On Being Judged as a Mom


I don’t think I truly ever gave motherhood a thought before I stumbled into it 11-1/2 years ago after the birth of my first daughter. I didn’t really know what how much my life would change after having kids. I was very young (in my opinion) when I had my first and I just wanted to do it all.

But I found out quickly that I couldn’t and over the years I’ve made decisions to enable to be a better parent, while not forgoing all my dreams, and unfortunately, I have been judged for them, even here on this blog. My original tag line was “For moms not ready to give up sushi for hot dogs,” meaning I have never wanted to stop pursuing things I’m interested in. While I spend a lot of time with my kids, I like to step out every now and then and see plays, films, catch art exhibits and more. I also travel alone sometimes, going on press trips that enable me to further that part of my career as a writer.

The judgements started getting thrown around as soon as I had kids. It all started when I was making a decision on whether to continue working full time. So many people felt so differently and I felt so conflicted about my own choice. I’ve been accused of doing too much. I’ve also been accused of traveling excessively.

I’ve been judged here, too. Once a post called “The Unintentional Opt Out,” in which I mourned the loss of a job I gave up after having my first child, prompted this response from a reader:

You mention “I” a lot in your blog. (and yes I do know its your blog) but does your husband not have a say? How does he cope when your off gallivanting round the country? I’m sure that if he’s a stay at home dad that it won’t be too much of a problem. But if he’s in full time work how does he balance his life when you’re not there? Having a family is about partnership and understanding. Understanding your other half and your kids and giving them as much support as you can. It looks by what you say in this blog that you go on “jollies” to get away as much as possible, not supporting your family.

Escaping to do the things you do, you should call your blog “culture single mom …. kids looked after by their dad”.

This could not have been further from the truth, and the comment burned, let me tell you. My husband was the first to disagree with the author of the comment. It was even worse when I realized we knew the person (vaguely). I responded the best way I could:

I started this blog because as important as motherhood is to me, I wanted to keep in touch with everything in life I love the most and I love inspiring other parents to do the same. As a parent, you can get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle and forget about yourself. I never “escape” – rather I include my family in everything that I do. On the rare occasion, I do travel for work or a conference, and I make sure that everything is under control in my absence and that my husband’s work load is not interrupted. He’s very supportive of my career and I of his.

I’ve always been here on my kids. I’ve worked from home so I could have a more flexible schedule, and I’ve taken time out to be at everything over the years. Everything! But the comments continue and I continue to feel judged, while doing the best I can.

Certain parts of my personal life have made it harder to go out recently and I’ve taken measures to go out less and focus on my home life. However, it’s hard to ignore that part of me that seeks and craves stimulation outside the house. So when I mentioned going to a play at the end of the week to someone on the phone last night and was told that I go out too much, avoiding my parental responsibilities, I nearly had a stroke.

Last weekend I went to an amazing lecture at a conference called Binder Com. It was a conference for women who write and one session was called Mothers Writing Motherhood. It was during this session that I listened to other moms just like me, who struggle with the everyday demands of being a mother and pursuing their dreams to be better writers. The session made me realize that I’m not alone in how I feel about being pulled in many directions. So much of what these women said resonated with me but writer Elizabeth Gold said something that remains with me:

“Moms, give yourself permission to get away from your children.”

She called it the “fuck it philosophy”.

Just because a mom wants to pursue what’s meaningful to her – whether it be or career or her interests, it doesn’t mean that we are purposely trying to stay away from our children. It just means that we want to be well-rounded, stimulated individuals who strive for a sense of balance that makes us feel more complete.

There were a lot of comments on that post to the reader I quasi knew that I referenced above (The Unintentional Opt Out), and one in particular resonated with me:

I, like culturemom, feel I made sacrifices in my career in order to be the mom I wanted to be, and sacrifices to my family in order to dream and act big in the world outside my family. My husband argues that we took a hit financially when I decided to work at home/start a business and while he appreciates my contribution as a mom, part of him wishes we had decided that I continue it’s my career and be in a better place financially now. I think that men, like women, struggle in this modern age…And one day we honor the parent in us and the next day (which may be years later) we find ourselves compelled to honor the businessperson in us…or the sexy carefree artist or …one day…. The grateful child. Marriage…parenting…work…life, the only known I can be sure if is that they call cycle…in and out…and if I am going to achieve happiness, I need to be prepared to cycle in and out with them.

I honor the part of me that seeks stimulation and gets satisfaction from events outside the home. The whole idea of this blog was to talk about what I do with my kids, and if you read regularly, you know how much I include my children and how often I am with them. But there is a part of me that needs to get away from time to time, and experience life as I once knew it.

At Binder Com, another woman on that fab panel that resonated me, Julia Fierro, said this:

“After I had children, I felt like I could do anything. There were moments of weakness but also empowerment.”

