“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)
Bet you didn’t know that Jesus had a snarky side. I love the hyperbole in this scripture. And it’s been in my mind lately because I have been thinking about judgement. I guess this is something that new parents do, especially because there are so many vehement opinions out there about the “right” way to raise a baby. Even though, like this author, I am fairly confident that that there is no “right” way, I still find myself wondering if, in the eyes of the world, I’m a good mom.
After Justin and I decided that my staying home was Jacob’s best chance for a healthy start in life, I signed up for WIC to help cover the costs of his formula and offset our grocery bill. The first time I used my WIC EBT card at Publix, I had some trouble with the transaction. There were several people in line behind me, and I ended up having to suspend my transaction and call the WIC hotline to reset my PIN number. I imagined what people were thinking. “If she can’t afford to feed her family, why did she have a baby?” or “Why are my tax dollars going towards food benefits for a young woman who obviously could work if she wanted to?” or “I wish there were a separate line for people on food stamps.” They had no way of knowing about Jacob’s citrullinemia, or that I have been working since I was sixteen and faithfully paying my taxes just like them. That this is just a bump in the road.
It’s the same thing with formula feeding. Before Jacob, I assumed that parents of formula-fed babies were lazy, or ignorant, or both. Now I have a little boy who is partially formula-fed because that is the only way to keep him healthy. When I give Jacob a bottle in public, I wonder who is sitting in silent judgement, thinking that I don’t care enough to breastfeed my son. When the reality is that I am giving up hours every day to pump so that I can give him as much breastmilk as his little body can process.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe nobody is thinking those things. But I will admit that thoughts like those have crossed my mind once or twice, and I suspect that I am not the only one. The fact is, we can’t know what is going on in people’s lives. So maybe it’s best to approach everyone from a place of compassion. Of course, people could take advantage of programs like WIC or might formula-feed for the wrong reasons. But how much better and kinder would the world be if we all gave each other the benefit of the doubt before judging? If we all first dealt with the planks in our own eyes?
And now, an only tangentially related photo of the sweet boy who helped me to learn this lesson: