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Saturday
Sep262009

"Don't Judge Me"

There are two phrases I've been hearing a lot of lately. The first is "it is what it is." The other is:

"Don't judge me"


I'm hearing it preemptively, to avoid bad reactions when people say something or write something that they think others might not agree with. I hear it reactively, when people are responding to words that they consider to be an attack. Sometimes those words are on this blog (sometimes mine, sometimes reader comments) and sometimes they are elsewhere.

I think people often assume judgement when none is intended. I've been thinking about this a lot in general and even more since reading this comment by Rochelle [emphasis mine]:

Yes Jessica and others, but again that is YOUR opinion that CIO is disrespectful to the child undermines communication and is in essence abandonment. You DO NOT live in my household, know nothing about me and are NOT raising my child so please state you [sic] opinion but keep you [sic] judgment to yourself...


What is the difference between an opinion and judgement? Is there one? If so, where is the line between the two? I've been trying to figure it out and finally got some words (too many perhaps) down to explain it.

I hesitated about whether to write this post. Then I hesitated over whether to push the publish button. I hesitated because of the wise advice found in this quote: "never explain yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it." (Belgicia Howell, as shared by Amy from The Crunchy Domestic Goddess on her facebook profile).  In other words, if you think I'm judging you, this post will probably not change your mind. If you don't think I'm judging you, then what I'm saying here is selbstverständlich (self-evident).

But I wrote it anyways. Don't judge me.

Opinions


Opinions and the choices that stem from them can take on different forms:


  • Opinion as preference: I prefer the colour blue over the colour green. Perhaps you prefer green over blue. I like red wine. Maybe you like white wine. My preference for the colour blue or for red wine isn't based on anything more than my personal taste. Your preference for something different is just that, different. Not better, not worse. Sure we can debate the relative merits of the two until we are blue (or green!) in the face, but there will never be a clear answer.

 


  • Opinion as considered choice: In life, we have to make choices. Some choices are based simply on preferences. But some choices are considered decisions based on an assessment of the pros and cons of both options. Those pros and cons can be scientific. Those pros and cons can be emotional. But it is more than just preference. When we make a considered choice, we have reasons for doing so, reasons that go beyond "just because". Sometimes those reasons are personal reasons. We do it because it is better for us, better for our family, a better fit for our circumstances. In those cases, your considered choice is right for you, but may not be right for someone else. You have not made a superior choice. You have just made the right choice for you. But in other cases, we make considered choices because we feel they are the best choice period. Because we feel that the alternative is wrong or is inferior. Not just for our circumstances, but in general.

 


  • Opinion as dictated by society: Sometimes our opinions about what is right and wrong is dictated by society. Actually, sometimes is perhaps too mild a word. I think frequently or usually is perhaps a better term. We are all a product of our environment. Our values and our habits are formed largely by what we see around us. Our opinion of what is right or wrong isn't based on a considered choice, but on what everyone else does, what everyone else says, or what everyone else approves of.

 

When your choice impacts others


Sometimes our preferences or our considered choices affect other human beings. As members of society, the way that we act has the ability to impact others in big ways (global warming, racism) and in small ways (person talking on cell phone during a movie, smoker blowing smoke in your face as they pass you on the sidewalk).

As parents, our choices can have a significant impact on our children, especially when they are small (less so as they get older). The helplessness of an infant and a young child makes our opinions about how to care for them that much more contentious. If you think someone is stupid for being a smoker, they may be hurt by that. But if you tell them they are harming their child by smoking during pregnancy, smoking and breastfeeding, smoking in the car, smoking at home, they will probably consider that a lot more hurtful.

So where does judgement come in?


When people say "don't judge me", what they really seem to mean is:


  • It is okay for you to make a different choice as long as you don't think your choice is better than my choice.

 


  • It is okay for you to make a different choice as long as you don't try to convince me to make the same choice as you.


For me, that isn't judging. That is debating, disagreeing, discussing, even advocating.  Just because I disagree with your choice, doesn't mean that I think you are a bad person. For me, judging is making an assessment of someone's values or morals or motivations and deciding that they are invalid or inferior.

So, for example, if you tell me that you spanked your child because you were frustrated and at your wit's end and didn't know what else to do, I may think that you made the wrong choice in that moment. But I don't think you are bad person or a bad parent. However, if you tell me that children need to be spanked in order to be shown who is boss, then I will judge you, your values and your motivations. It isn't necessarily entirely your fault that you have that attitude. It may have been passed on to you from your parents or from society as a whole, but I still think it is wrong and I will judge that attitude and the actions that result from it. I will try to advocate for a different way of seeing things or a different way of doing things, but if you are not open to that and are hurt by my judgement, I will have to live with that and so will you.

I judge racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and I judge negative attitudes about the wholeness and value of children and their self-worth. If I call you on it and you see the error of your ways and make amends, then all is good. But if I call you on it and you dig in your heels and insist that your prejudice is justified, I will judge you.

