Last week I spent 3 days with half the staff who work with my company holed up in a cabin in the woods of North Carolina. Many of us had never met, seeing as we are a virtual company. It was surprising, intense, and exhausting, but oh-so-fun and rewarding. Mostly because of how much liquor we brought to the cabin.
I came home with a renewed sense of tolerance. Being with such a diverse group of people who were all willing to grow without judging others was awesome. And then, as soon as I opened up Facebook and started clicking around, I saw a post that made me spin in my chair and fly angrily across the room (and I wasn’t even in a spinny chair with wheels, it was just like, a wooden chair). Basically, one parent was dissing other parents for not being good enough. I read the responses, which ranged from, “Back off,” to, “You need to take immediate federal action.” I threw my hands up in the air and shouted, “HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING?!” The vitriolic language these parents used to address each other and, worse, parents who weren’t present to defend themselves had me eating salt and vinegar chips with a side of mayonaise.
Why are we still doing this? Why are we still judging other parents as if we have a clue what we are doing?! And if we see someone making a mistake, like let’s say one that endangers the life of a child, why aren’t we lovingly and supportively educating each other!? AHHHHH!!!!
Ok, deep breath.
I stepped back and realized that I was, in fact, being intolerant of those intolerant parents. And while it’s kind of kitschy to say, “The only thing I don’t tolerate is intolerance,” it never really addresses the problem does it? I never actually calmed down to respond to this particular string of judgey comments, and I wish I would have. I wish I could have said to these men and women, “Hey! We’re all in this together and some of us know more than others. Instead of being mad, why aren’t you stepping up and lending a hand? You’re kind of fracturing the tribe when you act this way, and I, for one, really like the tribe.”
I mean, it’s the reason we’re all so scared of our children having tantrums in public or being anything less than polite at the dinner table. What if one of those angry, judgey parents sees and then goes and writes about it on Facebook?! I, for one, feel like I’m constantly trying to build the mothers around me up because I know they do the same for me. We have the tough conversations when we need to, and relate to each other when we see it all spiraling out of control. “Yeah, you think Abe’s acting like a whack job, you should have seen my little one yesterday…” We have the ability to normalize this experience for each other by relating instead of shaming.
And then, of course, I read a section of Brene Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly, of which I happen to own a signed copy because I’m JUST. THAT. OBSESSED. and this line jumped out at me: There is no such thing as good parents and bad parents. Think about that. You can poke holes in it with the 5% of parents who were mentally underdeveloped enough to actually harm their own children. But the vast majority of the time, we’re just doing what we think is right. We’re all making choices that we think are good. Sometimes they’re not good. But we’re just doing the best we can given our circumstances, which are so vastly different for each person that what is good for one isn’t good for another. Remembering to feed your child after a hard day’s work shortly after losing a parent and while going through a divorce means you’re doing “good”. Remembering to feed your child nothing but organic, homemade food when your homelife is in order and you are blessed enough to stay at home and raise them means you’re doing “good”.
Do me a favor and the next time you get angry about the way another person parents, dig deeper. Find out what’s going on and if there’s actually a way for you to spend your energy helping instead of judging. It would make my Facebook feed happy.