I Wish I Could Turn It Off.

Swistle wrote an amazing piece about the Grocery Store Guessing Game, about how some of us – either consciously or unconsciously – gaze into a stranger’s cart at the grocery store and try to assume their life by the contents of the buggy.  And it’s amazing, what we all assume by a buggy or by other circumstances – school drop-offs, bus stops, coffee houses – and how often we never know the whole story.  How could we, right?

Man, I am horrible about this.  A lot of it is Mommy Guilt associated, because I naturally assume that no one has it as hard as Working Mom/ME.  Especially Perfectionist Working Mom.  Geez, she is quite the stickler and it is NOT an easy road for her.  So you ladies who lunch are CLEARLY shirking your duties.

(But you’re not.  PEOPLE HAVE TO EAT.  I could eat too, if I really really wanted to.)

See?  I judge.  I judge, usually with a SNAP!, and BOOM! it’s solidified.

I work on it, I really, really do.  But I’m not always successful.  And I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

I’ve been assumed the mother of children who aren’t mine.  Before I was even a stepmom, I often took care of a friend’s little boy.  He had light hair and he was youngish, and people ALWAYS assumed he was mine. 

I’ve been assumed to be a master chef.  Sure, I like to cook.  That does not – as my family will hurriedly assure you – guarantee that everything I make will be a masterpiece.  Or even edible. 

I’ve been assumed to be a diva.  Um, I am a perfectionist.  With OCD.  But I am not rude and I am not dishonest and I am not unwilling to work for the perfection.  Also, I’m a lot of fun.  Divas are the opposite of all this.

I’ve been assumed to be skinnier. An ex-coworker of mine, who had moved across the country with his job, keeps up with the blog and we got to chatting online one night and he saw a recent picture of me.  “You used to be way skinnier,” he said.  “The way you talk about exercise and nutrition, I assumed ..” Thanks, man.  Back atcha.

But as much as these happened, I still can’t not judge.  I WISH I COULD TURN IT OFF, but I can’t.  And when I hear a SAHM talk about how she has no time.. and her only child is in school, you know, for 7 periods a day .. my head explodes.  EXPLODES.  Especially when 1) what a gift! to be able to stay at home! WOULD LOVE THAT GIFT! and 2) MAYBE LAY OFF OF THE FACEBOOK.  Look, I’ll admit that I’d probably be a lousy SAHM – not that I wouldn’t love the opportunity to prove that theory – but I know (KNOW!) that I’d be rocking the time-management aspect.

Anyway.  I had no point to this.  Go visit Swistle and talk about snap judgements you’ve made based on circumstances, or if you’ve had one made about you.

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24 Responses to I Wish I Could Turn It Off.

  1. Kristina October 5, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Oh, I do the same thing and feel AWFUL about it. If I’m being honest, I HATE the whole “mommy wars” thing, but I still find myself envious of SAHMs, and I constantly think of all the time I would have. But, like you, I’m pretty sure I would suck at it and it is harder to get things done when kids are bugging you. But the parents whose kids are in school full-time and they still complain about no time? Yeah, that I don’t get.

    • Sarah Lena October 5, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      @Kristina, and I should clarify (and I think you’ll agree) that “I don’t get” it because I don’t have anything to base it on. I’ve never done it. Maybe I *don’t* know how much happens in a day.

      • Kristina October 5, 2011 at 11:26 am #

        @Sarah Lena, TOTALLY. I’m sure it’s hard to manage time when you’re not working, and I don’t mean it at all as a criticism or to undermine how hard SAHM moms work, but but a whole day with no kids and no work? To me, it feels like I could get a week’s worth of stuff into that one day :)
        Kristina wants you to read ..The ABCs of ME

  2. TheBookMamma October 5, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Yikes. As a WAHM who gets paid to Facebook (and implement other marketing strategies) for other businesses, I have people ask me all the time why I sit on Facebook all day. Snap judgement much? Sure, it’s pretty cushy and doesn’t bring home very much bacon. But I think we can all agree some bacon is better than just one piece of bacon or maybe even a second helping of bacon is better than just one helping and… I LOVE BACON. I also love being able to have recreational money for my kids to take piano lessons, or for our family to go on vacation, or for me to go to lunch with a friend without feeling guilty about contributing to my family income. Necessary stuff? No. Quality of life stuff? Absolutely.

    Sometimes I think Uninformed Snap Judgements are one of the reasons our country is in such a decisive state right now. They are a close cousin to stereotypes and even other nastier issues. I struggle every day with it and have to constantly remind myself to “always assume positive intent”, because to do otherwise just creates misery in most cases. Maybe that makes me naive. It’s a fine line.

