Children, Grenglish, Life, Parenting
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Parents Who Judge Other Parents

As parents, many of us have been on the receiving end of well-meaning parenting advice at some point and often from people who don’t have children of their own.

Before I had my son, I certainly had my own idea of the kind of mum I would be; and now that I am one, the reality couldn’t be further away.

I was going to be the parent with the well-behaved child, who ate everything on his plate, had impeccable manners and never a hair out-of-place. I was NEVER going to give him a dummy (I lasted 3-weeks), he was only going to eat fresh, locally sourced, organic food (pizza is our friend) and I would remain calm, patient and never raise my voice to him, EVER (hahahahahaha).

None of us are perfect, but we are all doing the best we can with what we know. It is for the parent and child to work out such details as potty training methods, ways to discipline and breast or bottle feeding, together.  There is more than one way to raise a child and what works for one, may not work for another. Just ask my sister-in-law, mother to twin boys who could not be more opposite in terms of looks, temperament or behaviour.

I know my son is happy, adored and well looked after. So, when someone who does not have kids feels the need to make ‘suggestions’ on the way I am raising my child, I tend to take a deep breath, smile and let it go.

But should parents who judge other parents know better?

As parents, surely we can all agree that we want the same thing – the best for our kids. And, that we all have our own style of doing things and children with very different personalities and needs.

Does someone else’s way make your way wrong, or just different?

I often feel insecure about making parenting decisions. I want to trust my instincts, but my mind is overloaded with information from books, magazines, blogs, friends, family and random strangers on the street. Maybe this has led me to feel a bit sensitive when I feel I am being judged for one.

Do we really need to be critical of other people’s choices to feel better about our own?

When I tell you that I did not breastfeed my son, I can tell by the way that you flinch that you have an opinion on this. ‘That’s a shame’ you say.

I agree that it is. I do not tell you that I tried. Nor of the specialists who tried to help. I do not go into the details of my breast surgery, elevated levels of thyroid antibodies and low levels of prolactin because, well, I don’t know you very well and also it’s not really any of your business.

When you ask what my plans are for the day and I tell you I have a blog post to write and then I am off to a Pilates class, I can see you rolling your eyes. You do not know that I returned to full-time employment for 3-years after my son was born. I do not tell you that on the nights I did not make it home in time to kiss him goodnight, read him a bedtime story or tuck him in, I cried myself to sleep. Leaving my job was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, but I do not regret it for a moment. There are many reasons why it was the best decision for my family, but I am not about to go into them with you on the school run.

And, when you ask me for the fifth time in as many weeks when I am going to produce a sibling for my ‘poor’ son, I laugh it off. I nod away while you explain how good it will be for him to be a big brother, and I pretend to listen intently as you tell me how important is it for children to have other children to play with. I let you think that I am taking everything you say on board so that you will stop trying to convince me further. I do not tell you that we started trying to build a bigger family when our son was 18-months old. I do not tell you that our journey to have another child was one filled with heartbreak. I do not mention the failed pregnancy tests, or the failed pregnancies. I do not tell you that we are at peace with it now and our family is complete.

When he trips in the playground, I do not always leap over. This is not because I do not care, but because I do not want him to see me panic over a tiny scrape. When he has a meltdown in public, I do not drag him home. In my experience this only makes things worse – I find us a quiet corner to calm down instead. We did not co-sleep, although we sometimes do now, and I fed him chocolate buttons on the potty.

Some days I have it all together and other days I am falling apart, but everything I do for him comes from a place of love and surely that is what matters most. Or, are we all so stuck on our way being the only way that we have to prove ourselves right at every opportunity?

My son will not always behave perfectly because, like me, he is not perfect. He has days when he will refuse to eat anything other than a ham sandwich. This does not mean that the baby-led weaning method I followed was a waste of time, or that it turned him into a fussy eater, it just means that he really really wants a ham sandwich. Tomorrow, it might be chill squid – who knows?!

He also does not always listen to me and this is not because there are no boundaries at home, but because he is 5 and occasionally 5-year olds will act their age.

Isn’t it time us parents did too?

