Notes and Mentions
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Serena: Hey everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina
Serena: And we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Tina: Welcome to, “No Need to Explain”. We are so glad you’re here.
Serena: First a quick disclaimer; we come to you not as mental health providers or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a MH crisis, please seek professional support. You can find a variety of mental health resources in episode notes and on our website NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com
Serena: Hey Tina, here’s a question for you...have you ever felt judged as a parent?
Tina: HA! Have I felt judged? ….sadly, yes!
Serena: Yeah, I’ve definitely felt judged way more times than I’d like to admit. Is there a particular story that stands out to you?
Tina: Yeah, well, I immediately go to school and I would say school was often a place that I felt judged. Before my child’s diagnosis and quite frankly even after for those people who didn’t really understand the diagnosis, I often felt as though the teachers were thinking I was making excuses or babying her in some way.
Serena: Tell me more about what that, what that was like.
Tina: So, I remember a time when my child wasn’t doing her homework, which was quite honestly a lot of times and our battles, especially as she got older were really just pretty intense and some of them were, ended in self-harm. So, I went and asked the school to reduce the homework and some of the teachers were just clearly judgemental about how we were handling this as a family. As if the, you know, as if somehow doing no homework would somehow damage her in more ways than already was happening.
Serena: Yeah, you know, your story was actually making me think of a similar struggle we had with homework and when I tried to talk to the teacher about the nightly homework battles she actually said to me, “She’s pulling your leg!” And I’m thinking, you know, as if my child really wanted to be spending every night screaming about homework.
Tina: Unbelievable, and I guess that brings us to, it is most often about the story we don’t know right?
Serena: Right. We’re so good at telling ourselves stories about other people and, you know, maybe why they parent the way they do. And I’m gonna out myself here and say that I was definitely guilty of judging other parents. When I had my, when I had only one child, my first-born, I thought I was really feeling pretty good about this parenting thing. My first-born was very compliant and cooperative and initially I would think of her as sensitive and then later I would understand that to be anxiety. But it really wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I thought, how much harder could another be? Famous last words, right?
Tina: Yeah, so, I’m gonna insert my teacher story here. So, I don’t know if anyone knows but I was a teacher once upon a time and I was a teacher before we had children, which, let’s just leave that little frame around that. So, I had a particularly difficult child in my classroom and I still remember his name and I will not call him out here because he’s a grown adult now and I’m sure doing just fine, I hope. But I do remember judging his mom, quite honestly because whenever I talked to her about his behavioral issues in school, she really didn’t, she didn’t see the same things. And so, we used to do this thing in my classroom called the VIP board (Very Important Person) and that person would put up things from their life. And this boy, it was his turn that year, that week and he put up a baby picture of himself. And there was this lightbulb moment for me and I thought, that is who that Mama sees every time she hears me say he’s not behaving in class. How could that be true because that’s her baby. And it really just shifted something in me, for sure. So Serena, tell me about a story where you felt judged.
Serena: Yeah, so, I’m gonna actually start at the end of this story and the end is that I dropped off the three-year-old at his daycare and we were exceptionally late that day. I believe I managed to get him there by about 9:45 in the morning at that point all of his classmates had finished breakfast and they were well into the day. The teacher greeted us warmly, as always, and asked us if we’d had a nice, slow start to our day. Now, I share this, I want everyone to know that please know that this teacher is amazing and was an awesome support for our family at the time and I’m certain she in no way was trying to pass judgment, yet that’s totally what I was feeling then. So, I’m sharing this story not to call her out in any way because really she had no way of knowing what was going on for me at the time. So.
Tina: So, tell us what was going on for you at the time, Serena.
Serena: OK. Yeah, so some highlights from the 24 hours prior to the drop off. So, at that particular time in my family, we were caring for 5 kids and they were 17, 10, 4, 3 and 9 months.
Tina: I just shake my head every time at that.
Serena: So, as you can imagine, and as you know Tina, we were dealing with a lot of different needs at the time and it was total survival mode, just trying to make it through the day. That evening our dishwasher decided to not only stop mid-cycle, but then to back up and flood the entire kitchen just as we were trying to get everybody down, trying to get dinner on the table. So then the three-year-old had an epic nosebleed made worse by panicking and running around the house looking for tissues. Then the four-year-old decided this was a great time to refuse to do what was asked of her and scream at the top of her lungs. And finally, took some deep breaths, got everyone calmed down, cleaned up, fed, ready for bed. Bedtime went relatively smoothly, thankfully, but the baby, as usual, that baby did not go to sleep. So, about 1 o’clock in the morning, he finally drifted off to sleep and I was just about to climb into bed when the 10 year old got up and puked everywhere.
