I got a lesson in humility the other day. I’m not usually one to judge. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt at all times. My mother always told me, “You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.” And she’s right.
I wish some of the young ladies at the daycare where my daughters go were taught this lesson by their mothers. I always feel judged when I drop my girls off in my gym clothes. If they know I have a day off from work but am still bringing my daughters to childcare, I feel their eyes burning into the back of my ponytail. I know what they’re thinking. “Really? She has off today but she still brings her kids to daycare?” I speak for all working moms when I say that sometimes, we just need a break! We need to visit the grocery store without being pulled in 50 directions or having our kids rip items off the shelf or throw a full-blown temper tantrum in the middle of the cookie aisle because you said ‘no” to double-stuffed Oreos. The gym is my oasis. I enjoy working out. It’s my only stress relief and helps to keep me calm, healthy, and centered. I’m actually a better mother after I go to the gym. I’ve released a lot of my pent up tension and stress and feel more productive and focused.
So, knowing all this, you’d think that I wouldn’t judge other mothers. And I often try so very hard not to. But it happened. I’m human. I’m going to use my sister as the main character of this story. No, this did not actually happen to my sister. And no, this wasn’t the exact scenario that delivered my dose of humility. But this situation could have happened and probably has happened to many of us. Where we judge a situation or a mother without knowing her day to day struggle. So, again, this story is not completely true. It is loosely based on real events but not events that happened to my sister, specifically.
My sister was telling me about one of the mothers in her daughter's class. She had signed up to be the classroom mom. You know, the mom responsible for collecting donations, planning parties, taking book orders, and putting together the end of the year gift for the teacher. She did a beautiful job with the Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations but in the new year, my sister said she kind of dropped the ball. She missed events, failed to plan parties, lost donations and even missed a fundraiser deadline. My sister reached out to the mom to no avail. She contemplated asking the teacher if everything was okay, but didn’t feel it was her place. When my sister missed out on chaperoning my niece’s class trip to a local museum due to a lost permission slip, that was the last straw. My sister was fed up with a mom who volunteered to do a job and then failed to do so. She said things like, “If she didn’t want the responsibility she shouldn’t have volunteered”, and “If I had known she would mess things up so badly, I would’ve volunteered myself”.
Now, my sister can be a little more harsh than me at times, but I did understand where she was coming from. After all, this mother accepted the responsibility of class mom and all that came along with the title. So, what gives? It took some time and some discreet conversation to discover that this mother had been through several recent tragedies in a row. Right after Christmas, her oldest son lost his battle with addiction. Following his death, her husband couldn’t handle the stress and checked himself into a mental hospital. Her bills were piling up and she was in jeopardy of losing her home. When my sister found out this news, of course, her initial reaction was to feel like complete dog poop. I did too. I didn’t even know this woman but here we were, judging her and her shortcomings without ever knowing the heartbreaking events in her life that had caused her absence in the classroom. My sister and I quickly changed our feelings of judgment to ones of sympathy and remorse. We started a GoFundMe page for this woman and her child and raised over $5,000. My sister humbly took over the role as classroom mom.
The moral of this story is that you never know what internal struggles a mother is dealing with. Or anyone is dealing with for that matter. But when you’re quick to judge a mom for not parenting their children the way you would or not acting in a certain way, I ask you to pause, for just a minute. Because they may be struggling just to keep their head above water. So instead of gossiping or judging, try asking if you can help.