I think once you’ve been a parent for a while, you either decide:
- you’re an expert and have it all figured out, or
- you realize we’re all just doing our best and there’s no “one size fits all” approach to parenting.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had FAR different opinions on parenting than I do now. We’re talking 180 degree differences. Some of my views changed over time as I became more educated about certain issues and as I discovered my son’s temperament and personality, my style as a mom, and what worked best for our family. But other views surprisingly changed in a split second. I had assumed I knew how I’d react to certain situations, but when I was actually faced with them, everything in me said to go the opposite way.
And while I was (and am) passionate or hold opinions about certain views around parenting, before I resort to judging others, I have to remind myself that I hold my views because they are what worked for my family. And what worked for us doesn’t work for everyone else.
Some of my parenting styles were a little…unconventional, at least in the circles we ran in. So I got a bit of criticism from other parents. It can be hurtful to have to endure that negativity, especially as a new mom. I mean, you’re already second guessing every decision anyway, and to make matters worse, you’re probably running on fumes. Some of my friendships fizzled out because of it. Fortunately, Sam and I were confident in our parenting style, and it was working. That made it easier to let the criticism roll off my back. And hey, I think my kid turned out pretty good! 🙂
On the flip side, I’ve had friends with very different parenting styles than my own — to be honest some that I thought were flat-out wrong –and their children have turned out to be smart, polite, well-rounded, secure, caring people too!
I think we can all agree that parents (particularly moms) need more support than criticism. It’s hard being a mom! Come on, ladies! We are our own toughest critics sometimes. We need to have each other’s backs and believe the best in each other.
Food for thought when you disagree with other parenting styles:
We don’t know the full story.
Why do people do the things they do?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? It could be their upbringing, their culture, traditions, or religious views. Maybe they didn’t have good examples growing up. Maybe they had to make a game-time decision, as we have all done.
That mom who’s bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding? She may have had a low milk supply, or a horrible bout with mastitis. Maybe her baby is adopted. Maybe she’s the breadwinner in the family and has to work so much that she can’t nurse or pump all day long. And maybe… maybe she just didn’t want to.
That mom who’s breastfeeding in public with her boob out for the world to see? She’d probably say it’s the most natural thing in the world. She’s feeding her baby, not doing a strip tease. And truth be told, you see more boob in Newport Beach — but no one’s complaining about that.
The mom in the checkout line at Target whose kid is having a temper tantrum? She may have no idea what to do in that moment. But I’d be willing to bet she’s pretty embarrassed.
The stay-at-home mom. The mom who works full-time and puts her kid in daycare. The mom who doesn’t follow the recommended vaccine schedule. The mom who homeschools. The mom who feeds her kid too much sugar. The mom who doesn’t let her kid have any sugar. The mom who lets her baby cry it out. The mom who still hasn’t potty trained. The mom who still lets her kid have his pacifier. The mom who doesn’t discipline enough. The mom who over-disciplines. The helicopter mom. The overprotective mom. The not-protective-enough mom.
Need I go on? As you can see, there is no shortage of reasons to judge and be critical of other parents. So we have a decision to make: We can assume the worst, or believe the best. It’s our choice.
Here’s something I’ve been working on: When I disagree with a person’s behavior or views, I ask myself, “What could be behind this?” And then I try to come up with reasons for their behavior. When I do this, I’m forced to put myself in their shoes. Obviously it’s speculation — I may never know why — but it reminds me that I don’t know the full story, and there can be a number of reasons why people do what they do that don’t make them a bad person or parent.
They’re educated just like us.
When you research and educate yourself about certain issues, there’s usually plenty of research to support whatever side you’re on. Just because I’ve landed on a particular side of an issue doesn’t make me right and everyone else wrong. Education plus passion can quickly escalate to pride and superiority, which can alienate people who hold differing opinions.
A great example of this is the vaccine issue. I’ve heard parents who have chosen not to vaccinate being ripped apart like you wouldn’t believe. They’re labeled as stupid, selfish, uneducated, horrible parents who don’t care about society at large. And yet, if you ask these parents (with a genuine interest in learning what’s behind their decision), I bet you’d hear a very different story. I’ve researched both sides of the vaccine issue and can see that there are reputable, intelligent, well-intentioned experts, as well as research and studies and hard data on both sides of the issue.
At the end of the day, every parent makes mistakes. Yours did, and you do too. But we’re all doing the best we can. So we can either believe the best about others or assume the worst. And it’s just much more pleasant to believe the best, isn’t it?
Let’s stop criticizing other parents. Focus on doing the best we can do, and build each other up with encouragement and positivity.