Not being perfect


No one is perfect. Not as a human being. Not as a parent. I am not perfect. I don't expect you to be perfect.

I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. I have considered becoming one. Maybe one day I will. At the moment, I don't feel like I can be (Dale explains my point of view well here). If I was a "don't judge me" kind of person, I would find a post like Going Vegetarian and Vegan - A Sustainable Choice to be horribly offensive. It explains that socially conscious people should consider veganism because eating animals is a risk to sustainability, a waste of resources, cause of global warming, hazardous to workers, and increases world hunger. But I'm not a "don't judge me" kind of person. I think those are very good points. I understand the damage that is caused by eating meat and animal products. I recognize that I cannot live up to the ideal at the moment. But I won't be offended by someone advocating for this good cause.

Some people are not vegan or vegetarian for the reasons discussed above. Some people are vegan because of food allergies in their family or due to health reasons. People are more likely to understand and accept those reasons for being vegan or vegetarian and are less likely to be offended by them, because they can easily say, "My child doesn't have food allergies, so we don't have to be vegan. They made the right choice for their family and I made the right choice for mine".

When it comes to something like infant feeding (breast or formula), discipline (spanking or punishment versus gentle discipline), sleep (cry it out versus parent to sleep), there are people who say "Do whatever is best for your family. No one way is better than the other". But there are also people who believe, based on considered choice or societal influence, that one way is better than the other. There are some parenting issues where I think each family should do what is best for them. There are other parenting issues where I feel there is a better way to do things and I will advocate for the better way. It doesn't mean I'm judging you if you can't live up to my ideal. In fact, I may not always live up to my ideal (I don't think it is a good idea to scream at children, but I sometimes scream at mine). But I do want to change your mind if you think differently.

Owning our words


I know that I need to be conscious of my privilege. As a white, upper middle class, able-bodied person, who wasn't abused by my parents or any of my partners, a lot of things are easier for me than for others. I am confident and assertive. I believe where there is a will, there is a way. But I also recognize that things are not as easy for everyone else. People who do not have that same privilege or those same personality traits may struggle with things that I don't struggle with. They may be more oppressed or face more barriers than I do.

That is why I often use strong words when attacking societal ills, when attacking the kyriarchy, when attacking ideas that I feel have the ability to push us in the wrong direction. I believe more people will have the opportunity to make good considered choices if more barriers are removed. I do use strong words when someone has upset me or when people are sticking their heads in the sand. Sometimes when playing nice isn't getting you anywhere, you need to add in some shock value. That has risks. It can wake people up and get them to listen. Or it can shut them out even further.

But those are extreme cases. In general, I hope that most of my posts would take on a positive spin, one that will convince people to see things differently or give something new a try. I could have written "Top 5 reasons why being monolingual will leave your child behind", but instead I wrote "Raising bilingual kids: benefits and techniques". I could have written about the "risks of formula" (and many others have and said that I should have too), but instead I wrote about the "scientific benefits of breastfeeding".

I've learned a lot about words from Arwyn from Raising my Boychick. In her post "How else would you have us say it?" she said:

I am responsible for me, including, yes, how and when I present my thoughts, but I cannot be responsible for what another does with them when she receives them.


And:

Is hurt inevitable? Probably. We live in a society that attacks us women who parent at every turn, when it is not shoving us up on inhuman pedestals and demanding inhuman feats of perfection. We live in a society that is constantly hurting us, telling us we are wrong, telling us we are bad, telling us we are broken, and which is remarkably good at making us tell each other and ourselves that. We are highly sensitive to any perceived criticism, and not without good reason. Of course we are likely to encounter a factual statement like “formula is inferior” or “crying-it-out is not good” and internalize it as “I am a bad mother, I am hurting my child”. And of course we’re likely to lash out when we do.


This resonated with me. I hope it resonates with you.

I'm not expecting people to never be offended by anything I say. But I am asking people to respect my right to have an opinion on a topic and not equate it to judging people who have different opinions on that topic. I may think they made bad choices, I may think they could have done things differently, I may think I made a better choice. But it doesn't mean I think they are bad parents or bad human beings.

So when people say "don't judge me" what I really hear is:

I don't want you to try to change my mind, it is what it is, I am resentful of hearing anything that might suggest I am less than perfect, and I think my world is just fine as it is.


If that is the way you feel, this blog may not be the place for you. This blog is about improving ourselves, inspiring change, evolving our culture, chipping away at the kyriarchy, and nudging society in a new direction. That doesn't mean that I will always get it 100% right (I'm not perfect after all), but I will try to push the envelope and challenge the status quo.I do welcome you to challenge my opinion in the comments, but please expect a dialogue and a debate. As for the "don't judge me" requests:

Relax, I'm probably not judging you and if I am, it is for a damn good reason.