I feel the same way. Being a parent is empowering and I’ve been able to do things since my children were born I never even knew I could do. I’ve balanced jobs since they were babies. I’ve produced plays. My writing has been published on the Huffington Post and Yahoo Travel. I traveled around Vietnam with a friend. I started this blog which changed my life, and the life of my children.

One more quote from Binder Com, only because you’ll love this one. From Elisa Albert:

“Limitations enable us to define ourselves.”

Parenthood is a juggle and my kids need me more than ever as they get older, not less, and I know that. They’ve always come first and they will continue to forever more. I take my role as a mom very seriously, believe me, and sometimes my plans to pursue my own interests fail and I let them.

As a mom, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t…from everything to breastfeeding, working, leaving your kids alone, not being there for school events, sending your kids to school sick when you didn’t know they were ill, forgetting to pack lunch. The list goes on.

My suggestion? Don’t judge moms.

Give them credit for doing all they do.

Take a look at the total person.

And the kids.

But really, try not to judge.

We all do our best.

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  1. Sigh. I sometimes think us moms are expected to be perfect. When we said we could do it all, we never said we could do it all perfectly 😊

  2. I do think that many other moms read about the adventures of fellow moms who are travel writers and think we’re on one big vacation. And while I bring my kids/husband more often than not it’s absolutely not the same thing as going on vacation. There is work involved. When I get the kinds of comment that you do rather than take it too personally I explain to people how they can get started in the business. Start a blog, write for free to see how you like it and whatever you do don’t let your kids jump on the hotel bed before you get a picture. I really don’t hear much after that.

  3. Oh, Holly, I wish I could hug you right now. I’m so sorry to have missed BinderCon, but so happy you were able to go and glean all that fantastic wisdom. If only more people adopted the attitude of, “Well, that may not be how I’d do it, but guess what? I’m not her!” and hug people with diverse attitudes and approaches closer to them rather than pushing them away.


  4. I am so sorry about being judged by people that don’t even really know much about you. I do believe in having some time for ourselves and just be selfish even for a day. Because as for me, I am a stay-at-home-mom and having that ME time or Alone time is necessary. It keeps my sanity intact and I feel like I am more of a great and happy mama that way when I get to relax and have a mommy day off. That doens’t mean I want to escape from my family or from my obligation of being a mom, but we all need that break whether from work or from parenthood. It is good for our body, soul/spirit, and overall, we are a better person. Not cranky old mama. 🙂 Those are just my thoughts.

  5. I remember that other post and that rude, misogynistic comment. As you know, I travel often, work outside of the home (but I worked at home too for years) and I made it a point to have “a life” and not be “just a mom”. I would hate for my kids to think they really can’t have it all just to fit some idea someone else has about the way their life should be. They are well cared for, have all that they need (and want!) and they do extremely well in school. Most importantly, they are happy and I am happy. I find the ones who judge to be the ones who are missing something in their own lives and they need others to be just as miserable as they are. You are amazing and I am always in awe of the wonderful things you are involved in and doing. You are setting a great example for your children and you should never feel that you aren’t.

  6. I agree! There is no one perfect way to be mom. All the children are different and need different moms.

  7. To do you best is all that can be asked 🙂

  8. I love this post and I cannot believe someone left you that comment. So harsh. So judgmental. How can anyone assume she (or he?) knows all the circumstances of a marriage, home, or person. YIKES. You responded well, but I hate that you had to.

  9. Great post. I personally think that if you don’t get time to yourself (no matter how small or large…weekly bubble baths or trip with girlfriends), or make a conscious effort to enjoy the things you love that have nothing to do with marriage or having children… (photography, art or cooking classes)…you’re doing yourself a disservice and it could potentially have an effect on your overall happiness and ability to be a good wife and mother.

  10. Women can’t win. I had a post on Huffington Post a while back about how my marriage survived me being a stay-at-home mom, and I was accused of everything from prostitution to sending my husband to an early grave.

    We all have to figure out how to be mothers AND be happy with our lives. For you to be criticized for going to theater or working is just ridiculous. I was criticized for not earning money – equally ridiculous.

  11. Moms judge each other all the time it seems. In my opinion, people say negative things about other moms because they want to justify their own actions. There are many ways to parent and we have to do what’s right for ourselves and our family. I also think it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves. My husband and I take turns going out either friends or go on date nights. I think it’s important not to lose yourself when you become a parent.

  12. I do not think either parent should be judged for making decisions to do things with or without their kids.. my wife goes out and i watch the kids, i do the same.. sometimes its overnight.. since i work from home, people think the same thing bc my wife works crazy hours.. i tell them to mind their own biz..

  13. I know you just read my post about Madeleine Albright, because she said her harshest critics when her children were young were other women. They’d ask her why isn’t she in the school pickup line instead of solving world problems.

    We should all be kind and respectful of one another. I never understand what gives people the right to make judgments on one another. Shame on them. They do not walk in our shoes, and we have the RIGHT to decide for ourselves.

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