mother.
You will never know what it’s like to be so selfless that you literally give up your body for the better part of two years to grow a human being and feed that human being.
You will never know what it’s like to have to fight tooth and nail to get your body back – knowing full well it will never be exactly as it was before.
You will never know what it’s like to raise children while recovering from major abdominal surgery or a difficult childbirth.
You will never know what it’s like to muster through raising human beings while you battle an exhausting combination of sleepless nights and a seemingly endless rollercoaster of hormonal shifts at the same time.
You will never know what it’s like to struggle with post-partum anxiety or depression.
You will never know the sacrifice physically and mentally it takes to try nourishing a baby by MAKING milk for them.
You will never know what it’s like to be a mom.
So NO. Just NO.
You do NOT get to drive up in your beat up red pick up truck and tell me how I’m doing as a mom. You do not get to pass judgment on me. You do not know what my day or even my life entails. You can’t POSSIBLY understand that all day long and all night long I am 100% devoted to my children and their well-being.
So, yeah, if for 5 minutes I need to walk around the neighborhood with one child safely strapped into a stroller and another safely strapped to my chest so I can just quietly suck air, check out and maybe make a phone call or read an email or send a text or even just stare at pictures on Instagram, you don’t get to judge that.
I don’t know what has gone so poorly in your life that you need to stop and tell a complete stranger that they aren’t doing theirs right, but perhaps instead of terrorizing innocent people you should look in your rearview and judge your own miserable self.