Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the pull of parental judgment

When you become a parent, you're sort of inducted into a club that you never before knew existed.  Elliott and I realized this right away.

Some aspects of this club are amusing:
  • No one asks about YOU any more, but about the kids (unless you're pregnant, in which case, every conversation begins with, "How are you feeling?").
  • More specifically, any conversation with you (at least in the early weeks) will undoubtedly start with, "How is the baby sleeping?" or, "Getting much sleep these days?" with a knowing chuckle.
  • There seems to be a never-ending free thrift store of baby items at your disposal.  You inherit clothes/toys/other items from parents at a rapid speed.  
  • You receive constant feedback on methods to help Baby do...whatever it is you're trying to get Baby to do.
There are others, I'm sure.  But there is one aspect of "The Parent Club" of which I am not a fan.

Parental Judgment
You feel it in the way people phrase questions, or offer "advice."
You feel it creeping into your own soul as you question a parent's decision for their child.
You feel it in your heart as you witness yourself making mistake after mistake.

The judgment is real -- and even though I'm generally a very non-judgmental person, I feel its sickly pull like a bad habit that keeps coming back.

It's destructive.
It's deceptive. 

Unhealthy.
Unhelpful.

The worst part about it is how isolated the judgment makes you feel.  Personally, it's hard for me to reach out to many people when I am having problems with Gwen because I just don't know who I can trust.  Who won't judge me?  Who can I confide in?  Who do I trust?

How Self-Judgment Isolates
There's also a judgment of self that works its way into the brain:  If I tell this person, then my fears of being a failure will be true.  I am a bad mother, and by reaching out for help, I am revealing my ineptness at this job.

It's really rough. 

I know because I've been struggling for over a month now to get Gwen to sleep.  And I've been reading my trusty ol' sleep book -- scouring it for answers -- and yet I leave it resting on the nightstand just feeling more and more like a failure.  I'm doing everything it's asking me to do.  I understand that depriving my baby of sleep is a terrible thing.  But what am I to do when nothing works?

The mean parent inside my brain tells me it's my own fault.

To add insult to injury, most people I have asked haven't had this issue.  That's not their fault -- it's just dumb luck that the people I generally trust have never gone through a napless-child-phase and have no advice.  It's just that this made me feel more isolated -- that it really IS my fault that my baby won't nap.

Getting Passed the Destruction
Mercifully, God provided an understanding (and experienced) ear through a friend who has "nannied" for a long time and has a young baby (who isn't a good sleeper right now).  She reads that same book as me, so we have the same context.  Even though Gwen is still (and I mean -- literally -- right now as I type this) fighting every nap with every ounce of vigor she's got -- I at least have someone who "gets" where I am.  Completely.  And offers advice -- and understands that sometimes, no matter what I do, nothing will help.

She reminds me that I'm not alone.
And it's not my fault.

Friends, there's way too much judgment in the Parent Club.  I should've been able to reach out to someone right away, but my own fears of judgment (because it's real) and the judgment of myself (because that's real, too) keep me from it.

  • How do we break the cycle of judgment -- from inside ourselves and outwardly to other people?
  • Why do we do it in the first place?

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