 

 Photo credit: ChazWags on flickr

« Sharing the Babwearing Love | Main | Raising bilingual kids: benefits and techniques »

Reader Comments (101)

I loved reading this post. You are a great writer. I agree with most things you say and advocate here on your blog, like being against 'cry-it-out'. Your blog is the place where you should always feel free to write about what you strongly believe in. And you know what? We all on some level judge others. I wish everyone always agreed with everything I said and thought! Also, I breadtfed my boys for 6 months each, and then formula fed them before introducing regular milk. And you met me in person and hugged me and then we went shopping. So I know first-hand you are nice and not a bad judgy person. You have your opinions, and it is great to share them with others.

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

excellent post, annie. it has inspired me to want to write a similar one of my own. don't know if i will, but it is what it is. ;oP don't judge me. (couldn't resist *wink*)

Balanced and careful, yet passionate writing. Thanks.

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternoholzbarred

I have an old draft languishing on my personal blog on a similar topic, from a slightly different angle.

Like you, I struggled with it, but unlike you, I never finished it.

I think when it comes to parenting, so many of us tie so much of ourselves and our self-worth into it. And then if someone does something radically different, it is hard not to see it as an indictment...after all, why would you take the effort to parent that way if you didn't believe it was very important. And if it is important, then doesn't that mean you think I am not doing as good of a job? Etc. etc. etc.

But, as you said, I know I'm not perfect. I don't hit the ideal every time. Does that mean we can't even discuss it?

I know that it would be "better" if I planted a vegetable garden and used organic methods. If I never resorted to disposable paper products. But I don't take offense when someone brings that information up. I don't bristle.

At the same time, I understand why breastfeeding, birth, parenting, etc., can be very emotional topics for many of us and why it can be hard to look at it and say, "Sometimes I reach or approach the ideal...sometimes I don't know what's best...sometimes I know, but I just couldn't...and sometimes I've decided that on this issue, good enough is good enough."

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

I think, a lot of the time, women take judgement so personally when it comes to parenting because it's such an important issue. If someone wants to judge me because I prefer beer over wine, I don't really give a darn, because it's not important. But if someone is going to imply that I'm a bad mom because of the choices I make, that I WILL take more seriously. And even though I'm also a confident, assertive person, we all have our triggers, we all have our moments of doubt when we are a little more vunerable. Honestly, I have met with very little judgment from the people I know in real life. Most of the judgement I have been unfortunate enough to come across has been from faceless people on the Internet. I try to be as compassionate and non-judgemental as I can, because I'd like others to do the same for me, but others are not as forgiving.

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

This is a great post...I've been struggling with these issues myself. I think that if you never get judged by others for your parenting, you either only hang out with people exactly the same as you, and you are perfect in living out your convictions, or you hang out only with people who are non-judgemental (very rare). I have often felt judged for "giving in" to my child's tantrums in public, by people who either don't have kids or don't feel that their emotions are worth respecting (even if they are behaving in unreasonable ways). But why should I care what they think? No idea!

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErika Carlson

*much applause*

Thank you for this, Annie. I have had a similar post in mind for a long time (years maybe). I think you wonderfully articulated how and why people feel judged - and what they are actually saying.

I immensely enjoy all of your posts. As a two-time Cesarean birth mama, I could easily get offended and walk around huffy all the time when I read articles advocating natural birth. Yet I've managed to not be that invested in how other people respond to the choices I've made. I've never once felt put-off by your thoughts on the matter - in fact, I wholeheartedly agree!

I do hope you'll keep being bold and fearless in sharing all that you do.

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan@SortaCrunchy

Great post, Annie. A topic that can be applied not just to parenting, but to so many of the other debates raging in society these days...

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

A thought that goes along with this is "It's not about you so don't make it about you." As a homeschooling mom I am amazed at how many times people hear "You suck because your kid is in Public School (Private School)." when the words coming out of my mouth are "We homeschool."

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Here, here! Thank you for giving such an eloquent defense of objective opinions. So many discussions (particularly regarding parenting) dissolve into an agreement that everybody's opinions and choices are just as good as the next person's. They are right for them, as you say. (Or they erupt into hissy fits about people being too judge-y.) But there are objectively better and worse ways of doing things. How you feed your child may be none of my business, but that doesn't counter the scientific evidence about the foundations of good nutrition. People may try to argue that if spinach is healthy, but they never feed their children spinach, then they must be bad parents. They don't think they are bad parents, so they claim that spinach is not actually that healthy, not for them. It just doesn't follow.

I loved this post. I have quietly suffered the opinions and judgments of others who don't share my parenting ideals and who have judged me harshly. To date, I haven't tried very hard to defend my point of view, however, I have found myself questioning my beliefs a lot lately, especially since losing several friends over them. (I subscribe to HypnoBirthing, Natural Instinctive Parenting, and Eliminiation Communication with my children).

