Mom judging and what Baby Dove got right and wrong

my mom judging face

You all may or may not remember a while back I was talking about how everything felt like hurry up and wait. That there was a rush of activity, and then nothing. Well, ever since we heard congratulations at the consulate, it’s pretty much been 100% rush and a whole lot of stress. I will write about all of it soon, I promise, but first I want to talk about mom judging and Baby Dove. You see, only a couple days after we heard “congratulations” at the consulate, I was flown down to Cape Town like a celebrity for the South African launch of Baby Dove. It was a wonderful event that allowed my amazing mom tribe to all be in the same room for one last time before we disperse around the world.

It was also special because of the actual launch. And no, I’m seriously not just saying that because they flew me to Cape Town. In fact, I was totally prepared to be super snarky about the event, mainly because I’m a naturally sarcastic person, but also because I’m so jaded by gaming events that I figured a silly event about soap for babies couldn’t possibly be meaningful. But it was. In fact, you can see my movement from excited but still totally sarcastic, to moved and tearful, back to sarcastic (because let’s be honest, I was never going to live without my jaded view of things for long) on social media, which I Storified for you.

Wow, I actually forgot about my wish for moms. I tweeted out the picture with the comment, “Stop judging and stop letting the judgment impact you”, and I really meant it as my wish for moms. We all feel judged, and too often we take it to heart and start judging ourselves as well. We secretly agree with those awful people who second-guess our parenting decisions, wondering if we are actually good parents. I remember begging Dean to tell me that I was a good mom, and he would roll his eyes wondering why I needed to hear it. I guess dad judging isn’t as much of a thing, or maybe it doesn’t impact him. But I get hurt by the people who give me a weird look about what I dress Harley in, or feed her, or how we play together or how I talk to her. And yet I feel myself doing the exact same thing.

I don’t mean to mom judge, I really don’t. I try to give people as much room to parent in their own way, I try to never undermine another parent but rather lift them up. I always try to comment when I see someone who seems overwhelmed, to tell them that I see them and that they’re doing a great job. It’s an important part of keeping that sisterhood of motherhood going for me.

But I’m not a saint. I see the kid who is left on the playground horse for 15 minutes and wonder if the parents are neglecting him by just leaving him there, unable to get off. Or maybe they are sleep deprived and worn out and just desperately need the few moments of quiet to drink their coffee. I notice the parents who don’t let their kids get dirty, even as the rest of the crowd is throwing pine cones and having a blast. Maybe they normally do let the kid get dirty and this is the one time of year they don’t want that to happen. Maybe they are at the event with a judgmental parent or in-law of their own and they don’t want to have that fight again, or maybe they don’t have water at home to do laundry after the kid is covered in mud. I really do try to avoid the mom judging because I know how awful it feels, but I also know that I fall into that very same trap more often than I’d care to admit. I do give moms the side eye, I do judge them without knowing the story, I am a raging hypocrite.

Which brings me to the Baby Dove thing. Their event was absolutely lovely. It was filled with so many real women (and a man or two!) who despite their myriad differences could relate to each other on the core frustrations around motherhood. Those times when it’s really hard, when you feel like a failure, when you question yourself – Baby Dove’s message was one of trust. Trust yourself. Only you know your baby, only you are the mother. Trust your way. Trust that you are a great mom, trust that you are doing the best for your little one. It was so moving at the event and stuck with me long after I’d forgotten why I should be excited about the actual products.

As a side note, it’s worth saying that I’ve now used the products and absolutely adore them! They aren’t super perfumed or anything, just smelling clean and pure like other Dove products you might know. Plus each thing just feels incredible and Harley continues to love bathtime with her awesome shampoo and body wash, plus we still do her baby massage with the lotion afterward. I thought I’d just test out the products and then go back to my previous thing of just using up whatever I’d gotten for free and still hadn’t finish from her baby shower, but instead, I’m going to just stick with Baby Dove – I can’t imagine using anything else after this product.

So, after the wonderful event, I went home and back into the chaos of sorting out our family and life and home with the prospect of moving. Which is why I totally didn’t notice the brouhaha around a certain Baby Dove ad until one of my awesome mom friends brought it up in our chat group. For those who haven’t seen it, I’m including the ad in question.dove breastfeeding advert

I think most of you know that I’m still breastfeeding Harley. While I don’t always love it, I do still think it’s the best thing for me and for her. I breastfeed wherever I am, and never feel shy about it. Maybe that’s because I’m chilled with my body, and I sorta figure I’ve shown more cleavage in certain outfits than you could even see when Harley is latched on. Besides, my baby is hungry or in need of comfort – what else am I going to do? I always strive to sit with moms if they seem shy to breastfeed in public, and I try to do what I can to help other moms feel more comfortable with the idea. If I had to always cover up to nurse, I probably wouldn’t leave the house as much as I do, or I would have weaned Harley a long time ago.

And this is where I think Baby Dove went wrong with the ad. Beyond the fact that it was published during breastfeeding week, it’s that it actually plays back into the very mom judgment thing that they’re trying to help women overcome. You see, it doesn’t talk about 75% of moms breastfeeding in public while 25% are too shy or wouldn’t feel comfortable or something. No, this is saying 25% say to put them away – that’s a mom judgment thing. That’s a quarter of the population feeling entitled to judge other moms for their parenting choice when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

Dove has since pulled the ad, and I suppose they realize the error in wording here. I think it’s wonderful that they are promoting the “what’s your way” aspect of parenting, that there is no right or wrong way but rather that we all have to find our own way that works for us and our families.  And their lovely event and products support this notion. I just hope that one poorly phrased ad doesn’t change the conversation too much. The whole point was to highlight motherhood, to highlight the way we all feel judged and to try and stop doing it to each other. None of us know what the journey to motherhood, and through it, has entailed.

I know I need to work harder at not judging other moms. I need to figure out how to inform moms about important, life threatening things like vaccines and car seats. But the rest? If you need to leave your kid on the horse on the playground while you finish your coffee, or you don’t let your kid get dirty at an outdoors event, I will really try not to judge – we all strive to do the best we can, and maybe it’s just one of those days, or maybe I just don’t know the whole story.

I also chatted a bit about this in my most recent Facebook Live. If you’re not following me across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, you really should. You can watch the Facebook Live video here:

Or else the YouTube version if you prefer is here:

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  • laurakim123

    Maybe it is because I hated breastfeeding but honestly all I saw was a stat. It is a number, a fact based on their research (or someone) else’s.
    But I totally get your point. While I don’t think judging is “normal” it is something we all do. I suppose the difference is if I think “Oh why doesn’t Harley have socks” vs saying to you ‘Zoe, its freaking freezing, put socks on your child!’

    • Zoe Hawkins

      yeah, i think breastfeeding is particularly charged for so many women. I think also so many of us who do it in public are always prepared to be told to “put them away” and have our guard up about it.
      And yeah, definitely something we all do. I think I just try not to make other parents FEEL my judgement – can’t turn off that internal side eye.

  • I’m afraid we all judge even though we desperately try hard not to!
    Good luck with all your moving! Looking forward to hearing more about it all.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      Thanks so much! For sure, will share more when I come up for air. But I’m definitely trying to judge less, at least. 😉

  • Melissa Javan

    Great post, especially love your take on the Dove ad.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      thanks lady!! 🙂

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