    • Sarah Lena October 5, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      @TheBookMamma, Wow, yikes is right. SEE? I had the same thing myself when I was doing freelance stuff on social media. But to clarify – WAHM is one thing. Absolutely. Any bacon is good bacon. Even when bacon = strictly bacon. My SNAP was against (admittedly, a very specific situation of) a SAHM complaining that she had limited time.

      But MAN, you should see her Farm in Farmville.

      WHICH, I KNOW, I SHOULD NOT EVEN BE THIS JUDGEY. I just am not good at this.

      • Diana October 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

        LOL…Ah…farmville. You just caused me to spit out my tea on my shirt. DAMN IT.
        Diana wants you to read ..A Glee-View

  3. Julie October 5, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I have a friend who posts daily on Facebook about going to play tennis and a variety of other things and all I can think is, “Gee, I wish I had time for fun.” But, no, instead, I work because we can’t afford for me not to. I want to stay home with my baby but it isn’t an option for us. I don’t doubt that the SAHM is busy caring for her kids and her household. Just my few weeks on maternity leave showed me that. But I don’t think it can be argued that the SAHM is any busier or any less busy than the working mom. I think we are all busy just in different ways and with different things. Where I really think the issue comes in is with the stress level we each feel and what is causing that stress. It was much easier to get food on the table and get kids from point A to point B when I didn’t have to be at work. Now I have to juggle all of that plus my work responsibilities plus worry about the care my child is receiving when I am not around.

    • Sarah Lena October 5, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      @Julie, and I have no doubt that SAHMs look at us Working Moms and think, “Man, I wish I could get away for eight hours a day and be a grown-up with other grown-ups.” Cause I have NO DOUBT that I’d be that way.

  4. Linnea October 5, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Yeah, I… also with the snap judgement thing. When a friend had a baby, and took a year off from teaching to stay home with him, I was really confused when she put him in daycare for half-days at one point.

    BECAUSE I HAVE NO KIDS. I didn’t understand that she might need baby-free time to do stuff. Somehow, I got internally snarky about her not having enough time for her own kid… HOW HORRIBLE! I’ve since understood a little better, and see, this is why the judging sucks, but still, hard to turn off, EVEN WHEN there is no basis for comparison.

    Me, with the no kids, can’t even begin to understand how that works.

    Of course, I have a fetus now, and we’re looking HARD at our budget to see if I can be a SAHM or a WAHM or something, and I’m just… HOW DO YOU DO IT? Either way? How do you devote all that time to the care of a small crying person and not talk to grown-ups? How do you put in 8+ hours at an office and STILL do all the mom stuff?!?

    You guys… I have no idea… NONE…
    Linnea wants you to read ..Home is where my Grandma lives

    • Sarah Lena October 5, 2011 at 11:37 am #

      @Linnea, You know, what’s funny is that The Situation Is What You Make It, and somehow we all find the energy and the wherewithall to make it Amazing.

      Okay, not all of us. But most of us. Everyone here, anyway.

      Last January, we had a snowstorm hit that shut down our city for a full week. NO DAYCARE. So it was Tony and I alone most days, and I was still working, and by the third day, we just sat and stared at eachother.

      I know those were difficult and rare circumstances, but it really solidified that I MIGHT NOT COULD MAKE IT as a SAHM/WAHM.

  5. Zoot October 5, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    FIRST: JUDGING

    This is my theory: It’s a survival thing. We judge someone who has made a decision different from us, because it helps us cope with ours. FOR EXAMPLE – I have a friend who’s house is always immaculate. IMMACULATE. But she never exercises so I get all judgey like, “Well, I think my health is more important than my baseboards.”

    But deep down? I don’t really feel so snotty about it. I’m just saying to make me feel better about my own dirty baseboards, you know? Just like how I look at SAHMs now and think, “But my kids will grow up knowing what a working female looks like.” But when I was a SAHM? I looked at Working Moms and said, “But they’re missing the best years!” I didn’t really believe any of it (grin) I just said it to help me cope.

    SECOND: Time Management As SAHM

    I know I’ve declared this officially on my own blog before, but I’ll do it here too. (grin) I get much more done at home as a Working Mom than as a SAHM. I’ve gone back and forth in several variations with different combos of kids. The hardest, by far, was Working/College/SingleMom to One Child. But after that? It was the Stay At Home With Two Kids at home thing (And one teen in school) because I felt like all day I was removing evidence of what we had just done. Picked up toys we played with. Washed dishes we ate off of. Folded clothes we washed because we spilled food when we were eating. So the big picture in my life made no progress, you know? I didn’t get BIG stuff done, any EXTRAS because I was just undoing/doing all day.

