Mothers: The most judgemental people on earth

By Vani Rane

Every day as you go through the daily grind, sipping coffee and cursing traffic, there is a mother seemingly doing exactly the same thing, but her mind is elsewhere. She’s wondering if the tiffin she packed for her son is either too much or too little. She’s wondering whether the costume she has chosen for the costume party is too common or bizarre. She’s wishing she could just stop fucking thinking for a minute and enjoy her goddamn coffee. 

Moms from all over the world go through these pointless dilemmas while raising and nurturing their offspring. It’s an endless cycle of blame and justification, and it plays out not just in our minds but also in front of others. We’re constantly comparing notes with other mothers and coming up short. Self-doubt is our ruling star and judgement is our moon.

In case you didn’t know already, mothers are the most judgemental people in the world. A few moons ago, when I was a few kilos lighter and my uterus hadn’t faced the turbulence it did three years ago, I was one of them. I was one of those judgey people. I would scoff at friends who distracted their toddlers with phones and iPads when it was time to eat. I would make mental notes that I would never ever resort to that. I judged these mothers for their easy shortcuts, for not doing it right.

Cut to three years later: There are more chances of India topping the Olympics than there are of my son eating without a phone or a tablet or a TV in front of him showing Peppa Pig.

On a typical weekday, I trudge home after eight hours of work and two hours of traffuck, knowing that my offspring will welcome me home by plundering my bag like the British colonials did India. My MIL will be running me through the day – what my son did at school, what time he ate, how he slept, pooped, or why she suspects he might be developing an infection. As I slowly make my way to the bedroom, my house help will waltz in with a half a glass of water and a list of things that need to be restocked in the kitchen. Before I can change into something comfortable, it’s dinner time for the son. He will obviously insist that I have to be the one to feed him – why else would mommy be home? I know that at this point it is easier for me to convince everyone that Trump is a good president than to get my son to sit still. The choices in front of me are either running around the house and feeding him as he displays his new superhero moves, or go for 10 minutes of calm by putting on Peppa Pig.

We are masochists to think that we should all be striving for perfection. Motherhood is a sea of such decisions and we have been trained by other mothers to choose the tough ones. No pain, no gain, right?

Well fuck that. I’m taking the path of least resistance. I have co-opted a few mechanisms, as imperfect as they may be, to retain my sanity. I have a house help, I have used diapers not nappies, I have given my son a pacifier on the days he was cranky, and I am really okay giving him the screen time he requires while eating. But I also ensure he gets his outdoor time in the park on weekends.

“Every woman who enters motherhood starts on with the pure intention of perfection.”

Today, three hard years along the motherhood road, I’m judged for something else – working too much while my son is young. But the difference is, that today I’m kinder to mothers who try to shame me. And believe me, they’ve tried. I’ve been judged by a woman who appointed herself mommy-group class monitor for dressing my son up as Baahubaali at a society fancy-dress competition while other kids played Batman and other American Avengers. I stuck to my guns and sent him anyway. (Read more about that agonising day here!)

Months later, Monitor Mom invited my son to a Holi party and I accepted the invite with great trepidation. To my surprise, she was genuinely warm and the party was wonderful. It made me realise that sometimes the judgement is not really directed at you. If I can give myself the benefit of the doubt all the time, I can give her a break too. It could have just been a bad day and God knows every mom has had her fair share of those.

Every woman who enters motherhood starts on with the pure intention of perfection. Of course, we’re all going to be amazing and do everything absolutely right. At some point, however, the stress of doing everything that parenting sites and mommy bloggers tell us to do, turns us into women incapable of drinking a peaceful cup of coffee. It is at that moment that we realise that there are more chances of finding ET than there are of finding the perfect mother.

We all have to make our peace with being judged for our parenting. Humour the judgemental mother instead of fighting with her. One day, she will give her baby the bottle instead of feeding him with a katori chamach, and then she will be part of your tribe of imperfection.

It is as Indira Nooyi said, “I don’t think women can have it all. But we can pretend we have it all.”

This article has been previously published on Arré.