I’ve always prided myself on having a “live and let live” attitude. Until someone does something which I find extremely annoying / questionable / offensive. And then “let live” goes out the window and I decide everyone should live along my code of life. Because I am always right, clearly.
When I became a mum I was shocked at how this attitude took itself to the next level. Mums who let their babies cry in the night – why? Mums who didn’t choose Baby-led Weaning – why not? Mums who were all competitive about their baby’s milestones – what’s the point?
And then I took a step back and realised I was being a bit of an idiot, actually.
And that’s when it hit me. I was only doing what lots of other people I knew did. I was going off and judging people for the choices they were making in their life. Choices that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Choices which I really shouldn’t give two farts about.
You haven’t experienced this kind of choice judging until you have a child. Other parents are the harshest critics. Everyone has an opinion about the best way to “parent” – which is, of course, their own way.
It was around the time I started working under contracted hours that I fell, yet again, to Judgmental Mum Syndrome. But this time, I was the victim of it. I found myself defending my decision to return to full time work, explaining my early hours which meant I was still getting time with my child, talking away questions about the decision being a right or a wrong one. Even though the people I was explaining myself to really had nothing to do with my life.
The thing is, it wasn’t their judgments I was trying to quell. It was my own. I was answering my own Judgemental Mum Voice, inside my own head.
It happened again yesterday.
I decided I couldn’t be bothered to cook last night. Being up since 3.30am and having little in the fridge can do that to you. We chose to make the most of the sunshine and took an impromptu visit to our local pub. We sat by the canal and talked about the food and drinks we would order. I felt relaxed for about 5 minutes.
It was then that I became aware of a couple sitting nearby. As my non-toddling toddler crawled around on the floor next to us, attempting to eat a stale potato from an old potato salad, washed down with the odd cigarette end, I started to feel on edge. I made a big fuss of stopping her eating the stray tasty morsels and announced, in my loudest and most cheery mum voice, “Not that darling. That’s not for you!” before bouncing her up and down on my lap.
I was a GOOD mum! I was PROACTIVE! I was IN CONTROL! See everyone?
But it got worse when the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine got back from the bar. He brought with him a cold glass of delicious white wine. But, at the same time as thanking him under my breath, I loudly berated him for buying wine. Wine?! With Alcohol?! But it’s not even 5.30pm! All the while I was pointing my voice in the direction of the couple nearby, peering at us over the top of their menus.
And when it came to order the food, I told the NLM to ask for “mash” instead of “chips” with the child’s meal. Because, of course, you can’t give a 21 month old chips. Of course not. That would be BAD parenting.
By this time I was exhausted. The couple were still looking at us. I was on edge. I was at the epicentre of Judgmental Mum Syndrome, in the thick of the hot heat of judging eyes and judging tongues.
And then I looked around.
And I noticed at least seven other families like us. Each mother was equally hot and flustered. Each mother was drinking an equally large glass of wine, berating their husband for buying them an alcoholic drink, as they greedily swigged down the delicious cold nectar. Each mother was peeking over their shoulder as they surreptitiously fed chips under the table to their hungry children.
Each mother was just like me. Battling their inner Judgmental Mum Voice. Thinking that everyone was looking at them and not at the family sitting opposite.
So I thought, “Sod it”. And I drank my wine.
And, blimey, it tasted good.
If you enjoyed this post in any way, or also like a glass of wine – or even a Fruit Shoot – perhaps you might consider nominating me for a MAD Blog Award or voting for me in The Brilliance in Blogging Awards, for which I’m shortlisted in the Lit category. Just a thought.