Saturday, 12 February 2011

When mothers don't play nice

photo source
 Motherhood is hard. It is tiring. It is tedious. It is hard to navigate. Every woman's journey of motherhood is different. Every mother's style is different. Every mother has a different philosophy. Every family, depending on size, age gap, and gender of the children has a different dynamic. No two families are the same. Because of this, parenting must be tailored according to each family, and then each individual child within than family.

In my own family dynamics, I have 3 very active boy warriors close together. Because of the close age gap, Fearless Boy Warrior is learning things and doing things way before his older 2 brothers were at the same age. He wants to be involved and included in everything his brothers do. This can be difficult as he doesn't yet have the capacity or fine motor skills that his older brothers have. His enthusiasm to give everything a try though is inspiring - hence the name Fearless Boy Warrior.

This week we went to a two hour circus class. The boys were taught skills such as high rings, trapeze and juggling. Leader Boy Warrior and Courageous Boy Warrior had a great time learning these new skills. Fearless Boy Warrior was too young to participate. He was however, happy just to be close to the action. When the children dropped their juggling balls, he ran and picked them up. I checked with the teachers whether he was being a nuisance and they assured me that he was OK. Two hours is a long time to sit still for an active 3 year old boy warrior.

We mothers sat  in a small separate room watching the children in the class room through the glass doors. Fearless Boy Warrior continued to hover on the edge of the group of the 'big kids'. Around the one hour mark, my girlfriend offered to keep an eye on Fearless Boy Warrior for me, while I went next door to buy a coffee for us both. Apparently, one mother was not happy that I had allowed my 3 year old to be in the class room. Perhaps wanting to avoid confrontation with me, but still felt that this 'wrong' must be made 'right', she waited until I had left before addressing the situation.  

My friend told me what took place in my absence. As soon I was out of view and ear shot, one of the mothers started asking, "'What's he doing in there? Where's his mum?" My friend answered, "'He's OK. The teachers are OK with him there. I'm watching him" But she was ignored. Again they asked, "Where is his mum?" And my friend, who was made to feel invisible, answered, "'She's just getting a coffee. I'm watching him." Ignoring my friend, one of the mother's grabbed my child, bringing him into the small viewing room. When I had returned, my friend relayed what happened to me. The mothers that had criticised me behind my back did not say a word about what took place.My friend and I felt isolated from the group. I felt judged. Judged as a bad mother.

In years gone by, when I wasn't confident that 'mother knows best', an incident like this would have seen me desperately trying live up to other's expectations of me as a parent. I would have tried to keep my son in the viewing room to please the others judging me. But knowing that their opinion of my parenting didn't really matter, I allowed Fearless Boy Warrior to continue to play on the side lines in the classroom. Keeping him in the viewing room would have been cruel. He would have been miserable, and my attempts to try and keep him in there would have made me miserable.

At the 1 hour 50 minute mark of the class, I had taken my eyes of my son for just a moment.The glass doors burst open with another mother looking for me. She said to me in a voice that let me know she didn't approve of my choice to allow my son to be in the classroom, "Can you get your son off the mat? The teachers have asked him to get off the mat and he's not moving. The teachers have been asking, 'Where is his mum.'" And on and on she lectured me. To which I replied in a most annoyed tone, "Yes, I can get him to move." I felt judged. Judged as a bad mother.

When mothers meet together in groups with their children, they have the power to build each other up, or tear each other down. My friend was made to feel insignificant and invisible. I was judged as a bad mother. Obviously I wasn't meeting their expectations of me as a mother. We are not all going to agree with each other's parenting styles or philosophies.  But when we are in group situations, we must choose grace over judging every time.

I meet with a group of mothers and their children weekly at a park during the school term. It is a place of grace and encouragement for us all. I leave the gathering feeling uplifted. I am so grateful that I have found a safe place. That's what we should be doing as mothers - encouraging one another. Motherhood is hard. It is tiring. It is tedious. It is hard to navigate. Mothering is not a competition sport. There is no right or wrong way to parent. This is why we need each other. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down. We need to show grace. 

Still taking lessons from the King,

This article appeared in Spring 2011 issue


  1. My word, girl! Such a naughty mama for getting a cup of java! :)

    Seriously, I am glad you aren't letting others define you. I can tell you're a wonderful mum. Just the fact that you cared more about your little boy wanting to be a part of the action instead of caving to other's expectations says a lot.

    Besides, you were considerate enough to ask beforehand if he was going to be a nuisance. If they said he was fine then what more could be done?!

    I am so glad that you have a group of mums who are encouraging instead of petty and competitive. Those type of groups are hard to find!