I never realised just what a "competitive sport" parenting really is for new mums. If you're not doing it one way, you're made to feel inferior or freaky or like some new-age hippy, and yet even if you are doing it "the" way, you're still falling short of someone else's ideals of what good parenting is.
What I have come to realise is that if my friends can't accept my style of instinctive and natural parenting, to the point where they don't want to associate with me anymore, then it isn't my loss at all and I would do better to surround myself with people who do question "why", and who want to expand, create and experience all that there is in this world instead of people who follow routine, and what is "normal" in my society.

It's disappointing to lose friends over their opinions or their judgments, but then, were they really my friends in the first place if they can't accept me for my own style of parenting my own children?

- Georgia Julian.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia

Good post. I think that the "don't judge me" comment is also sometimes code for "listen to my story." It seems that the internet has allowed people to quickly "judge" and react to other people without thinking and probably in more hurtful ways than they would do if they were face to face. That's the very issue that led me to enable comment moderation on my blog. I welcome discussion and differing points of view, but I catch myself thinking (not writing) "don't judge me" a lot. What I really mean is listen to my point of view, you don't have to agree with me, but please listen before you label me and maybe you could skip the label all together. Our local newspaper has a comment section on the articles and I can barely read it because of the ways that people attack (generally character) in extreme and hurtful ways. Everything always turns into good v. bad and right v. wrong. Not bad or wrong in the moment, but forever. That's a horrible way to have a discussion.

I don't agree with a relative's decision to switch her son to formula when she went back to work, and I didn't make that same choice, but I would never leave a comment on her blog telling her that she was a bad parent. I wouldn't leave that comment because I applaud her commitment to breastfed for those 6 weeks and if I tell her that she's a bad parent, what incentive does she have to consider breastfeeding again with another child or encouraging a friend or relative to breastfeed.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDon't Pat the Belly

Yes Carol. That takes the centre square from the http://momstinfoilhat.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/new-improved-mommy-wars-bingo/" rel="nofollow">Mommy Wars Bingo one step further!

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Don't Pat the Belly:

Yes, that is true. It is often code for "listen to my story". I would prefer the words "please listen to my story" rather than "don't judge me" because asking me not to judge presumes that I am going to judge and puts me on the defensive too.

I do wonder though what people expect when they ask others to listen to their story.
- Do they want me to change my mind? Anecdotes do not equal data.
- Do they want empathy? That I can offer, but it still doesn't mean I agree with their choice or that I would have acted similarly in the same situation.
- Do they want me to say "oh, of course, your situation is an exception". Maybe it is, in which case they need not be offended by the information being presented in the first place.
- Do they want to warn others so that they do not make the same mistakes? In which case, great as long as it is worded appropriately to reflect that.

One example I can think of is the story of a woman who tried really hard to breastfeed and eventually gave up after 7 or 8 weeks. She told her story, which was great. I think that is deserving of empathy and kudos. But what she took from her experience, and what she expressed, was that http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/03/08/when-to-give-up-on-breastfeeding/" rel="nofollow">all women should give up breastfeeding after 2 weeks if it is not working out. Whoa...that is where I stopped being supportive. To take your experience and your story and project it to say that everyone should do things differently is going too far and expecting too much, especially when doing things differently has so many risks.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I should mention, for those who hate the phrase "it is what it is", be sure to read the article I linked to in the first sentence of the post.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think it can mean all of those...but sometimes it can also just mean, "I want to be heard."

Too often new moms are not heard, regardless of the choices they make. And there is a value and catharsis in simply knowing that someone actually heard your story.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Eh. I think this is all a bit of a complicated way of saying that all of this comes down to confidence. If you're confident in your decisions, then nothing anyone can say can make you feel inferior. You and I don't see eye to eye on a few things, but I ... well, this sounds harsh, but it's not meant that way: I don't really care. I care what you have to say, and I respect your opinion, but I don't care in the sense that it's not going to make me change my parenting style or decisions, and I'm not going to feel bad about it.

The thing is, parenting is so personal, and there isn't much in life that has higher stakes -- it is VERY easy to have your confidence shaken when someone says something that's contrary to what you believe. It's hard to know when you're making the right decision, and it's easy to be shaken when someone says their opinion so strongly. It's hard NOT to feel like that's judgment, because while it is what it is, you are effectively saying that you made THIS choice because THAT choice is wrong, even if it's just to YOU (in the case of your view on CIO, and the example you gave).

I tend to go easy on people who feel judged in parenting, because often, what they're really saying is, "I'm nervous about my choices, and HOO BOY, this parenting shit is SCARY, right?"

Because it is. I don't care who you are, how confident you are, etc. Raising little people is a big deal, and we all -- most of us, anyway -- just want to do the best we can. It's hard to know when you're doing the right thing.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjonniker

I totally agree about a preference for wording. I think that some people hope that their story might change your mind, but probably more are saying "listen to me" because they have been judged in the past and are on the defensive anytime they are asked to talk about parenting decisions.

