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Moms judging moms

Ayelet Waldman, author of what will surely be a boat-rocking book, The Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, first received flack in 2005 over her New York Times essay, "Truly, Madly, Guiltily." Her "crime?" Stating she loved her husband more than her children. That she loved them, but wasn't "in love" with them. That life would go on after a child's death, but that there would be no joy in her life were her husband to die. And guess who was first in line to cyber-punish Waldman for such heretical comments? You got it: moms.

In an interview on Today (see below), Ayelet says her recently released book isn't meant as simply a response to such critics, but that being shunned and criticized by other moms really opened her eyes as to how cruel moms can be to each other.

Why is this? Why do we moms shoot our own, rip each other to shreds, judge, scrutinize and pick apart each other's every motive? Waldman asserts that when we compare ourselves to bad mothers like Susan Smith or Britney Spears or the slacker mom down the street who feeds her kids nothing but Ding Dongs and Schwann's frozen food, we don't feel so bad about our own mothering. In a USA Today interview, Waldman explains, "You can get off on the badness and the horribleness of that mother and comfort yourself that 'At least I'm not her.'"

Such vixen-like behavior can be even worse among Christian moms, because our standards for ourselves and for other moms are often higher than God's. It is no longer just about holding the perfect Star Trek birthday party (although we would be the first in line to criticize that mother for encouraging such worldliness); it's now about quantity of quiet times, who does and who does not have a meek and quiet spirit, and who is best exhibiting (our own particular flavor of) Christ likeness all day, every day, no matter that the kids have the flu and you haven't slept a night through in 6.2 years. You don't homeschool, home church, play soccer, take your kids to Awana, use Love and Logic, live in the country, drink raw milk? You let the "professionals" teach your children, live in the city, use birth control, and vaccinate your kids? You have a tattoo, drink wine, have an interesting piercing, read novels, and listen to Snow Patrol? Tsk, tsk, and double tsk.

We go to loggerheads over our personal "convictions," bludgeoning each other with guilt trips, disappointed sighs, and "helpful" suggestions, all of which reverberate with a pseudo-sacred hum that makes it sound holy and good, but in actuality is just an attempt to homogenize us into group-thinking, lock-stepping, mommy drones who ignore our God-given intuition, common sense, and cognitive abilities. Why? We can't stand the thought of standing alone and the possible subsequent scorning by women, even friends, who disagree with us. With this kind of pressure, it is no wonder the Andrea Yates of the world occasionally flip out.

Waldman hit it on the head: Moms are hardest on moms. Whatever the cause (immaturity, insecurity, or competitiveness) Christian moms might want to consider why it is that we, who have the Spirit of the living God within us, aren't much more merciful and loving toward each other than our unbelieving counterparts.

Amy Henry Amy is a WORLD correspondent. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Colorado graduate. Amy has written human interest commentary for WORLD since 2009 and is the author of Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love, and Mothering. She currently resides in the United Kingdom.


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