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How I Squashed My Inner 'Judgy Mom'

Yup, it's true. I judge other moms.

I know, I know. I'm terrible. We moms are all in the trenches together—we need to support each other, no matter what. We're doing the best we can, right?

And yet...

My secret habit started when my son was about 1 year old. At the park, there was this one mom who had two kids under the age of 4, so she constantly lugged around...absolutely nothing! She was always asking if someone had a diaper, a wipe, an extra pair of pants, or something her daughter could munch on. I thought: what kind of mother leaves the house without preparing for every possible scenario: a major diaper explosion, a barf-fest, or a runny nose? Wordlessly, I'd hand her whatever she needed in the heat of the moment, but inside, I tsk-tsked. Then I started doing so out loud, to the shock of the other mommies in the sandbox. They stared at me, open-mouthed, as if I were the one mooching cheese sticks.

At preschool pick-up one day, I found myself rapping furiously on another mom's car window, demanding to know why her kid wasn't strapped into a car seat. (She told me to mind my own business.) I once overheard myself making a snarky comment to a different mother about her daughter's lunchbox being packed with processed food. And at a friend's house, when her three children under 8 were still flying around the house at 10:30 p.m., I sighed loudly (twice!) and asked when on earth she planned to put them to bed already.

Who was I turning into? One of those despicable, judgmental mothers who annoy the hell out of everyone else, that's who. But I couldn't help it.

Of course, I'd long ago realized that I was far from perfect. In fact, I shamelessly listed all the mistakes I'd made whenever my girlfriends and I got together. But, seriously? Who leaves their 3-year-old unattended in the community pool to run to the bathroom, relying on the kindness of strangers to make sure the child doesn't drown? And what about the woman I spied in the grocery store who let her kid eat two bananas from the produce aisle and then nonchalantly tossed the peels into the trash without paying for them? I had to say something to these people.

Didn't I?

After all, our survey of 26,000 moms conducted with Today Parents revealed that close to 90 percent of us regularly judge each other—about everything from breast-versus-bottle feeding to kids eating junk food to having meltdowns in public. I almost felt like judging was a prerequisite to being a parent.

But then someone said something to me that changed everything.

While on the phone with a girlfriend, I was rather enthusiastically complaining about the mom of my son's classmate, who never picked up her kid on time after birthday parties or playdates, and who had just that afternoon forgotten to pick him up when school ended.

"Mama, you should be nicer," admonished my pint-sized offspring, looking up from his comic book. "How do you know she wasn't just having a really bad day?"

Insert knife in chest. Twist.

I hung up the phone, feeling horrible. He had a point, of course. How many times do we moms have Really Bad Days—after not sleeping a wink the night before, burning (or skipping) breakfast, losing (or flushing) the car keys, neglecting to send in a permission slip? Um, weekly, in my case. Maybe I just knew how to cover it up better than other moms. It dawned on me at that moment: it's more important to be kind than to be right—or righteous.

"Thanks for that, sweetie," I told my son. "Mommy will try to be more patient with other people."

"Especially with moms, because they have tons of stuff to do every day. Like bake cookies and swear at really bad drivers," he added helpfully.