Tina: Her specialty, by the way.
Serena: Yeah, her specialty, yes. Not because she was sick, I always have to note that, but she was just feeling overwhelmed like the rest of us. So then of course, I had to clean up the mess and get her back to bed and then, of course, the baby woke up again. And that’s where I lost all sense of time. So, morning came fast and I had to get five kids up, and ready and off to 5 different places. I wasn’t just at the end of my rope, I think, but I couldn’t even locate the rope by that point. So, one by one, I got the kids where they were supposed to go and finally, I arrived to drop the 3-year-old off at daycare. When the teacher asked me if we’d had a nice, slow start to the day, I wanted to melt into a puddle on the floor.
And honestly? Now I’m thinking about this story as I’m telling it out loud and I totally realize that I was judging myself in that moment. And I don’t think any of that was coming from the teacher. Somehow I really thought that it was unacceptable to be late getting kid number 5 where he was supposed to be after not sleeping all night.
Tina: And there it is, the self-judgement. That whole judgment of self, a Mental Health Mama specialty.
Tina: Let’s talk about some of the ways we’ve handled the judgement from others and from ourselves.
Serena: Yeah, so I remember so many moments with meltdowns in public places and stares from parents (and, well, non-parents) around me. They, these meltdowns were not run-of-the-mill temper tantrums because I’d refused to buy something, they were more like sensory explosions that are unstoppable with the conventional parenting wisdom. And I learned early on in these experiences, I would just keep my head down and maintain focus on my child. I didn’t want to look around and invite any comments and I was trying to make it clear, to those around me, that I was not interested in what others had to say in the moment. I wasn’t enjoying it. My daughter wasn’t enjoying it. Nobody was.
Tina: Hmm. You said, “conventional parenting wisdom”. I’m not sure I ever possessed that, but anyway. So, my reaction when my children are melting down in public, when they were little, was to smile and pretend it wasn’t happening while being corrective or getting out of the situation very quickly. That’s the interesting thing about Serena and I, we don’t often have the same reactions to things. My kids, still to this day, they are 26 and 22. They say that I, they use this phrase “church pinch”. I swear, I never pinched them but my look must have felt that way and we know that in church we should all be sitting with our hands folded and our mouths either singing or praying! This look, I suppose, or the “church pinch” as my kids called it, was my way of insuring the whole “FaceBook Family” persona.
Serena: Ah, the “Facebook Family”. Everyone smiling and perfect, right?
Serena: Yeah, that’s one of the things that leads to our self-judgment, I think and our unwillingness to share our struggles with others. So, I’m curious if you’ve thought about, over the years, the ways that you’ve managed that judgment of yourself or the perceived judgment from others?
Tina: Mmhm. Well, a phrase that we often use with our other families we work with and with ourselves is that we are doing the best we know how to do at the time. It’s also a good reminder that YOU are the expert on your child. Don’t ever let anyone try to tell you otherwise.
Serena: And I’ve also learned along the way to be a better advocate for my kids and to feel confident that I understand their needs better than anybody else, despite any “advice” handed out freely from others.
Tina: Free advice...you get what you pay for!
Serena: Oh my gosh, that’s so true.
Tina: What I have come to realize, especially, I was a young parent, is that I was doing the very best I knew how to do. And the more I knew, the better I was able to respond. Maybe getting closer to that “conventional parenting”, not really sure Serena. And I knew, so the more I knew, the better I was able to respond and I’d like to make a nod to our support people here. I got a lot of wonderful support from mental health professionals when we were kind of deep down in it, who helped me use my wisdom and boosted my parenting in ways that helped me feel like a more confident parent and feel less judged. I could hold my head a little higher and again, just feel a little bit less judged about the decisions I was making as a parent.
Serena: And I’ve found it helpful to share just a bit of my story with others when I’m dealing with judgment, whether it’s coming from myself or others. I think this is a good time to mention Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s a great book if you haven’t read it and in this book she talks about sharing your story with those who have earned the right to hear it. These are opportunities to unload and have someone help us hold that judgement. And I think that telling your story to that trusted person often helps lighten the load.
Tina: We might resemble that comment to each other, do we not?
Tina: I think we do.
Serena: We do.
Tina: I’m lucky to have you, Serena. So here are our messages for today:
Serena: YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU KNOW HOW TO DO.
Tina: We can only walk in our own shoes.
Serena: Some of the greatest judgement comes from ourselves.
Tina: And supportive people can help you with your judgement.
Serena: Thanks for listening.
Tina: If you like what you’re hearing, make sure to like, subscribe, leave us a review or/and visit our website at NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: Take good care of yourself while taking care of your people.
Tina: See ya next time.