“Oh, Those Judgmental Mommies!”
By: Jennifer Lubell
How to Deal with and Deflect their comments
The attack is sneakier than a Scud missile…and before you know it, you feel bewildered, bruised, and seeking shelter. No, I’m not talking about the great white shark from Jaws, or the IRS, or seasonal flu. I’m talking about those “judgmental moms” you run into at birthday parties, the playground or even at PTA meetings, eager and ready to flatten you down, at a second’s notice.
I had the misfortune of running into one of these “JM’s,” as I call them, at a friend’s birthday party several years ago. Upon examining my son’s bagel, which had been cut into small pieces, this one mom arched her eyebrow and said, “Ooooh, your mommy CUT your bagel for you? Aren’t you a LUCKY BOY!” My hackles had already been raised by the same mom only moments before, when she made a point of bragging to everyone in the kitchen that HER kids had both been potty trained at 2 years of age.
I wanted to smear cream cheese in her face.
In dealing with these lovely ladies, however, violence (or cream cheese assault) is never an answer. So what’s a haggard mom to do, when you suddenly find yourself the target of a JM?
Several parenting experts offer some tips on how to deal with, deflect, or diffuse these situations:
First…make sure you’re among friends…Mom blogger Claudine Wolk (www.Help4NewMoms.com) says she’s “flabbergasted at the amount of judgment that moms hoist on one another. I can’t understand why. We all know what a tough job motherhood is!” That said, when in the company of other moms, be judicious in what you disclose, she says. Before your share information such as heating your baby’s bottle in the microwave or letting the child cry for a few minutes before rushing to their side, “determine that the mom you confide in is trustworthy.” Thinking back to that party, I now remember that I was the one who brought up the travails of potty training to the other mothers…giving that JM the perfect opening to brag about her own kids. Try an outrageous comment…There’s nothing more satisfying “than blowing a judgmental mom out of the water with an over-the-top comment such as, ‘I tried putting rum on my baby’s gums to ease their teething pain like my grandmother suggested and it really works’,” Wolk says.
Kill ‘em with Kindness…This is another way to diffuse the situation, advises behavior specialist Cindy Brown, Psy.D. (www.drcbrown.com). When addressing a JM, “always say the person’s name. Example: Mary, I appreciate your feedback and concern…” Next step: throw her a bone…“and take attention from you and put it back on her,” Brown says. Such as: “I know you know a lot about this and it’s good to see you child Bobby doing so well.” Then, direct the conversation away from your kids, and compliment the JM on her hair, blouse, or shoes, she adds.
If all else fails…remove yourself from the situation. Brown advises to either “walk away or act like you didn’t hear her, pretend you got a cell phone call, or you have an appointment you are late for.”
Even if it looks like the JM has it all together, “I can guarantee you, she doesn’t,” Wolk says. “No one’s life is perfect. No one’s method is perfect. If any mom proclaims that it is perfect, something lies beneath that you don’t want to know about. Better to walk away than to engage.”