The other day I was grabbing a quick iced coffee at a local coffee shop when I happened to – unintentionally, I might add – overhear a judgmental conversation. There was one table against the wall that admittedly was being a tad loud, though it wasn’t bothering me personally. Heck, I was kid-free and footloose at that moment in time. The loud-ish table included a mother attempting to wrap up a conversation with an acquaintance, as well as two older children – I’d guess 5 and 7, give or take a year – who were clearly over the whole darn thing. Yes, they were talking loudly. Yes, they were getting in and out of their chairs. Yes, they were shaking cups full of ice. They were done. Been there, done that.
As soon as they exited the coffee shop, a different table started judging the mother. “Can you believe those kids?!” “We would have gotten a hand to the backside in our day!” “Mothers these days can’t control their kids – where is the discipline?!” “Too many mothers try to be friends with their kids.”
My heart sank.
You see, I have 3 small children. Children I birthed in 3.5 years. No, it wasn’t exactly planned precisely and yes, they are all mine. Yes, my hands are full and no, I don’t always have control of them. I am trying. Really, really hard, in fact. But they are kids. And I am an exhausted but well-intentioned mom. If I could “control” my children, I would. Believe me.
So to the women who gossiped and judged the moment that other mother left the coffee shop, I say shame on you. Shame on you for seeing a small glimpse into another mother’s day and jumping to judgment.
Please don’t misinterpret me. I do very much believe in having high expectations for children, and I also think children are capable of behaving in public (or home or Church or anywhere). But I also know that sometimes my children fall a tad short of what I think they “should” be doing. Or that I have pushed my kids a tad too far by making just one more stop. Or running just one more errand. Or attempting a trip to Target with 2 kids who haven’t napped. Even if my expectations are sky high and my standard is perfect, my kids may fall short.
But what really bothers me more is that we keep telling mothers that THEY are falling short.
It seems that almost no parenting decision is “right” these days. Because no matter WHAT you choose, and no matter WHAT you believe, someone else is inevitably doing the exact opposite. Not only that, there is a blog post to tell you why you’re doing it all wrong. You didn’t like nursing? You’re wrong. You didn’t at least give baby-led weaning a try? You’re wrong. You red-shirted your kindergartner? Wrong again. You can’t control your kids in a coffee shop? Wait, you TOOK YOUR KIDS TO A COFFEE SHOP? Wrong wrong wrong.
Can we all just agree to do what works for us? Please?
None of us is falling short in motherhood as long as we are doing what works for us.
When it comes to exercise, whether it’s walking in the park, barre class, CrossFit, running, Hour Blast, Jillian Michaels videos, yoga, chasing your toddlers or sitting on the couch … do what works for you.
As far as feeding your kids, whether you choose breastmilk, formula, Paleo, goldfish, juice, organic non-GMO chicken nuggets, endless cheese sticks, Totino’s pizza or Cheerios off the floor (my 3rd child lives on those) … do what works for you.
Work in an office, work at home, stay home with your kids, start your own business, get involved in direct sales or don’t. Do what works for you.
Wear your babies, wear your dogs, wear yoga pants, wear leggings as pants. You get my point. Do what works for you.
So when we see a mom doing what clearly works for her, let’s stop to celebrate and say “hey, that really seems to work well for you – great job!”
And if we see a mom for whom something may not be working, even if just for a moment in time, can we try not to say “hey, you’re doing it ALL wrong?!”
Because even if she doesn’t hear you, believe me that she heard you. She heard you because she was likely already thinking the same thing.