Being a Mom Has Made Me a Judgemental Shrew

Child's Gravestone With LambBecoming a mom has made me much less judgmental in most ways. For instance, I remember being a young, carefree singleton in a coffee shop when a harried mom ran in with a toilet-training toddler who had to pee. They got into the bathroom just in time, and since it was tiny, the mom propped the door open because the kid was scared to be in there with it closed. No big deal, right? I was the only customer on a lazy weekday afternoon. But I grumbled about that shiz for weeks.

(I blame the fact that being single in baby-centric Park Slope made me bitter. It wasn’t easy!)

These days, I understand that we all do our best as parents, and unless a child is actually peeing on me -- and sometimes even then, if it's my child -- I rarely bat an eyelash. My kids eat sugar, your kids don't wear sunscreen, let's call the whole thing off.

But there is one subject on which being a mom has made me do a total 180-degree turn: I’ve gone from sympathetic to super-judgmental.

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What is the subject? I think you know, because surely you feel the same. Moms who harm their own children: I used to struggle to understand, because I felt that if something could pervert the mother-child bond so completely, it must be borne of a greater pain than I could understand.

When Susan Smith was convicted of murdering her children by letting her car roll into a lake in 1995, I mustered up sympathy for her. I learned that her father had committed suicide when she was 6, that she had been molested as a teen by her stepfather (he admitted it), that she herself had attempted suicide at least once. I read an article in the Village Voice that floated the theory that she hesitated three times before allowing the car to go into the lake, and that was why it rolled so far. I thought, oh, she was messed up and insane.

Now that I have kids? Forget it. Too often, when buckling my kids into their car seats, I remember what she did, and I shudder in horror and give them extra kisses. No, I didn’t walk in her shoes, but dammit, I still say no, I don’t understand this, and I don’t have compassion, nor forgiveness.

I’ll buy Paula Yates – doctors had warned her husband that she had postpartum psychosis, and even he now says he underestimated their warnings. But Susan Smith had every opportunity to ditch her kids if she didn’t want them.

In a sort-of-similar twist, I have a friend whose mom is very difficult to deal with and gave her a not-so-terrific upbringing. She said she had more compassion for her mother before she had children herself; now that she has them, she realizes she could never, ever behave as her mother did, and any forgiveness she might have once felt has vanished.

Being a mom has made me softer on almost everyone, and harder on some. I wish I had a kinder heart, but when it comes to the Susan Smiths of this world, I just don’t.

Do you think being a mom has made you more forgiving of troubled moms, or less?



Image via puroticorico/Flickr

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