A few months ago, while on vacation with my family, I had a very awkward conversation with another mom. What I thought would be a collegial exchange of mom stories with a second-time mom (me), giving first-time mom (her), words of wisdom and encouragement from my vast treasure trove of experience, turned out to be a conversation that felt like an ambush consisting of twenty points of judgment in two minutes.
It went something like this:
Her: I can’t believe you brought your kids here! You won’t get to have any time for yourself or have fun.
Me: Oh, well we go everywhere with our kids…it has totally been fine. There are two other little babies on this trip, too. So far everything is going great! Gotta start them off young, right?
Her: Don’t you have any family members to watch your kids?
Me: Um, well, not really. Besides, I am not ready to leave them just yet. Maybe in a few years.
Her: So, how much does he weigh? (Points to my baby).
Me: Oh, uh, 15 or so pounds, I think.
Her: My baby is TWENTY pounds! I gave him oatmeal at 3 months. He was a hungry baby.
Me: Wow. That’s great. He sounds big. And hungry.
Her: Does he sleep through the night?
Me: Well, um he wakes once or twice to nurse…
Her (Cuts me off): Oh, you shouldn’t feed him at night! You need to sleep. My baby slept through the night when he was 2 weeks old.
Me: Well good for you! Nobody cares how long your oatmeal-stuffed baby sleeps!
That’s what I said, in my head, and then out loud to myself after I went back to the hotel room.
Instead, I just smiled and nodded and then thankfully, my baby winced. He probably could sense I was annoyed. In the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, I almost forgot he was strapped to me in the carrier in 90 degree heat. I took it as an opportunity to get the f out of the conversation as quickly as possible.
It was such a weird exchange. A mix of friendly banter with judgey undertones. My husband and I call it the “Friendly-Judgey Conversation.” Ick. Why do some mom feel the need to act like motherhood is a competitive sport? Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear stories about people’s kids. How big they are, all the happy milestones they have reached, etc. But I also want to keep conversations real. Let’s talk about how contradictory parenting is: that it is extremely hard, yet so awesome; that as a mother, just when you feel like you’ve got things under control, some days it all goes to shit. It is so great to have conversations where you can laugh at things like that, rather than try to one-up each other.
But rather than become too angry over the uncomfortable exchange, I tried to channel my compassionate side and put myself in her shoes. Maybe she was just trying to help? Maybe she felt guilty for leaving her son at home instead of bringing him on the trip? Maybe it’s because she wants to feel validation in her decisions? I’ll never know. What matters is that I feel confident enough in my parenting to have tuned out her “advice.” If this was me a few years back as a first-time mom, I would have left that conversation feeling awful and questioning myself. I have to admit, it was so tempting for me to judge her back, but I didn’t, because it just doesn’t feel right and it’s not in my nature. Thank goodness. The most important thing I have learned as a mom, is that we have to stick together, not dissect and criticize our different choices.
This is why I feel good about being a part of this judgment-free community. I can’t even remember the last time I had a weird-judgey conversation like that with another mom. I guess I am lucky to have surrounded myself with other positive women. That, and maybe I have just learned how to tune most of the negative crap out.
Have you ever been cornered in a friendly-judgey conversation like this? What was your response?