16 Comments

  1. Oh Sarah! Another post of yours that made me well up. You have such a brilliant way of encapsulating what so many of us feel. You’re so right, and I try so hard not to judge – even silently in my head. I was thinking about this last week, as I saw two friends recently do things with their kids that I never would, but then I probably do things with my daughter that THEY wouldn’t, and as long as our children are loved and we try our best, that’s what’s important.
    Alison Perry recently posted…Trevella Park: A Nostalgia-Packed Family Camping HolidayMy Profile

    • I am sure I do lots of things that other people never would too! I’ve also often silently judged, but make a real effort not to now. It’s such a waste of energy. Thanks for your lovely comment x

  2. It’s amazing how people put their oar in so frequently without realising the ramifications of what they’re saying and why things are as they are. I get it a lot as a single parent and it makes me sad. I find it hard if people criticize when offering help would be so much kinder – yet you’re not talking about that – it’s all the other stuff that can make us sad too. Sometimes it’s their insecurity, they usually mean well and not to be insensitive and sometimes they’re just plain thoughtless, but, like you, I wish it happened less and thank you for spelling this out, brilliantly, as usual X
    Anya from Older Single Mum and The Healer recently posted…Our Mark Warner Holiday to San Lucianu, Corsica.My Profile

    • I think most people do mean well but then there’s always one that deliberately wants to make you feel inferior… 🙂

  3. This has brought back all of the raw memories of judgement I felt for not being able to breastfeed my first. The comments from others who told me to ‘just try a bit harder’ were so painful. I found myself apologising for my ‘failure.’ With my second I’ve made it my mission to genuinely not care. I know now that bottle feeding isn’t the end and by the time my daughter is 2, no one cares. It’s not like she will be asked during her University interview whether her mother loved her enough to breastfeed. But there was something so raw during that time, I was almost hyper-aware of judgement. An off hand comment would ripple for days after a stranger said it.
    So after my cathartic waffle I merely shout – here,here!
    Sugar&Rhubarb recently posted…My Buggy AddictionMy Profile

    • So true about a comment rippling for days after. I felt the same. I do wonder why these details are so important to some people. Thanks for waffling 🙂

  4. Wow, I totally agree with everything you’ve said. Whilst I do think there us an element if human nature that makes us naturally question something/someone that isn’t doing something you may do is one thing. I do think that verbalising those thoughts at someone is something else.
    It’s laughable sometimes. I suffer with polycysitic ovaries and endometriosis. It took us 2 years and an operation to have our first. People would ask regularly “when you starting your family” er none if your business! Then the “when’s the sibling coming” and now we are lucky enough to be having no 3, I get told I’m crazy. People are always going to have an opinion, so long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters!! Xx

    • So funny – I often hear people telling parents of 3 kids that they are crazy! Most of the time I am sure it is harmless and does not come from a bad place. Congratulations on no. 3!
      xx

  5. Wow this really hits home.

    Made me understand that I don’t have to feel bad when I do things differently from others and that I’m not a bad mum. I am a mum of 3 yr old twin boys. I have had many an argument with strangers and friends over upbringing.

    however I am not perfect and this has highlighted to me that maybe the advice I give mum’s is not actually wanted.

    It’s good to see both sides of the coin from being a mum and trying to advise other mum’s.

    Thank you xxx

    • It’s lovely to get advice from someone who has been there and I have certainly received much fab advice from other parents. I am sure your advice is well meaning and not to be critical so I would not worry xx

  6. I love this post so much! Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Why do people have to judge each other so? We’re all doing our best in the way that is right for our family xx
    Kerry recently posted…Big boy bikeMy Profile

  7. Another cracking post, such wise words- this world can seem a judgemental place, particularly when it comes to parenting-the unsolicited advice is so boring- ‘backseat parenting’ I call it, it can often be hard to take a deep breath and smile, knowing we are simply doing are best but it’s the easiest way. I definitely feel with age I’ve come to not care what others I don’t know or whom I’m not close to, think x
    Honest mum recently posted…Warm Salmon Salad with Homemade Caesar DressingMy Profile

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