    Now, as a Working Mom – when me and the kids get home after a long day? Playroom: Clean. Dishes: Same as when we left (mostly clean). Art supplies: Still put up. So I can get home and do something extra, like go run.

    Does that make sense? And maybe that’s just me, but I had to keep order somehow and felt like if I didn’t pick up/clean up as we finished an activity, I would let it get too far out of hand. And my GOD, my kids are messy. (They get that from me.)

    • TotallyNotZoot October 5, 2011 at 11:40 am #

      JEEZUS, Kim. WHY YOU TALK SO MUCH?

    • Sarah Lena October 5, 2011 at 11:41 am #

      @Zoot, OOOOH. I didn’t even CONSIDER the fact that if I leave my house clean, it remains that way until I return eight hours later. That’s a valid point.

      It is TOTALLY a survival technique. Because there is no IDEAL situation, save Sister Wives mentality.

  6. Nik-Nak October 5, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    I do the SAHM thing four daysd a week (work the other three). For me, personally it isn’t hard. I only have one very well behaved kid though so you must keep that in mind.
    I find it harder on the days that I work to come home and clean and cook and spend time with the family and find some me time than on the days when I am home all day. I get alot more done in a stay at home day than I do on work days on the home front. That being said, I would HATE staying home all day every day. On Christmas vacation, when I have five days home in a row, by day three I’m asking when I can go back to work. Mommy guilt does play a huge role in my life though as I alwaus look at full time SAHM and imagine if their kids feel more loved or complete or something. It’s always a ‘grass is greener’ mentality for me.
    Nik-Nak wants you to read ..Charley Waaaahahahhhhhh

  7. Diana October 5, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Yeah, Imma hafta say, (she says all ghetto philly style) that SAHM’s, especially of little one’s, don’t have spare time. All the things you pay someone else to do for your children while you’re at work, they just do on a regular basis. Now I hate comparing working mom’s to SAHM’s because really? TWO DIFFERENT BEASTS. As a woman that currently works and is about to have a child? I cannot imagine how hard it is for you to go to work, come home, cook and do chores and then somehow find time to be with your children. I can’t conceive that.

    And it’s not for everyone…the SAHM thing. It takes its own special set of skills (the ability to not strange your child even after a long whiny tempertantrum filled day…or days)

    Now, I can see how the SAHM thing with OLDER children can leave you wondering why those mom’s are so “busy” but I don’t really have a good answer for that. I can tell you that I’ve known a lot of mom’s who didn’t go back to work because even though the kids were grown, they still had soccer and ballet and needed help with homework and got out of school at 2:30 pm and needed this and that and on top of ALL of that there are still those chores.

    I CAN tell you that I was never EVER bored (after the first month) when I was just a SAHWife because I made a schedule and I volunteered. Then I actually got to spend time with my hubs when he was home, so it worked for us.

    Also, (why am I writing a book?) “busy” is relative. I am 4 1/2 months pregnant, taking three classes, working full time AND taking pictures for people. I feel like I’m going to pop. POP. In fact I would make a case that I am literally the BUSIEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD. But then you (you overachiever you) do a lot of all that stuff and you have real live children that like…need things. So yeah. Your busy and my busy are different, but they’re still busy to each of us respectively.

    Dunno. Just my two sense :)
    Diana wants you to read ..A Glee-View

    • Diana October 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      @Diana, In other news…I capitalize WAY too much (damn I did it again…fjdkaljad)
      Diana wants you to read ..A Glee-View

  8. Michelle Smiles October 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I have something that feels like survivors guilt. I’m an older mom (I’m 39 with a 5yr old and a 3 yr old) who worked HARD up until becoming a mom. I had 3 jobs and went to grad school in my 20’s (see me justifying my current existence? Like I earned it or something). I KNOW I am lucky to be a SAHM and I feel guilty. I never complain about being too busy. I do occasionally complain that there are certain tasks I just can’t get done with children at home but those are rare things. Now that I have 1 in school every day and 1 in preschool 2 days for a few hours, I feel like a lazy ass. I love having a few hours to myself (solo parenting for the past 5 months – see, justifying again).

    I will say that my time management skills as a SAHM suck. I work best under pressure and am a procrastinator – neither is conducive to being a really great SAHM.

    I will go back to work once both girls are in school full time. I quit working because I am a social worker and full time day care plus parking (I worked downtown Pgh at the time) would have cost 68% of my take home pay and we decided we had worked hard to become parents (adoption) so it wasn’t worth it.