    You just keep being the loving mum God has created you to be! Lots of love!

  2. Oh Jo, it happens far too often, mothers judging other mothers. I have been on the receiving end far too many times and I know how the air seems to become heavy around you as you try to do right by your child, while feeling the eyes watching your every move.
    I have learnt over the years that encouragement to follow the mothering instinct is what mothers really need. They don't need to be told how to raise their kids or told how to do it, they just need to be told that following their heart is the right way to do it.
    Thank you for taking that step of confrontation of these issues that far too often get swept under the carpet and ignored. Bringing light into these areas is how we can change them. xx

  3. One thing that urks me is moms that can do no wrong and they are always right(eous)!

    Hate that you and your friend and your son were treated so poorly!

    You are right on track with being graceful or better yet, grace-filled.

  4. I know all too well that feeling and it is not nice!!
    And do you know what? It's hard to admit, but I've probably been in those other mother's shoes too, looking on with disapproving, righteous glares and judging - yuk! :(
    We need to be cheering each other on, not frowning upon eachother in judgement, building up not tearing down! I admire the mother you are putting your children first, rather than other's expectations, go you!!

  5. I was getting angry for you when I was reading this! You responded with grace:)
    I used to really struggle too when I was a new mum but as I've grown as a mum and also as I've been walking the path of healing from needing others approval I am learning to not be so concerned about others opinions:) good on you!

  6. and oh the group you belong to with the park days sounds great! I belong to one and just did a brief blog about it yesterday:) they are such big part of my support network:)

  7. I've been thinking the exact same thoughts Jo.
    I blogged yesterday about the need for us mums to be the kind of mums who uplift and encourage.

  8. I Bless the name of Jesus, Jo! What a true woman of our King you showed yourself to be! I'm so happy that you were free to let boy warrior go back to the room after getting the coffee. I remember feeling condemned by other moms but, like you, our Savior has SET ME FREE! The 2nd thing I thank God for is the gracefulness & love you showed to this mom by not jumping on her, feet first, like I probably may have if I she'd put her hands on my 4yr. old! You are an encouragement in the faith to me. A true daughter of Sarah! Thank you so much for sharing this:)
    P.S. I know you've been busy. Thanks for stopping by:)

  9. Oh my word! Sister-girl's heckles have risen here! I am thankful, for your sake, and for theirs, that I was not there to witness that. Hmmm... You are right mothers we need to build each other up, not smash down. xoxo

  10. Oh wow! You poor thing! Isn't that just the most horrible thing. And you know what? It doesn't happen with dads!! I bet if your hubby was their with your boys, and other men too with their sons, everyone would have been relaxed about it. :) Ah the joys of motherhood hey!! I have a neighbour who loves to judge me about the number of children we have - and yes my kids are active and loud at times in the yard, but they are also polite and friendly! Sending you a big hug Jo - good on you for standing your ground and (trying) to ignore them! xx

  11. I agree with you. We all need to be encouraged. My little boy would have wanted to do just what yours did.

  12. So sorry you felt judged and made to feel like you were a bad mother. :( I, too, understand how that feels. Having 3 children (18,14,6) I have experienced it more than once. And being the recovering people pleaser, too often in past times I gave in and tried to become what others expected me to be. I am thankful for God's grace and mercy....neverending, unconditional and so freeing! Oh that we might offer even a small amount of that same grace...and build each other up, instead of pushing each other down. Great post, thanks for sharing and encouraging us to lift each other up!

  13. I would have ignored them cause you did the right thing you checked with the teacher to see if it was alright for you son to be there.

    Your the best mim you can be & that is a great mm as you said there is no wrong or right.

    (((( Hugs )))) XXXX Kisses XXXX

  14. Yep when mothers get together I find that claws often seem to come out. I have 2 mothers groups and love them both but I used to go to a playgroup when Jaden was little that was very judgemental and competitive and I just stopped going. So glad you have a group of great mums to hang out with too!! :-)

  15. Glad you are standing firm on the Rock. People are complex.... :)

  16. I think you are an amazing mother! I'm so proud of you. Look at where you have been healed... It's so amazing, Jo!

    I think you are amazing!!!


  17. Weel done Jo!..You truly put into practice the verse our dear Lord said, "Bless those who persecute you.Bless and do not curse!". Just the fact you quietly said what you said and humbly did what you did, is another way of blessing others who were watching, listening, judging.....but most of all you were AN EXAMPLE TO YOUR SON...& that's the important task of being a mother...God bless you!:)


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Jo Princess Warrior xo