A Sequel to Bunnies or Goldfish: The Great Lie of Judgment

bunnies and goldfish 2

Dear Courtney,

Wow, what a week it has been.  Last Sunday I sat down to bang out a blog post without the faintest idea what a big nerve it would hit.  We are small, newish blog, so I think it was a surprise to both of us when Bunnies or Goldfish started spreading like, well, bunnies.  As of this very second that post has been read 130,000 times!  That is amazing, incredible, and hard to believe, and I know, Courtney, you join me when I say THANK YOU to every person who has read or shared that post.

But blogs are short, and there’s something more I’d like to say.  Something I couldn’t even put my finger on until a couple of days ago.

In my last post I called parents to stand up under the pressure of judgment, to stand tall and proud in the decisions they make for their families.

It is all well and good to beat a drum and call everyone to give up judgment, to give up defensiveness, to give up the pressure of silent superiority.  Some of us will accept the call and move forward with a weight lifted from our shoulders, but some of us (dare I say most?) will ring the bell and cry “here, here”, and then wilt under the critical eye of some stranger in the grocery store after we shriek impatiently at our lagging child.

I discovered this week that I’m in the latter category.  When 100,000 people read something you’ve written, a few are bound to hate it, and a few of those are bound to comment– meanly.  I had several one such commenter; she wrote, “Can tell this is written by a woman who’s never REALLY had to worry much [sic].”

Her comment isn’t true.  My life hasn’t been some Shakespearean tragedy, but it has certainly been wrought with difficulties, challenges and worries.  I have my share of baggage and skeletons.    When I read this comment my heart stopped.  I felt horrible.  I texted you that she “shook my confidence”.

The cold fact is people will judge.  No blog or call to action will change that.  People will look down their nose.  They will feel (and act) superior.   Humans are emotional creatures, so can be hard not to internalize criticism.

But why did that women’s comment bother me so much?  Especially with the barrage of encouragement and at-a-girls that also came?

I’ll tell you, it’s because, like all good lies, it reeked, just a bit, of truth. My life is good right now.  My kids are both healthy (which was not the case a year ago); my husband is employed; we aren’t rolling in the dough, but we’re solvent; no major tragedies have happened recently, and there’s nothing visible on the horizon (knock wood).  Right now, I don’t worry a lot.

And so her comment scratched at the insecurity that lies, not so dormant, inside; the voice that whispers, “Who can relate to you; you are too privileged to be relatable.”  “Who are you to give advice or call others to action.”  “Look at what a petty, trite person you are.  THIS is the problem you write about?”

Yesterday my husband handed me the book he’s reading, “Read these pages,” he said, “So we can talk about it.”  He does this often, so I wasn’t surprised by the request, but right now he’s reading a book called First Break All the Rules:  What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently.  I was confused.  It was hard to see what I could bring to a conversation about that book.  But it was only three pages, so I agreed.  Those three pages were a chapter called “The Third Key: Focus on Strengths”.  The big idea of the chapter is that managers should spend more energy exploiting an employees strengths than trying to improve their weaknesses.  The book claims that when a typical manager reviews an employee, she will briefly mention the person’s strengths and then primarily focus on their weakness or areas of growth, and this, according to the book, is a bad method.

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.

But then, eureka.

As I read the end of the chapter, where the author discuss the impact of the typical manager’s review, he says,

“…you ended up feeling as though you were being defined by those things you did not do rather than those things you did.  And that felt awful.” (emphasis mine)

Hmmm, well I’ll be.  Let’s see,  if we replace manager with “judgy parent” and employee with “judged parent” know what we get?  We get a reason to ignore the judgement, or mommy wars, or whatever you call it, that is far greater than just “doing what’s best for your family”.

That quote emphasizes the trouble with allowing other people’s judgments to infiltrate you.  Even when there’s truth behind the critique, when you let it in, you also allow in a lie — the lie that says you as a mother (or wife, women, friend) are defined what you lack rather than by what you offer.   That’s a lie.  And you do yourself (and your children) a disservice if you buy-in to it.