    And (warning: another justification) I make small sacrifices. I can’t afford Starbuck’s – it is a once every 6 weeks treat. Dinner out and take out had to be scaled way back. New clothes NEVER happen for me. I can’t remember the last pair of shoes that I purchased that didn’t flip or flop. I had to give up my favorite hair products (oh how I miss my Bumble & Bumble hair thickening spray at $24.95 a bottle). I’ve had 1 manicure in the past 6 years. I get my hair cut every 8 months instead of 8 weeks. None of those are big deals – all first world “problems” and totally worth the pay off of getting to not wear pants every day and being at home with my kids. Just sayin’. (Defensive, thy name is Michelle. LOL)

  9. Jesabes October 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I was home for 12 weeks on maternity leave. I went back to work 3 weeks ago and the state of my house makes me want to weep. My current fantasy is calling in sick so I can clean my house all day. That is a TERRIBLE FANTASY. But one of my favorite things about maternity leave was having the time to (quickly) clean every room every day. It was just little stuff – picking up, putting things in their place, washing a few dishes. I have a really good baby, though, (my second) who let me do that. No cleaning happened during my first maternity leave.
    Jesabes wants you to read ..Pet peeve: wanting to be #1

  10. bessie.viola October 5, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Yup, totally guilty of this two. I think it’s probably all relative, because everyone’s “busy” looks different, but I give the SAME side-eye as you when I see posts about how terribly busy people are. It just seems like a constant game of one-upmanship which I guess I am joining just by GIVING the side-eye. Whoops.

    And the Farmville comment? Totally made me crack up right out loud. Because DUDE SO TRUE.
    bessie.viola wants you to read ..driving away

  11. K October 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Because Ezra and Iris are more tan than I am, I have had multiple people (in our not-so-small, but very whitey ford city) ask me if they are “mine” or adopted.

    Um.

    If I adopted them, they’d still be mine. And, really? There is no room in your mind for any other initial reaction/judgment upon seeing slightly less white children with a very pale mother that they’re not hers biologically? You really should think before you speak.

    As a result, my response tends to be very condescending in tone.
    K wants you to read ..Idyllic apples

  12. HereWeGoAJen October 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    You know, I think a lot of moms feel guilty about the choices they’ve made so we judge others to feel better about ourselves. I know I always feel guilty that I don’t bring in any money. I’m not really a judger about stay at home vs. working, but I judge about a lot of other stuff. Mostly parenting choices. Even if I totally KNOW better and I totally KNOW I will eat my words someday. At least I don’t judge out loud, only in my own head. That makes it better, right?

  13. Brigitte October 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Yeah, people assume I’m some kind of amazing baby-whisperer, but really I just got lucky with the most good-natured baby in the world (except when he’s overtired). And people probably assume I’ve got a lot of free time because I stay at home, and babies sleep a lot, and I post a lot of pictures on Facebook. And all that’s true, but really, Facebook and your blog and a couple other blogs are the only things that keep me sane enough and calm me down between hour-of-crying-from-baby-who-fights-sleep and start-editing-furiously-to-make-some-bill-paying-money-before-baby-wakes-back-up. And I’m trying hard not to judge parents who text or do other little thingies on their phones while their kids are crying/screaming/kicking/hitting, but that’s really hard for me.

  14. Courtney October 5, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    I judge SAHM’s who whine and complain about not having any time. I get frustrated when they then announce how they’ve cooked this amazing meal from scratch. Yeah well I just got home from working a 10-12 hour day and do not have any brain power to think about what in the world will be cooked for dinner. And updating facebook? If it’s not done on my phone while I take a quick pee, then it’s not happening. My facebook news feed is blown up with the whines and complaints of others. I judge them for being so sad that they live everything out through facebook. I judge and I do it all the time and I wish I could stop. I need a 12 step program or something.

  15. TheJBO October 6, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I don’t feel bad about judging. I judge all the time. Judge, judge, judge.

    Whether being a SAHM or WM, I judge people who completely ignore a child’s bad behavior in public. It’s not easy for anyone, but when your little “miracle” is banging together two steak knives at the dinner table across from us in a bar area and singing The Wiggles at the top of his lungs, or when you’re little “god send” is screaming at you “TRANSFORMERS!” in the middle of Dollar General while you just casually stroll down the isle looking for laundry detergent… I judge. OH I judge.

    I don’t care how tired you are from hustling crack all day. Make your kid SHUT UP. Your child is a burden on society. I’m already paying for it with my tax dollars, I shouldn’t have to pay for it with my ears and sanity as well.

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