We all know there's a lot of judgement that comes with being a mother. I'm not going to rehash all the mommy battles here. What I will say is that we've all been on both the giving end and the receiving end of the judgement. If you say you've never judged another mom even the tiniest bit harshly, I will roll my eyes at you; proving that, yes, I have judged other moms, too.
But, I want to tell you a couple of stories today. The first story is about a set of parents who had three children. They lived in a tiny two bedroom, one bathroom house; which meant two of the children had to sleep in the attic. The attic was freezing cold in the winter time and beastly hot in the summer; so the two sisters slept on the floor of the living room two seasons out of the year.
The father was a maintenance man. He fixed machinery, so he always had grease and grime under his fingernails. The mother stayed home with the children; and since there wasn't a lot of money, she never bought anything new for herself. There was one time she went to the grocery store not realizing that she had a hole in the back of her pants. They hauled away other people's trash in their pick-up truck and often picked up aluminum cans on the side of the road for some extra money. When the parents were angry with the children, they would threaten them with a swat of the yardstick they kept above the doorjamb. And they said, "Gosh dammit!" when they were mad.
Perhaps they were judged based on all of this. Perhaps people looked at them and called them "white trash" and looked down their noses at them. But what they didn't know about these people was that they were devout Catholics who sacrificed and scrimped and saved to give their three children a Catholic education. They went to church every Sunday and often took elderly neighbors along with them. They never gossiped about others, and they lived humbly and simply, being thrifty so they could stay out of debt while giving their children a decent life. They could have resorted to dishonesty and "mooching" off people or making excuses about why they couldn't pay bills, but they never did.
I adore, admire, and deeply respect these people, for they are my parents. They live the same way today. They remain the good, honest people they always were.
My second story is about a mother I have gotten to know through a therapy class that Slim is taking. She is a single mother. She dresses like a guy, has long stringy hair and messed up teeth. She talks differently, does not carry a purse, and has a phone with a cracked screen. I bet she gets judged a lot based on her appearance. But here's what I know about her. She has an autistic son. She has been to countless hours of therapy with him and is trying so hard to do right by him. When the school can't handle him and they call her in the middle of the day to come and pick him up, she leaves her job as a janitor to go get him. She has no friends, and sometimes she goes into her backyard and cries so her two sons won't see her. She beams when I tell her how sweet her sons are; and despite probably having very little money, she bought me a water one night when I was having a coughing fit. She continually refuses my offer to give her that dollar back. I have profound respect for this mother, too.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason for doing what they do. They might not have directly chosen the path they are on, but there is a reason for it. A trajectory. A series of events that lead them where they are today. And yes, they make choices both good and bad.
Here's one more story for you. There is a mom you might see at the grocery store. She carries a Coach bag over her spray-tanned arm and has Kate Spade sunglasses perched atop her freshly colored and cut hair. With her perfectly manicured nails, she checks her iPhone for comments to her blog while saying adorable things to the equally adorable toddler in her cart. You know her, you might even envy her. But what you don't know is that she presents herself this way to hide things. She could be hiding depression or abuse or an eating disorder or self-mutilation or to put on airs of being a great person and parent when she really isn't. Maybe she wants to hide who she really is because maybe she hates that person. Maybe she has demons she doesn't want anyone to know about.
It would be nice if we could all walk around with a label that says exactly who we are:
Mom with PPD.
Dad who makes 900k a year and takes his family to summer in Greece.
Asshole who writes inflammatory blog posts just to get views.
Intravenous drug user.
Woman who cuts herself.
Mom who feeds her kids nothing but McDonald's.
Wouldn't that make judging people so much easier?
The truth is we all have secrets, we all have demons. Some people are so much better at hiding them than others. There are very few people in this world who are exactly as they appear to be. Because honestly, do you personally know everyone in this world? I know I don't. Not unless I say, "Hi, I'm Kathy," and then engage them in a conversation in which I really listen.
Only then can I judge based on what I know. And even then, I try really hard not to.
Because under my Coach bag, Kate Spade sunglass-wearing perfectly coiffed appearance, I know I have demons, too.