I judged you, friend. I’m sorry.
At the time, I didn’t see my reaction for what it was. But, now I’m a mother too, I’m calling myself out: I judged you.
I didn’t mean to. I was wrong. So very wrong. I see that now. When you fed your children plain pasta with a side of dry cheerios for dinner I was secretly shocked. Why didn’t you give them nutritious food? Why didn’t you put your foot down and force them to eat something healthy? I asked you these questions silently. Because, you see, I was bold enough to have an opinion but not brave enough to discuss it with you. I judged you. I was wrong.
Who was I to have an opinion on your mothering methods? Maybe you’d had a long night with your unsettled baby. Maybe your toddlers had consumed so much of you during the day that any dinner served to them should have been celebrated as an achievement. Maybe you were so drained from battling over food three times per day every day that you desperately wanted just one contented family meal together minus the arguments. I judged you. I was wrong.
When you gave your kids iPads so you could have five minutes of peace I shouldn’t have wondered what was stopping them from entertaining themselves with a book or jigsaw. I should have been happy you valued me enough to try and carve out time for us to talk. Or perhaps I should have been more curious about whether you really needed to share something important with me. I missed that opportunity to listen because I judged you, I was wrong.
That time you shouted at your children and said things that made me curl up inside? I shouldn’t have instinctively stepped away from you. Instead, I should have wondered why you seemed so different from the friend I once knew. I should have realised you would go home that night and cry yourself to sleep. I should have guessed that tears of shame would run down your face because you had spoken in that way to the people you love most in the world. I judged you. I was wrong.
In my defence, back then, I had no idea that sheer exhaustion could have such an effect on a person, no matter how kind and good a soul they have. I didn’t know that a new mum’s hormones could work so savagely against her. I just didn’t know. But I should have asked you about it, not pass opinion instead. I judged you. I was wrong.
When your toddler threw a tantrum in the supermarket and you rewarded him with chocolate in exchange for his silence, why did I find it so awful? All eyes were on you as he screamed and screamed. You felt cornered. Your instincts kicked in to pacify the situation as quickly as possible. I now truly wonder what was so terrible about that? And why didn’t I help more? Friends shouldn’t stay on the sidelines to avoid being involved in an awkward situation. They should jump in with you and laugh about it afterwards. The problem was that I was scared of being judged by strangers too.
But now I’m the one being judged. I’m on the other side of the parenting fence. All eyes are on me. The perfect parent I was before I had children disappeared dramatically the first night baby and I got home from the hospital. I understand you now. I hope it’s not too late.
I look back with shame on my actions. I wish I could change them. I see how desperate you must have felt and how small acts of kindness from other people can change the entire course of your day.
A smile instead of a frown from a stranger when your child refuses to return a sweet to the shop shelf. An understanding nod from another parent when your kid throws a sit-down protest rather than leave the soft play. A helping pair of hands as you try to wrestle a double buggy and two youngsters up the stairs of an ill-planned building. A sympathetic friend when you cancel yet another night out because you’re just too exhausted. These are what make the difference to a struggling parent’s happiness. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort. All it takes is for someone not to judge. It’s not hard. I realise that now. I judged you, I was wrong. I will never do it again.
I wish I had given you more of these little acts of kindness. But you are giving them to me. You’re my rock because you have been there and you understand what I’m going through. And I promise that in return I will go on to do the same for every new parent who comes into my life. Helping, understanding, supporting. Not judging, hating, bitching. I have learned my lesson and this is how I will make up for all that I did wrong before. Mums and dads should stick together, not bring each other down. There is room for us all to parent in our own unique ways without passing judgement on each other. I won’t judge you, because that is wrong.
Crystal tip: carry aquamarine or chrysoprase to help you stop being judgmental. They will help you to accept yourself and others.
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