Why Mothers Judge One Another

Last week, I had the good fortune to spend time with my friend Jennifer Jao, whose story appears in The Missional Mom. She is a physician and a research fellow at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, and she was back in Chicagoland with her two girls while her husband Greg attended the Lausanne Congress gathering in Capetown, South Africa. We met at a nearby “Little Monkey Bizness,” a paradise for children with all manner of amusements such as a huge bouncy house and other indoor play equipment. At first, we were the only ones there, so our kids had the run of the place, and they were having a great time. While they played, we chatted about motherhood and about how easy it is to judge other moms, as well as judging ourselves when we fall short of the ideals we have in our minds about what it means to be the perfect mother.

Right after I said the words, “None of us can compare our experiences to that of another mom, so we have to give each other grace,” a group of two additional mothers and their kids came to the facility. It became apparent within one minute of the new children’s arrival that the dynamic amongst the kids was going to radically change. The two newcomers were both loud, rough boys, who proceeded to interact with our kids with unprovoked hitting and punching. We asked them not to do so; their mothers came and told them the same. But still the behavior continued.

Despite what I had just uttered minutes earlier, I found myself defaulting to blaming the parents in my mind. Why haven’t they taught their children that hitting isn’t appropriate behavior? Why aren’t their admonitions to their kids not taking any effect? Why don’t they do more than just walk away and leave their kids to continue the same actions? I’d just violated my own words about not judging other parents. And we moms tend to do this automatically, whether it’s seeing other children whose behavior we dislike for whatever reason, or seeing the lifestyles of other moms that we don’t personally agree with. It is so very easy to fall into the trap of saying “Why aren’t they parenting or mothering the way I am?”

True, there are parents who are negligent and who make poor or even harmful choices that have long-term effects on their children or others. But I’m thinking more about the typical Christian mom, who is striving to do her best and yet who is never perfect, because who amongst us is? Even in my best intentions, I know that I err in my parenting ALL the time. But sometimes I think we jump to judgment in our evaluation of other moms because somewhere deep down, doing so helps us to feel better about our own parenting and choices. We are constantly looking for ways to affirm ourselves that whatever choices and decisions we’ve made in our lives and in our mothering are the right ones.

Here is the principle I strive to embrace when it comes to the wide swath of questions that we face as women and mothers regarding our lifestyles and choices–we are each on our own unique journey, and we have to make our own unique decisions. Whether it’s about celebrating Halloween or not, working part- or full-time or not, disciplining children one way or not, homeschooling or not…the list goes on and on…our choices are made in the context of our own particular family and ultimately the only test that matters is whether we sense the Lord’s favor and affirmation for the choices we’ve made. Sometimes I need to remind myself of this principle when reality strikes!

After I rounded up the boys and we said our farewells to Jennifer and her girls, we headed home. The boys were chattering excitedly about how they were able to use their nascent karate skills to defend themselves against the other boys, and we used the incident to talk about what it means to “love your enemies.” Our kids decided that since we would likely never see the boys again, we could “love” them by praying for them, which they did. And as they said their childlike prayers of faith, I did the same for the mothers of those boys, that God would bestow a blessing on their families and help them to honor Him in all they did. I will never know what is occurring in the family that is causing their children to attack other kids. But, I am going to give those moms the benefit of the doubt, that they are doing the best they can, and that they could use all the heavenly help they can get, because I know that when I have parenting struggles, that’s how I feel. In the end, doing so felt much better than just trying to judge them.

Do you ever feel as though you either experience judgment or you default to judging other moms? I’d welcome your comments and stories.