The internet has created a situation where many people feel as though they are going to be judged harshly no matter what the situation or decision. Many, many parenting blogs I've come across seem to be more a place for drama and criticism, then discussions. I've never seen someone tell another mother that if she really loved her baby, she would have a natural childbirth, breastfeed, (insert parenting decision here) in the middle of the grocery store, but I have seen it happen on-line repeatedly. One of the reasons I really like your blog is because you show a respect for people as people. That's not to say that people haven't gotten in judgmental and potentially hurtful discussion in the comments, but you are not judgmental.

When "don't judge me" becomes code for "listen to me," I think it is very much a symptom of the ways that women are often criticized more than they are supported in on-line communities.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDon't Pat the Belly

I love this article! You shouldn't have to temper your passions especially on your blog. I am tired of tempering my own passion so that I can be politically correct. I am passionate about breastfeeding. I think that formula should only be used in extreme cases. But that doesn't mean I can't be friends with someone who uses formula, lets just talk about something else. Thank you for being brave and following your passions. You continue to inspire me and many others.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

it all kind of dances around the expectation we as girls are brought up with in that we have to please all the people all the time. that is what our role in life will be and will always be, is its implicit message and that's why women in vulnerable situations aka motherhood/parenting react so defensively to what should be open discussion of methods of raising a child.
sad but true, it is all extremely competitive (hence all the references to it in online situations in the comments above) and i try to absent myself from those kinds of situations/friendships/occasions whenever possible (including stepping away from certain blogs, especially those which debate the merits of washing the white stuff off washed organic carrots)
btw to me your post came out as a long-drawn out whine apology about being judged as judging - one thing i learned in presenting my work was to never apologise for it, period.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

Eloquent, courageous, well-done.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

@ebbandflo aka pomomama: It wasn't intended to be an apology. In fact, it was the opposite. It was an explanation for why I don't feel the need to apologize.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@ebbandflo aka pomomama: I forgot to say that I completely agree with the first part of your comment. We are taught that we have to please all the people all of the time.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I fully admit to judging. I judge in my head. I think "I wouldn't do that" or "what were they thinking". My goal is to not let the judgement affect how I treat the person. Think it and then let it go. Still be polite and respectful. Maybe that person won't become my friend but I try to always be friendly.

September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCapital Mom

I added that square because of that knee jerk defensive response I have seen umpteen million times on the net. People think you cannot have your own priorities without attacking them for not sharing them.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMomTFH

Really good post. I very much respect that you have such a high awareness of your own words and their impact on others. Good for you.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGayle

What you said about vegetarianism: yes! I make a ton of mistakes, on a daily basis probably. The difference is being open to learning about your mistakes, and feeling defensive about your choices. I've heard non-vegetarians get PISSED OFF anytime the read anything about how eating meat may be not so great. And everytime it comes off as the person feeling defensive, and unsure of their own choices.

The say with other things. When I read someone say "Don't judge me!", it reads that the person is feeling insecure with their choices. But they aren't open to admitting that the choice might not be the best one and learning about other options. Instead they dig in their heels, refuse to hear the words around them, and insist that everyone else is judging them. And another person's insecurities will never make me stop speaking my mind.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

Who can argue with this? Very thorough and compelling. Thank you for taking the time to adequately address, point by point, a much-needed topic. I've followed the comments on your no-cry-it-out post and nothing has been more frustrating than when a person shuts down the conversation with a "don't judge me" accusation. There is an art to not taking things personally. In the absence of name-calling and discriminating, I see nothing wrong with disagreeing and being vocal about it. Nothing is more natural than a little healthy debate, especially amongst consenting adults who have not been coerced to your blog and force fed information or beliefs. We are all here by choice and should own our decision to get personally involved or not.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLainya

Unsurprisingly perhaps, I pretty much agree with you. I also have been stewing on a somewhat similar post (uh, again. it's a recurring theme, in my life and thus on my blog).

Which I just started writing in your comments, I think, and it was getting a bit unwieldy, so look for it soon-ish on RMB...

Anyway, good post, although I'm afraid your initial assessment about its value is probably correct. But still, some might be swayed. And either way, it's your blog, and it's good to have said.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

(And also, SQUEEEE for the quoting and the kind words. I almost kept it back to try to sound all professional and cool and collected and whatnot, but as you can see I couldn't quite manage it. ;) )

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

I wrote a similar post some time ago about, funnily enough, vegetarianism, and not removing body hair. It's http://shutupsitdown.co.uk/2008/02/10/weird/" rel="nofollow">here if you're interested; it's really quite short. ;)

I could so easily be offended/defensive on the breastfeeding issue, as I breastfed my son for just a week or two before switching to formula because I couldn't stand the pain. My cousin got really arsey with me because I posted something to Facebook about breastfeeding (she formula fed too). I had to tell her "Look, I formula fed too. That doesn't mean I can't accept that breastfeeding is the best choice."

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnji

I once read "judgment isn't always bad". I have to agree. If we don't judge, how can we decide what is right (or wrong) for us as people, as parents? I personally think we all judge, even those of us that say "I don't judge!"

