Saturday, April 14, 2012

A few thoughts on motherhood and not judging other moms

A friend recently shared with me this article at Salon about how much mothers label, criticize, and judge other mothers, and usually it's because they, like everyone, are insecure about their abilities themselves. She covered many different "groups" of moms and how they wage war on the others. In the end, she pleads for us to, in essence, "Stop it" (sound familiar from conference?).

Though not as comprehensive, and not so focused on work decisions, this article reminded me of parts of the Roundtable discussion at the Worldwide Leadership Broadcast from 2008. They also address the problem of mothers judging other mothers (or families judging other families). Their specific concern is that we often judge parents for when and how many kids they choose to have. Like the article, they also call for us to support every mother (and father), and for heaven's sake, let's not judge them!

Here are a few of the lines that are worth revisiting (the italics are mine, not theirs):

Sister Beck: There’s also the ward family. As we’ve mentioned, in every ward you’re going to have a spectrum of experience and challenges. Some of those women will be able to have children; some will be married; some will be widowed; some won’t. In reality there are a few women who will be able to have children and have a lot of them. And in that ward family we should rally around and support them. It’s a challenge to have a large family. I would certainly hope that no member of the Church would approach another sister in the ward and say, “You’re crazy for having another child,” but rather celebrate her ability and her desire to have them and say, “I’m supporting you. Let me do all I can to encourage and help you in that.”
Elder Oaks: I’m glad you mentioned that because we do get reports that some Latter-day Saints criticize other Latter-day Saints for having children. I remember early in our marriage when my wife June was pregnant with our fifth child, a very active sister in our ward said to her, “What are you trying to do, populate the world all by yourself?” And I was proud of June when she came right back with a response: “I can’t think of anyone better to do it.”
Elder Holland: And we all acknowledge—Sister Tanner touched on it—that there are issues of health, there are issues that are not materialistic. We’re not talking about money or political correctness or deference to society, we’re talking about legitimate gospel-oriented things that we watch and measure. That is all the more reason not to judge. We teach, we encourage, we rally, we cheer; within the context of the gospel we encourage people to seek that destiny that is theirs.
Sister Lant: Elder Holland, I wanted to just say a word about judging other people. We look at other people, and things are not always as they seem. We think it’s one way, but it isn’t always that way.
  We had a large family, and my husband was the bishop when all the children were still very young. I would work all day Saturday and all morning Sunday to get them to church, and I had to get them there early or we just didn’t even get there. We would line the whole bench—the whole center bench was filled with our children on the second row back—and we would be there before the meeting started.
   I remember one day a sister came up behind me and leaned over and said, “Sister Lant, if my kids were as good as yours and if it was as easy for me as it is for you, I would have a large family too.”
   Well, I started to cry,
and I cried clear through the whole meeting. And my husband kept looking at me like “What is wrong? What is wrong?” I was a mess. I completely had a come-apart. And it was because it wasn’t easy.
   We tend to judge one another. We judge harshly. Or we judge unfairly as we look at others—
Elder Holland: Unkindly.
Sister Lant: —unkindly. And we don’t really know what one another’s situations are. We just have to love each other.
Sister Tanner: I feel that we are so blessed in the Church to have the proclamation on the family. I think we can look to this as almost scriptural because it comes to us from the living prophets and apostles. And it does state there that the commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth as husband and wife remains in force.
  I remember when I was a young single adult and in my early married years that I heard that preached over the pulpit by apostles and prophets, and I was grateful for that continued counsel. I remember hearing them preach that we were to get married, to have children, and to get an education, sort of all simultaneously, as impossible as it sounds. And I think that maybe it does seem sort of impossible and that we have people who question and wonder about that.
   As I’ve thought about that commandment remaining in force, I really believe that it’s correct, and I believe that it requires of us great faith and great courage and often great sacrifice. I think it requires us to be in tune with the Lord to receive personal revelation, and I think it requires a pure heart so that we are not judgmental of other people who are exercising their faith and having their own personal revelation in regard to that commandment.


  1. I appreciate Sister Beck's mentioning of ward families having "a spectrum of experience and challenges." I think this is such a good reminder - we have no idea what demons others are fighting. Just because someone is active and fulfills their calling does not mean that they aren't sorrowing, struggling or hurting silently.

    I have been doing my own study of what motherhood means to me, right now in my life as a 34 year old dealing with recurrent pregnancy loss. This time right now is extremely hard - possibly one of the hardest of my life. But while in this fight, I am realizing that my situation is not unique. I believe all of us, as sisters in this church, have more kinship than we realize. The emotions I face while struggling to have children are similar to those my single friends face in desperately wanting a husband, or my mom faced as a divorced mom after a 34-year temple marriage.

    I think the reminder to not compare and to not judge is a good reminder for all of us!

  2. Thanks for your article! I found your site after writing my own thoughts about mommmy-judging. I am a new mom and am a little bewildered by the trend. I like the words "rally" and "cheer" that Holland used. That's what we really should be doing for each other. Thanks!

  3. You're quite welcome! I'm a bit bewildered as well. :) We're all together in the more broad mission of enjoying the work of the gospel, (or if not LDS, the broader vision of enjoying children and motherhood) and we all need to lift where we stand, wherever that might be. I especially liked Sis. Tanner's comment that: "I think it requires us to be in tune with the Lord to receive personal revelation, and I think it requires a pure heart so that we are not judgmental of other people who are exercising their faith and having their own personal revelation in regard to that commandment." :) Even if someone were to really be "off" in their decisions, we'd get a lot further towards helping them by trusting them and focusing on the joint, broader work of the gospel.

    My two-cents anyway. :) Thanks for the comment!


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