This doesn’t mean you can’t learn and grow.  It doesn’t mean you can’t take constructive criticism and improve yourself.  What it does mean is that more than just standing proud in your decisions, you must shrug off judgment to keep it from creating a lie you accidentally start to believe– the lie that says “I am not enough”.  That lie will kill you.  It will kill your spirit.  It will kill your joy.   It will put you on a path of failure, as you strive in vain to achieve perfection.

So when you feel judged, whether it is real or imagined, take a moment to sort out what is true what isn’t.  Because the sum of you as a mother cannot be defined by a moment or a decision.  And it certainly can’t be defined by someone else!



If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy these:

Unfat and Healthy:  Rewards and Punishments

I’m a Mom Who Yells… 

To New Mothers

Kids Keep You Young? Um, NO





37 thoughts on “A Sequel to Bunnies or Goldfish: The Great Lie of Judgment

  1. April K. says:

    I also rarely comment on blogs, but I was feeling judged and defensive about the Goldfish vs. Bunnies issue recently and this blog was the dose of medicine I needed to “let it go.” There are much more important things than ‘what snacks are better’ to worry about in the world of parenting. I really appreciate the point you made about people making choices from different places. I believe most people just want validation for the choices they’ve made, but I think we all need to be better at accepting each other (and ourselves)… we should be good listeners and compliment each other more often, saying things like “good for you,” and “what a great mom you are,” instead of trying to be heard ourselves. Be proud of you; we don’t need to prove anything to anyone. We all make one hundred good decisions every day that far outweigh the one or two not-so-good ones. Just think of the messages we’re sending to our own children when they see us listening, praising, and accepting others… that will stay with them a heck of a lot longer then the crappy snacks we gave them ;).

  2. justanothermommy says:

    I have never heard of these bunny crackers but I would bet my grocery budget they are more expensive than the fish… and I remember a time when Wonder brand white bread was considered wholesome… “not so!” scream the new gluten fearmongers! It’s all trend and marketing. (no to say gluten sesitivity isnt real, just saying we havnt all got celiac lol) Meanwhile, a friend of mine has, with her husband, raised a delightful young man whom they adopted out of the foster care system. (pretty sure they fed him fish crackers and fast food, too!) Why was this wonderful kid in foster care? Because his bio mother BURNED him with hot water in a tub. BURNED HIM! Much of his body is scarred, (yes, by hot water!) and without the unconditional loving care of his REAL (although not bio) parents, who knows what the condition of his soul would be today? I say any mother not abusing her kid should be treated with comraderie (a “hey, we get it and we are all in this together” attitude) by us all. Its time for all moms to view parenting choices with a new perspective. Without judgment, and with a huge helping of GRACE.

  3. Paula says:

    Natalie! This is your (sadly former) neighbor across the street! I’m so glad I learned of your blog (thanks to Amy).

    I love what you’re writing and am now a follower. Can’t wait to go back and read it all.

    Thank you for doing this, and for being you!!

  4. Jessica says:

    Both of these posts really, really resonated with me and I just want to thank you for writing them. I think this one was even better because the points you made are SO true and I’ve never thought about them this way. So thank you!! I’m glad you were able to spin that negative comment into proving an awesome point.

  5. tkuhel says:

    I stopped blogging because one commenter was really awful and I felt I didn’t have a thick enough skin to handle those kinds of comments. Kudos to you for rising above it. Maybe I will find it in me to take it up again. I’ve only read two of your posts and they both struck a chord with me,

  6. Shaun says:

    I really liked both of these articles. There is a small part of us that does worry about being judged no matter what we do for our kids. I’m judged all the time because I sent my son to daycare when he was two months old and didn’t breast feed. Oh well. He is now 16 yrs. old and it didn’t phase him. Would I have liked to have been home with him, yes but was it possible, no. Not only that, if it had been, there is a part of me that says I need to help my family out and a nagging side of me that says what if something were to happen to my husband? Would I be able to get a job, would I be able to support us? Yes, I can be there for my son and I can support us. It took me a long time to not feel bad about my parenting choice. Thanks for writing these. Great job!

