I’m not gonna lie, I care what people think about me. Always have. It’s not a crippling flaw—i.e., I go out of my house without makeup on (often with spit-up stains on my pre-millennium clothes), I proudly watch Gossip Girl and I’m not afraid to speak or blog my mind—but I know I waste a lot of time worrying about how I come off to others. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve lied awake obsessing about a less-than flattering blog comment or an awkward phone call with an editor. As a mom, I am not quite as bad. Because I only have to look at my kids to see how cute/happy/well adjusted they are. I know I have done a good job. But, for some reason, I still feel the need for others to see that as well. And as any of you moms out there know, we are all constantly being judged—by our mothers, by strangers, by the other moms on the playground. Some are immune to it; others, like me, are not….
For me the mom judgment all started day one, with breastfeeding—and you all know what a challenging episode of life that was for me (read all about it here, including the many sleepless night-inducing comments). Then there’s how well the babies sleep and whether they cry a lot and how cute they dress, and whether you feed them organic and how old they are when they’re potty trained. How can we not feel constantly judged? And, as a result of that (and the fact that I’m always looking for approval—perhaps a therapist could help me with that one) I care what people think. But shouldn’t I just care about whether my kids are OK? And say eff the rest? I often hear myself pointing out the stain on Alex’s shirt before someone else sees it or, if Nora gets fussy, explaining that she’s never usually like this. Alex had a hot dog at a party the other day and I had to mention that he never eats hot dogs, because I didn’t want people to think that I think that’s a suitable meal for a kid. But shouldn’t it just matter that I don’t feed my kid hot dogs? I always feel the need to justify my parenting style.
Friday night we were at a friend’s BBQ and we brought Alex and Nora. We figured we’d stay for a bit but wound up there until almost 10 p.m. Mostly because the kids were both being so damn good. The next night we were at a wedding and a few people who’d been at the BBQ mentioned to me how adorable and well-behaved our kids were and how great I handled it when Alex fell down two concrete steps (everyone gasped, I walked slowly, helped him up, told him he was fine—he was—and pointed out some lightening bugs, end of story). I will say this: Nora is an angel, it’s a fact. She smiles nonstop, will go to anyone, falls asleep in your arms. Alex is amazing, but angel is not a word I’d use to describe him. He’s energetic and mischievous and constantly testing us. And he has a vocabulary that is both beyond his years and a little R-rated (he recently whispered the following in Nick’s ear after Nick told him he could not watch another episode of Chuggington: “Dad, you’re an asshole.”) Friday was an exceptionally great night for him, which is why we stayed so late. I was beaming at the compliments about my kids. It felt almost as good as hearing someone tell me I looked thin.
I think—I hope—it’s normal to feel good when people say nice things about your kids. But do I care too much? At around 9:45 at the BBQ Friday night, a couple I haven’t seen in years walked in. I was sitting there holding Nora who had fallen asleep in just her diaper (it was a thousand degrees) and Alex was walking around the yard catching fireflies with some of my guy friends. My kids are usually asleep by 8:30 at the latest (see how I feel the need to explain myself?) and I am not someone who often brings kids to adult functions (again) and as I left, I felt like that couple must have been thinking, Wow, Erin is one of those moms who lets her kids stay up all night. I bet that boy had Kool-Aid in his sippy cup, too. Pathetic, right? Nick wouldn’t even engage me when I tried to talk about it on our way home. The next night I saw that couple again and actually told them how I felt. We all laughed. But I was so glad I had the opportunity to set the record straight: I am a good mom! What’s wrong with me?! Why do I give a ^%@#*!
What are you guys like in that department? Do you care how others perceive you as a mom? Do you think a little of that awareness is a good thing or is it always bad to care what others think of your parenting style?