There are some choices I do judge, because there are some choices that I truly feel are inferior and not in the best interest of the child. Hearing the story behind it may help me understand where the person is coming from, but I may still believe another, better choice could have been made in that situation. It may be because *I* faced a similar situation and made a different choice. It doesn't necessarily follow that I think those that made the "bad" choice are bad people or bad parents. Just as I can dislike certain behaviour in my children, but still love them. (But let's face it, there ARE some bad parents out there; I suspect few of them are reading parenting blogs hoping to learn or improve though...)

It does seem to me that when a debate is reduced to someone saying "don't judge me" or "you think I'm a bad mom", it's in large part because they *aren't* certain they made the right choice. If they *had* to make a certain choice, surely they'd be able to own it, secure in the knowledge they did the best they could?

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

@Andrea: Exactly. I do often judge choices, but it doesn't mean I am judging the person. There is a big difference, IMO, and that is the point I was trying to make.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Judgments come in two forms judging actions and judging a person based solely on actions. The first we do as daily and constantly. We make all sorts of decisions and those are rooted in the judgments we make. From what to eat to how to raise our kids and where we shop. The second we can sometimes do but that is too simplistic and overlooks the fact that actions aren't always indicative of the entirety of a person or the entirety of the situation that they were in when acting as they did. Doesn't mean that the action was a "good" action, but that it's not representative of all a person is. You can judge an action(and the reasoning behind doing it) as wrong & still believe that the person who did it good. Discussion around on actions are more complex & I enjoy them greatly because they make me think more about my own choices/decisions/& judgments.

I believe the issue when the phrase is used boils down to feeling you are comfortable they were right with your judgments & decisions/choices. I am comfortable with the judgments I have made and the decisions/choices that have extended out from them, even if they are ones others would not make and would judge in a different manner than I do or even if they are ones I would change in retrospect. It seems that when people state "don't judge me" they are not comfortable in their own use of judgments.

I also wonder why men don't toss around this phrase when reading articles or talking with others about their choices (no man I know or have ever read uses this phrase)? Is it because men are socialized to be more comfortable with their judgments & the decisions that come from them while women are taught to second-guess & to be "pleasers"?

Great article.

* I do use the phrase "don't judge me" jokingly in writing.*

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeth aka confusedhomemaker

I am a firm believer that all opinions are judgements of one kind or another. Although in the context of "don't judge me", it is probably more about not letting differences of opinion become an indictment of someone's person and character. When did judgement become such a bad thing? Really it is just our decision making process - whether that be logical, emotional or a bit of both. Ideally that judgement will be fully informed, but it is still judgement.

And at a certain point, repeated choices become interlinked with who you are as a person. I am looking into a post on the Truby King method of baby care (popular in the 50s) and among other things babies were only allowed to be cuddled for about 15 minutes during an entire day. Not only do modern day parents do this, they boast about it. And in my book that's not a bad choice - that's a bad parent - there I said it.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterzoey

Very thoughtful post. I am called judgemental all the time, even though I try to phrase my opinions/experiences as 'I do' rather than, 'We don't,' from which others might be able to make comparisons to themselves. I know who I am, as a woman and as a parent, and I am passionate about certain things. I also don't believe in apologizing for my opinions or pre-empting them with a statement of apology, so I think I come off as harsh. But I know this, and quite frankly, I don't really care. (see? harsh. I know.)

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl

This blog's comment-debates and your writing have helped shape who I am and want to be as a parent by giving my gut-feelings, education, and hear a voice. I feel immensely confident in my parenting goals and current practices and am not even sure if I could feel judged by someone who has a different feeling about it all if I tried, so confident am I in what I'm doing.

Of course, I'm not perfect, but I am certain that kind, loving, attentive care to my son could never for one second be wrong. I never have to "gut it out" or say the words, "I hated every second of it, but eventually it worked," because I don't do anything that feels wrong anymore.

So, all this to say, Thanks for all the work you do on here. Feeling judged is generally a defense mechanism and I'm happy to share that I don't need it.

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica - This is Worthwhile

@Jessica: Thank you for your kind words. I love this: "Feeling judged is generally a defense mechanism and I’m happy to share that I don’t need it."

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] are several reasons I believe this, but first let me say: I’m not interested in judging individuals, or determining whether anyone is “gender-neutral enough” to get whatever gold star or [...]

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRaising him purple: a defense

I love this.

As always, your carefully considered and passionate writing is such a pleasure to read and a huge source of inspiration.

I think you've really deconstructed a HUGE piece of what all this Mommy Wars stuff is all about. All the anger and hostility that gets thrown back and forth, to me really boils down to one thing: guilt.

