I had a conversation today with my friend, Colin, who I really love and value but his comments made me feel judged. A group of parents from Annie’s school were stood talking. One of the mums, Karen, was upset about a few problems she’s having with her daughter and she wanted advice. We were all giving her advice and telling her what worked for us as parents. I felt strongly that I was giving good advice because the proof is in the pudding ~ my children being the pudding. I let my ego take over.
Somehow during the course of the conversation we talked about our children’s sleeping arrangements and I said that Annie still sleeps in bed with me. She always has, other than the odd night here or there. It’s something that’s always worked for us and something that came about because of the pain and fear I was going through with Tom at the time she was born. It then became a habit but it’s okay, it works for us and I know she can sleep in her own bed, we just choose to sleep together. However, Colin didn’t agree with my decision to share my bed with Annie, he didn’t think it was right and I ended up feeling judged because of his reaction.
When most of the group left, I and another mum stayed to talk some more to Karen and we gave her more advice. When she said that she’d reached breaking point and didn’t know how to work with the problem she was having, she’d told her child that she would smack her. I told her that I actually thought that would make things worse and inwardly I judged her for it. I came home after almost three hours of talking and I felt drained. There had been too many people talking, giving advice and opinions, I felt overwhelmed and I was still reeling from Colin’s judgement of my parenting choices. I decided to just sit down, put on some music to relax me back down and to write about it, but I couldn’t. I had so much going on in my head that I couldn’t formulate it into anything that made an ounce of sense, on or off paper so I gave up and did some work instead. I worked on my website and I started proofreading my blog posts. As I did so, I read through a post that I wrote a few weeks ago and I realised some vital things.
1. I didn’t honour who I am during our conversation and by failing to do so, I’d failed Karen. Had I honoured who I was I’d have told her that I don’t do well in loud, group conversations as they make me feel overwhelmed.
2. Because I felt overwhelmed my mind wasn’t at all clear and the advice I gave was centered totally from my ego and on what worked for me as a parent. I didn’t take into account that her child is totally different to my child and that she is a completely different parent to me.
3. I focused on the practicalities of parenting instead of doing what I would normally do which is to empower her as a parent. She didn’t need my advice, she’d had great advice from everyone else in the group, what she needed from me was what I wrote in my underpinning post. She needed my support, my unconditional love and she needed empowering as a parent and as a person in her own right.
4. I reacted to Colin’s comments about my parenting choices because it made me feel judged and therefore, on some level, unaccepted. When I looked deeper at that I could see that when I disagree with the way someone does something I must make them feel judged.
Now as my head is finally clearer I can see that Colin’s ‘judgement’ was a good thing. It’s challenging me to think about the choice I’ve made. It was the right choice for me seven years ago and it stayed the right choice for a long time because it helped me feel secure when Tom kept ‘joking’ about taking Annie off me, but it is the right choice now or is it just a habit that needs to break? Has the time come to look at this and really seek the truth? This is a battle for me because I generally don’t live by society’s rules, I like to make my own rules and do what’s right for me and for my children but I have to ask myself, is it still right for Annie to share a bed with me? I don’t think it’s wrong per se but I also can see that a) I’m not helping her to become independent and separate from me all the time she’s in my bed and b) by sharing my bed I’m denying myself the opportunity to have a space of my own, a bed to myself, and if I choose to in the future, a man in my bed. What I also learnt from the conversation today was that if a friend chooses to smack their child, that’s their choice. It may not be my preferred method of parenting but I can only parent my way, and everyone else can only parent their way. I can guide and empower them towards loving ways of parenting, but I cannot judge. None of us are in a position to judge or condemn, maybe it’s about trying to understand rather than judge ~ we all have our reasons for acting and reacting the way we do and none of us are in a position to judge unless our life circumstances have been exactly the same, which they won’t have, but also, maybe we should accept someone whether we agree with their life choices or not.
Now, I see that what I need to do is honour who I am and either speak to Karen privately, one on one so that I don’t feel overwhelmed and so that I can give her empowering words to help her believe in herself as a parent or I can write to her so that I can say all I need to say from a loving, understanding, empathetic point of view and then I can honour her by understanding where she’s coming from and how she’s feeling and I can take a much more holistic view point of the whole situation. One thing I really have learnt from today is that my dream of becoming a counsellor one day is still very much alive and to do that, I must honour who I am every single time and I must honour every single person for who they are, every single time, without exception because these are going to be some of the skills I will need as a counsellor in the future.
Being judged has brought me to a great place. It’s made me really look at myself, my choices and my future ~ the future of where Annie sleeps, the future of how I honour my space in the home and how Annie could have her own space to be who she is, but also it’s made me really think about how to work best to help and empower future clients in their own lives. I’ve also learned that being judged by others can be a positive thing because if I can let go of my ego telling me they’re wrong and look at it from a higher perspective, I can start to open up to different possibilities and outcomes which may just benefit other people and myself, even more.