Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Judging other mommies

Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog wrote a recent post titled "You never know" about usually assuming that a baby being fed a bottle in public is getting formula, and whether that was (ethically, morally) appropriate. Many commenters wrote in to say that we need to stop the Mommy Judgment wars and let each other be.

I, however, have high respect for judgment.

How am I supposed to decide what is best or right for my family and me if I can't use my discernment to weigh opposing ideas and choose the path that works for me? When I see other people choosing a different path, how can I not wonder if they chose what's best -- or only what was easiest?

I think it's a good idea not to judge individual mothers, and not to be an out-and-out jerk about it. If I saw a single mother bottle feeding in public, I would wonder why she didn't feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, or why she didn't consider breastmilk a better option than formula. I wouldn't go up and smack the bottle out of her hand -- I wouldn't say anything to her at all about it. But if she asked me for my opinion, I'm sure I'm allowed to offer my "judgment" of what I think would be best for her and her baby. If it turns out I'm off base with her in particular -- that she's bottle feeding an adopted baby or what have you -- then I haven't put my foot in my mouth, just offered my general opinion that applies in most situations.

The other day, I was talking with the parents of a baby boy and the expectant parents of a baby boy, and up came the topic of circumcision. Without being too graphic or too vehement, because I didn't know what the parents of the current baby had chosen, I needed to give my take on the benefits of not circumcising and explain that, in my judgment, circumcision is worse than leaving a baby's genitals intact. I tried to use tact so that no one present would feel "judged," but I was still giving a judgment. If the parents in question then choose to circumcise their son, despite now having more facts at their disposal, then, yes, I will judge them for it. I won't be a jerk or shun them, but I will think to myself that it's a shame.

I think part of being a judgmental mother is being in the minority. When circumcision rates are over half the population and breastfeeding rates at 6 months are below half, I feel it's appropriate to make some judgments -- to people's faces when necessary.


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