  7. Jennifer Reisinger says:

    I have never commented on any article that I have ever read before, but felt compelled on this one (these two!) because it resinated with me so much! I too am guilty of both over-judging myself and other moms over seemingly silly things like water vs. juice box (even which kind of juice box!) or organinc vs. non-organic. Will try to be much more cognizant of this from now on – for all of our own good 🙂 I also love the comment that someone posted about focusing more on the positive and less on the negative with our children – my 6 and 4 year old could definitely benefit from this! Keep up the great blogs! I will be signing up to follow – which I have also never done before 🙂

  8. Colin and Simone's Mom says:

    Nice work, says the mom who stopped at Taco Bell on the way to the park. 😉

    It’s easy to feel that unless your life is fraught with tragedy, you are lucky enough to not have any worries. Unfortunately, just having a child brings a giant suitcase of worries. It’s having a supportive group of parents around you that really matters.

  9. Beth says:

    I’m not a parent, but this post still really resonated with me. As someone in a career field where I’m constantly being critiqued (it’s the nice word for “judged,” you know), it helps to remember to focus on what I do right and how I can do those things better, rather than my weaknesses. Excellent post!

  10. Robin says:

    This quote ““…you ended up feeling as though you were being defined by those things you did not do rather than those things you did. And that felt awful.” really resonated with me, but not for the reason you wrote about. For me, it defines what I am trying to do as a parent: to celebrate the good things our kids do right without constantly focusing on the things they don’t. I had a talk with my 6-year-old son about just that this evening, where I asked him what he did right and what he did wrong, and I tried to focus on what he’s doing right. And it seems like that approach results in more positive behavior.

    Your results may vary. 😉

  11. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for both your posts! There’s something comforting about reading something that makes youthink to yourself ” guess I’m not the only one.” Will be a new follower:)

  12. Florida mom says:

    I’ve read that book!! great book. And wonderful advice!!! Gosh it hits home. I have a 2 and 4 year old. 4 years of trying to figure out if I’m doing this right. In my heart I feel like I am giving it my all, and my kids know they’re loved.

  13. M Marlene Terhune Geiger says:

    Thank you for both posts. I’m sitting here crying…hard. (good tears) I am a 60 year old Mother of 2 grown men. When I visit them and see what marvelous parents they and their wives are I come away feeling like I was such a bad Mommy. But you see, I can’t go back home and make changes. Let me just say I KNOW my sons love me. But I want to warn you that the evil comparison monster will always want to raise it’s ugly head. I liked the Trainer Driver’s Wife’s comment: “Usually I consider my week a success if we all survived it in one piece!” Now at 60 I consider my life as a Mother a success that we all survived in one piece.” But also I am a successful Mother because my sons are wonderful parents. Blessings to you. Your words are a healing balm.

  14. Libby says:

    Amazing job! I’m one of those who judges myself harshly, but I’m also guilty of judging others. I don’t have an “exclusive organic” budget but I feel like im poisoning my daughter or something when I buy non organic foods, or let her watch alot of tv instead of playing outside all summer because its in the 100s and we have no grass, or letting her go to the store with in combed hair and mismatched clothes she picked out, or her many tardies at school from turbulent mornings with screaming matches (she is NOT a morning person)
    But I’m a guilty judger as well, I really need to stop judging myself and others and worry about more important things, and like you said, focus on my strengths.