To me, "Don't judge me" means, "Don't make me feel guilty for my choices". Don't point out the things I haven't considered, or don't want to consider. For many, the resulting mix of emotions and the inevitable dust-up that will occur if an actual discussion happens is too exhausting. Instead, we will say "Agree to disagree" or "It is what it is" and we will never actually do the WORK that is required to outline the major points on these topics and examine them. Self examination is rarely a comfortable thing if you're doing it right. I think the kyriarchy and the media feeds into so much of the guilt aspect, though. As women, we are made to feel hated for our choices, regardless of which sides of these issues we are on. We come to the table already defensive. I don't think this means that we should suppress our feelings on these topics or limit our activism to spare feelings. I believe if we approach it with the points that you've outlined in mind it really reduces that emotional component in a big way. We can't help but feel passionate about these things. These are our children we are talking about so, really there is just no way to eliminate that completely. But if we scrutinize and examine our choices, our priorities, the pros and cons, and we come away truly feeling like we can feel good about the decisions reached (or at the very least live with them), that burden of need someone else to approve of it is lifted somewhat, and it seems to me it frees us up for discussion the facts.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Excellent points. One other thing to throw in the mix, if we care to challenge ourselves to grow, can be to take a deeper look at the very things that provoke us (be it our wish to be more green colliding with our own human limitations to be perfect, or the injustices that seem clearly "wrong" to us). One reason we are so clear about, and free to "judge", behaviors that hurt children is that we identify with the child and naturally side against bullies (be they misguided parents, uncaring corporations, power-driven governments, etc.). Humans have an innate sense of justice and fairness, and also a will to power... but cultivated in a western rational "scientific" paradigm creates and sustains the sort of angel/devil duality that had Neitzsche alternately writing and despairing on the brink of madness.

Everything that moves us to true and vehement judgement can also be an opportunity to examine the nature of our own Shadow. The more we recognize, and integrate, our own split-off, unconscious or denied aggression, entitlement, selfishness, cluelessness, etc., the more centered we may become. This wouldn't mean not moving against injustice, but like effective parenting, we would be taking issue with things from a place of love. Your well-considered post does say this, my point is to push us further into our own process as I believe this (and the discussions unfolding on blogs such as this are part of this evolving consciousness) helps move us toward a one-world consciousness that is secure enough to tolerate diverse opinion and at the same time wise enough to recognize, and lovingly steer away from, that which is harmful to ourselves.

What unites us across all differences is the very love we feel for our children, which in turn wakes us up to a deeper love for all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Steven Dolin

Thanks for your coverage of this topic. It comes up in all aspects of life, from parenting choices to religious choices to all other lifestyles choices. It has become acceptable to judge some choices (such as smoking) as always being bad, however, choices such as, "I just don't want to breastfeed because I don't want to be that tied down to my baby" are sometimes "hand-off" choices which nobody is allowed to judge for some reason as being inferior choices.

I think by virtue of the fact that we make intentional, thought-out choices, we are showing that we believe one choice to be the better one. When people make choices, aren't they saying, "I believe this is the best way to go about it" on each particular situation? If I believe that CIO would harm my baby emotionally, then of course I choose not to do it. If I believe that Catholicism is true, then I believe it and choose to identify with that religion. If I think circumcision of healthy baby boys is unnessecary, then I don't circumcise. We make judgment calls on whether something is good based on what we do. The problem is that many don't see that there is such a thing as natural law, as absolute truth - some things are always bad, like murder, and some things are always good, like snuggling and holding babies. Everything has become subjective to the point that the stating facts (such as breastmilk is superior to formula) gets twisted into, "You're judging my decision!!"

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I also meant to say that when I read this post, I immediately thought of another phrase: "No offense, but..." Just as prefacing a statement with, "Don't judge me" puts the listener on the defensive (since it appears that the speaker is expecting judgment), so does saying, "No offense" to somebody... it implies that you are going to say something rude to them. My husband made the offer to loan our baby girl clothes to somebody who was lamenting the fact that she'd probably have a girl and would have to buy all new baby clothes since her first was a boy, and she responded with, "Well, no offense, but I think your wife has different fashion tastes than I do." Basically, "don't take offense - but your wife picks out ugly clothes." I think people don't always identify certain phrases as "fighting words," and they just don't stop to think of a better way to phrase something, like saying, "Please listen to my story" instead of "Don't judge me," or saying, "That's a sweet offer; I will consider it," instead of "I don't care for your taste in fashion."

I also think that it comes down to conviction - if you are absolutely self-confident in your parenting choices, you are fa less likely to feel judged. And to feel totally confident, one must have a confident personality combined with some support - be that in person, online, whatever. Even when I meet criticism for things like not doing CIO, holding the baby too much, extended bfing, I don't feel judged - I don't get defensive - because I am confident that I am doing the right things, and I know where I can turn for support. There are some things where I don't have quite as much confidence - gentle discipline, for instance, because of less support for it in person and the fact that it has so many variables (working w/ a child's behavior has much more grey area than "I always comfort my baby when she wakes up in the night," which makes it more of a challenge) - so somethimes I do feel judged for my discipline choices, and sometimes I don't live up to my own standards - making me more suseptable (sp?) to feeling judged, I think.

