Most people have heard the quote, “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle” (J.M. Barrie) but what does that really mean? When I think of battles, I think about the most common “battle” we are fighting on a daily basis, which is the “fight” to feel OK about ourselves! Brene Brown has famously called this “the hustle for worthiness” in her research, and in my experience, the journey of parenthood, more often than not, is a real hustle to “be a good parent” (which often is equivalent to being a good person so the stakes are pretty high!) Unfortunately, there is an illusion in our culture that there is a “right” way to parent, when in reality, parenting is a complex and multi-faceted role, with everyone learning “on the job” and no one really knowing how to do it!
With so many people feeling vulnerable and unsure of themselves in this role and yet feeling like so much of their self worth and value is on the line, it’s no wonder parents feel anxious about everything from birth plans to sleep training to baby food, and then get reactive and judgmental towards other parents and their parenting choices!
Though intellectually, we may understand that there is more going on inside the people around us than we can know or see in our day to day interactions, it’s still hard to remember! When it comes to parenthood, one way to deal with judgment is to use it as an alarm and a reminder of this – if we are feeling judgmental towards another parent, it’s time to check in with ourselves by asking a few key questions about what’s going on underneath the judgment, “what is my fear here?”; “what feels threatened?”; “what values are coming up for me?”. If we are on the receiving end of judgment, it’s time to remind ourselves that the person judging us is feeling scared and/or threatened. This is hard because it’s painful to be judged by someone else, but with practice you will get good at “seeing” beneath the surface. Even though the other parent may look confident or self-righteous, being jud