  15. Brenda says:

    You hit the nail on the head with both posts. Your detractor must have just been feeling frustrated. I will tell you that there is a terminal cancer diagnosis and more than a few deaths, a job loss and a couple of other life catastrophes in this family and I am prone to the exact concerns you talked about. Maybe even more so…I feel other parents’ eyes on me even more now, wondering if every parenting decision I make is because of the C.A.N.C.E.R. You did ease my burden and now I will make a conscious choice to be more complimentary and accepting of the choices of other parents to try to ease their feelings. After all, we are all parents – let’s help each other out. 🙂

  16. K Petry says:

    I hesitate to say this but for someone to leave a negative comment on what I found to be a self reflecting post makes them “judgy” right? I loved both of your posts and didn’t take them personal or as “attacks” but was relieved because I think it’s a feeling all parents have at some time and you did a great job making it clear that what’s best for one isn’t best for all. Thanks!

  17. Eric says:

    Maybe a future blog post can compare the nutrional value of the Peppridge Farm goldfish against those organic thingies. I bet they are really similar. I even bet the Target version or the Wal-Mart versions are relatively the same.

    Some folks just need to mind they own damed business.

    • Amy says:

      I have to reply because, I actually compared the Bunnies to the Goldfish, because I was trying to not feel guilty for letting my son eat the Goldfish after a Mom wouldn’t let my son share them with her son as she pulled out the Bunnies for her son, and they were almost exactly the same. I believe if I am remembering correctly the Goldfish had 2 or so, less calories and that was the only difference nutritionally. The big reason people choose the Bunnies over the Goldfish I believe is that they are organic. Both are all natural cheese cracker (even the colored ones they are colored with fruit and veggie juices).
      After working with children for 10 years and seeing children go without clean clothes, loving caregivers and food in general (the only meal they would get is the free lunch at school) I have always felt treating a parent like a bad parent because of what they are feeding the child seems very wrong at least that child is being fed. As long as the child is fed, clothed and loved it doesn’t matter whether it is brand name clothes and organic produce or hand me downs and McDonald’s you are a great parent!

  18. andthreetogo says:

    Congratulations on your post doing so well! That is fantastic. I often wish one of my posts would do that well, but then I worry about the people that like to leave mean comments. You handled it gracefully and I am impressed. Great posts… both of them!

  19. valeriebelgium says:

    I’m telling you, don’t mess with the bunnies/goldfish!
    No seriously, we all know there’s much worse things in this world, but I enjoy reading this blog, even if I am the ridiculous mom you talked to at the park about the goldfish/bunnies 🙂 I’m sure there’s a lot of moms recognizing themselves in that blog post and felt encouraged by it…or not.
    But you don’t need to justify yourself on weather you’ve had bigger issues in life than the ridiculous goldfish/bunnies. I read this blog to get a laugh, get some courage but mostly for the fact that I’m not alone dealing with these minor, funny and pesky situations. Others might read it for different reasons and that’s ok too! Please continue with this blog, it’s great!

    • momupsidedown5 says:

      Valerie! I’m soooo glad you commented! I wanted to reach out to you after I wrote the first one, but I didn’t even have your name! I’m glad you enjoyed the posts! I’d had the idea for a while, but our conversation at the park brought it all together for me! I can honestly tell you and couldn’t have written these posts without our convo! Hope to see you again
      around the rainbow slide! 🙂

  20. Swish Printables says:

    I’ve loved both posts. I didn’t comment on the original post because I’ve been the mom explaining why I came to a play date with a half eaten bag of vanilla wafers and some cheese-it’s, while other moms are sharing blueberries, watermelon, cheese and other wholesome foods. I’ve been the mom who also feels like I need to apologize to my FRIEND because my daughter is wearing a two piece that is one size too small (pick your battles, right? She’s 4 not 14… And that’s what she wanted to wear.).

    I am commenting today because the book you referenced is a great one. The author is also a great speaker – with tips that are relevant for “life”. And managing relationships.

    I’m a new fan of yours for sure! Keep doin what you’re doin! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s