Okay, I will stop babbling now. :)

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin

[...] about every choice (because so often there isn’t a “right” answer). I too have been accused of being judgmental and have been called an idiot. Are we not capable of having a civilized discussion without judging, [...]

[...] despite his own urge to be a busybody and butt in when he sees bad parenting, he just shuts up. He doesn’t want them to think that he is judging them, but admits he probably [...]

I am also tired of hearing the judgmental card played in a debate. If people can't sit well with their own choices, then that's a sign to evaluate said choices and MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE.

The overbearing fear of being judgmental or intolerant is an environment creating by a relativistic mindset. As long as all choices are equal, no answer is more right than the other and no one can be wrong or made to feel the other half of the emotional spectrum (such as guilt, regret, shame) then those who advocate better, healthier, more loving choies will always be shut down under the label of "judging" or "bashing" other parents.

It's a way out. It's a way to put your hands over your ears and go "lalalalala."

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGuggie Daly

The biggest thing for me to keep in mind is that everyone comes from someplace different in the social hierarchy, and that it is damn difficult to do the "right thing" when you have fewer resources. A lot of the "don't judge me" attitude that I hear and am most familiar with comes from a position of less privilege. It's one thing to advocate strongly for something that you believe in; it's another to imply that your way is the only way, because chances are that you are not taking other cultural considerations into account.

I once read on truemomconfessions, for example, a confession that women who cannot stay home with their child for the first year of his/her life should not become mothers, period. I found that statement hugely offensive because it means that the confessor basically believes that only the most privileged women deserve the chance to mother, and I probably don't need to point out to you all the ways in which her opinion promotes kyriarchy. Not only was her opinion soaking in privilege, it was also rather happily splashing about and getting everyone else wet!

So yes, while you may advocate for those things you believe in (as we all do, on some level or another), it's important to keep in mind that your ability to hold to those convictions and your ability to even consider them as a choice are deeply impacted by the various privileges you hold as members of a kyriarchical society. And if someone in an oppressed class calls you on it - you better be prepared to address your own issues.

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlovepeaceohana

THANK YOU! I feel as if you wrote this post for me. I couldn't have done any better. I just feel like a HUGE weight has been lifted. I recently lost a friend. She made a choice I didn't agree w/ and said she felt judged when I disapproved. I tried to tell her I wasn't judging. And that while at the moment of hearing about the choice, I wasn't happy but that in the end I would be there and just needed time to deal. Unfortunately it wasn't enough and she ended our friendship telling me, my opinions were too hurtful for someone as sensitive as her. I'd like to call the BS flag on it all but whatever. I'm deeply sadden but what can I do? I can't apologize for how I feel about something. Sorry to be turning this into a novel. I'm just really happy with this post. It just says the things I try to and always get all jumbled up because of my emotions. Great post for those of us who are able to have opinions and stand by them but understand that just because we feel a certain way, we understand if no one else does, so please don't punish us for it!

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShanee

Great post!

I think it's ok to say, "I think this way IS better for children" when there is research to support it, as is the case with breastfeeding.

However, I can't find any research that shows that crying-it-out is harmful. Also, I am repeatedly judged on certain forums for feeding my son a wide variety of foods, even though the AAP has since published research stating that there is no benefit to withholding certain foods before a certain age.

Too much of attachment parenting has become DOGMA, especially when it refuses to to flexible. I practice some aspects of attachment parenting (exclusive bf-ing, babywearing, BLS, etc.), but having studied child psychology as part of my doctorate, I also know that it's healthy for children to develop routines (like bedtime and mealtimes) and that can involve crying. However, there is a wide range of what people refer to as crying-it-out. Deciding not to breastfeed on demand at night may involve having a baby cry, but a parent can offer other kinds of reassurance, such as back-rubbing and talking, letting the child know you are there. There are also people who toss their kids in a crib in a room out of earshot. These are not the same thing, but both are referred to as CIO.

Really listening to and understanding people involves moving beyond these types of limiting definitions.

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

@Sandy:

Whether there is research on crying-it-out being harmful depends on your perspective and interpretation of research. There is research on the effects of excessive crying and stress in infancy. I know that many methods and application of cry it out do involve excessive crying (but not all do). My educated opinion (based on brain research that I have read that doesn't relate specifically to CIO) is that CIO would/does cause stress in the infant.

I agree that there is a wide range of what is called CIO and I also do not think it is possible to say exactly that 5 minutes of crying is okay, but 15 is not. Or 15 minutes is okay, but 30 is not. Or 30 minutes is okay, but 60 is not. And so on. I think it is impossible both because you couldn't ethically and soundly research that and also because each human being is different (some people have more fragile brains than others).

Because we don't know for sure how much is too much, http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/08/11/cry-it-out-cio-is-it-harmful-or-helpful/" rel="nofollow">as I've explained before, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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