Mommy Wars and Yoga: Lay Down Your Judgement

Guest Post: by Chandra Whetstine

Two weeks ago in prenatal yoga, Jessica started the class with a discussion of judgement.  We talked about times we felt judged for our pregnancy or parenting choices and times when we had been judgmental ourselves.  These days the “mommy wars” are everywhere, and with so much parenting advice at our fingertips, it seems impossible to always make the right choices.  Everywhere we look, we feel judged.

It occurred to me that in this regard, parenting is a lot like yoga.  The first time I went to a yoga class I was furtively looking around at the other students, mostly to see if I was doing it right, but also secretly judging their form against my own.  Oh, are you supposed to be doing it like that?  She can’t even get her knee down, at least I can do that! Her downward dog is so perfect.  I must look ridiculous…

It is the same in parenting.  Seeking advice or guidance, we can find ourselves judging other moms.  I read that breast is best, how can she be bottle feeding? I would never grab my child’s arm like that in public! Did she really give her kid an iPad in a restaurant? In our own insecurity, or perhaps our ignorance, we mistake a right way of parenting for the right way of parenting, and somehow, we buy in to the culture that if we just work harder, if we just follow the right philosophy, we will be good moms.

In reality, we are all just built differently.  In yoga, perhaps I can get my knees down in bound angle pose but I couldn’t possibly touch my toes in a forward fold.  It is just how my body is made.  Someone else’s downward dog will always look better than mine, and I must learn to be okay with that.  Being a mom is the same.  Our individual personalities, experiences, and life circumstances inform our parenting choices.  It is just how we are made.  Perhaps I am a champion breast feeder, but my toddler watches TV while I nurse the baby.  Maybe you are the mom always ready to volunteer at school but can’t quite stop yelling at the dinner table. 

The thing is that both yoga and parenting happen in the moment.  You can study a pose, you can watch your teacher or a video, but until you are on the mat you don’t know what your form will look like.  In parenting, we can read all the books and ask all our friends, but we don’t really know how we will react to our toddler’s very public tantrum until we are in the moment.  Judging our own behavior – or that of others – based on theory is easy, but to put theory into practice is very, very difficult.

This isn’t to say that we can’t get better – at yoga and at parenting. I am sure if I did sun salutations every morning my downward dog would get at least slightly more presentable.  And if we make the same kind of effort at our parenting, we can change our ways there, too.  But the key is to keep our eyes on our own work.  My downward dog is never going to look good if I am constantly craning my neck to see how others are doing, and I am never going to be able to stop yelling at my kids if I am constantly comparing myself to mommy bloggers, Pinterest queens, and child development experts.

As in everything, it is about accepting ourselves for who and what we are today and at the same time growing into who we are becoming – as yogis and as mamas.