Swistle has once again hit the nail on the head, most recently with her post about priorities and choices. Reading it led me on a tangential train of thought, beginning with Swistle's musings on finding the time to do what we love even at the expense of doing other, equally good things, and ending with what a friend and I were just talking about today while we were doing our grocery shopping.
We were buying baby food, and she kept apologizing about the fact that she felt compelled to buy organic while I was blithely stocking my cart with jars of Parent's Choice. "I hope you don't feel like I think YOU should buy it, too," she was saying. "It's just my thing! I don't judge people who don't care about organic stuff!" And I was laughing and saying, "I don't feel judged! I hope you don't feel judged by MY compulsion to dust everything once a week. That's just MY thing!"
Then we were comparing our shopping cart covers for the babies- hers is mainly of the germ-prevention kind, a barrier between Gabe and any icky surfaces. Mine is a giant pillowed contraption to keep Eli from hurting himself when he (inevitably) begins flailing around in fury, and also to make it a comfortable nap area if he feels so inclined. We both started sort of apologizing to each other then, too, reassuring one another that the other person's cart cover was perfectly nice and acceptable!
Why do we feel so compelled to defend our choices to other people? Why do we feel worried that they are judging us by choosing something different, or that they might feel judged by OUR different choice?
Well, I think it's because we DO compare ourselves to others, to a certain degree, all the time. We try not to, sometimes, and we are partially in denial about it because of our culture's emphasis on diversity and tolerance, but the universal truth is that people observe other people's lives and choices and compare them, favorably or otherwise, to their own. It is human nature.
Sometimes it's a good thing, and encourages us to explore and stretch ourselves. An example of this is a party I attended recently, where I observed the enormous supply of crafts the mom had for her two kids. As I admired her stash, I of course also felt guilty; I mentally chided myself that I "should" be doing more crafts with Addy. But then I dismissed the guilt, and decided I should do crafts only if I thought Adelay and I both WANTED to do more crafts.
A few days later, I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased, not an entire room full of supplies, but one simple project, which we did together the next day and enjoyed. I ended up doing most of it, though, and Addy got about ten minutes of enjoyment for an hour's worth of glitter cleanup. So I decided that art projects do not need to be an everyday part of our world, at least not right now. That is my choice, and I own it, and I do not apologize to anyone.
But there is, of course, a downside to this observation/judgement cycle. That's when we start deciding that our own values must be EVERYONE'S values. Because I enjoy scrapbooking, you must do it, too, or you are a thoughtless mom who doesn't cherish her kids' fleeting childhoods! Because I bake everything from scratch, I love my kids more than you moms who buy Little Debbies! Because I iron my kids' clothes before school every day, you are a slob who lets your kids go to school looking like ragamuffins! And so on.
It's just so lame and tired, all the one-upping and the self-righteousness when it comes to women's, and particularly moms', priorities. The facts are as follows: we all get twenty four hours. We all would like to do- and think we SHOULD do- about twice as much as we actually have time to do. We all have some money. Some of us have less than others. And we all have obligations and responsibilities. Some of us more than others. So we make judgement calls. We prioritize, and we do what we believe to be in the best interest of ourselves and our families and our kids and our pets and our bank statements and the environment. Sometimes all of those things can't get equal priority. Sometimes something has to give. Sometimes we are too tired and stressed to think too hard about it, so we make snap judgements ("Here! Have another fruit snack!" or "Let's just put it on the credit card!") that we might not necessarily be proud of later. Sometimes, for better or worse, we put ourselves first. There has to be give room for these moments. There has to be grace, from ourselves and from others.
So let's save the judging for the pedophiles and the crooked politicians, and cut some slack for each other.