12 Comments on “Why Mothers Judge One Another

  1. I’ve often been one of the “judgers,” I have to confess…until my personality-plus second-born entered the world. Since my early days of parenting my firstborn, I’ve met and befriended many moms through my church, work, moms’ groups and the like and I’m amazed at the variety of diverse personalities and quirky kids out there. Many of us moms are hanging on by the skin of our teeth and need other moms to extend love, mercy and grace to us as we navigate parenting challenging youngsters who defy our expectations (and rules! and authority!) and–apparently–come with no instruction manual. Since my “judgy” young-mom days, I’ve become hip to a host of learning styles, personality types and special needs that children live with that require the graceful interaction of not just parents but a loving, supportive Christian community that is willing to take the heat and sacrificially engage with these kids–whether or not they appear well-behaved or perform to our expectations. Perhaps as we learn to love these “challenging” kids we’ll begin to understand what Christ has put up with in us and extend the exceptional kindness and love we’ve so freely received to others.”

  2. As Christians we are instructed to love others. We should also not be afraid to stand up for our kids if they are being harmed by another child, that is our duty. We should not judge ourselves unfairly for doing so, nor judge the other parents for their child’s behavior. This is very difficult, this is life, this is our challenge. I believe that as Christian mothers we can live up to the challenge. We can and will demonstrate the grace of Christ in our treatment of others! God bless you all.

  3. Our choices are made in the context of our own particular family and ultimately the only test that matters is whether we sense the Lord

  4. I agree with Jennifer, that’s a great line (and reminder): “Our choices are made in the context of our own particular family and ultimately the only test that matters is whether we sense the Lord

  5. It is so easy to judge- isn’t it!? I really appreciated what you said about how what GOD thinks of our decisions, etc. is what really matters.

    I’m so glad I found you through the Hip Homeschool Hop- I look forward to looking around!! :)


  6. Jenn Hua talked about your blog in small group tonight, so I wanted to read it. Totally can identify in passing judgment easily on other moms. As I meet more kids and their parents, I am learning that the behavior of the child is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the parent. So I try to extend grace. Thanks for the reminder of praying for folks with whom I interact, that praying is a form of loving them.

    You have a great website here! So excited for you!

  7. Mary, I love what you are saying about creating supportive and loving Christian communities that reflect grace and not judgment. A friend of mine recently left her church because she felt more of the judgment than the grace towards herself and her son, who has special needs. If the church can’t be a place where parents feel embraced and accepted, whatever challenges they are experiencing with their kids, where else are they supposed to turn? Absolutely, as Christ has shown us grace, we are to extend that to others–although so many times it is easier said than done! (I have to remind myself of this very critical truth in my own all-too-often grace-less parenting!) Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. CBM, I agree wholeheartedly that we have a responsibility to our children to step in if they are experiencing or being threatened by physical harm. In our situation above, the kids who were hitting were smaller and younger than my kids so they weren’t not necessarily a threat, although they were certainly not acting appropriately. But you are right that our calling as Christian mothers is to navigate that tension between naming inappropriate behavior when we see it (and I think hitting another child certainly qualifies as inappropriate!) but yet not judging the other moms and dads when it occurs. We need to err on the side of grace versus judgment but I know so often I have erred the other way, sad to say! Thanks for your comment and for visiting the site.

  9. Ah, patience. Thanks, SomeGirl, for bringing that element in to the discussion. That is a great sign and I need to put it up in my own house! Whenever I start thinking those judgmental thoughts, I need only reflect back on my own day, and how many times I showed a lack of grace or a lack of patience or a lack of kindness to my own family. There really is truth to that biblical principle of “taking the log out of our own eye,” isn’t there? Amazing how easy it is for us to forget it, but I love how that sign indicates that by being less judgmental towards others, we can hopefully also increase the grace we experience when needed. Thanks for sharing and visiting!”

  10. Jessica–thanks for stopping by, are you a homeschooling mom, too? Love to connect with other homeschoolers! =)

  11. Mayling–so nice for you to drop by the site! Thanks so much for your comment, I appreciate what you expressed and feel similarly! If I have to err, I definitely want to err on the side of grace but I realize that this sometimes takes intentional effort–it doesn’t always come naturally to offer grace, does it? (At least not always for me!) Those of us in the same church community should find ways to help one another in this area–do you think we project a culture of grace in our churches, and if not, how can we increase that culture in our church families? Something to ponder…

    So glad you visited! You’ll see your name in print soon when the book is out! =)

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