You were standing behind us in a queue to board a flight, my two boys were doing their usual jumping, lying on the ground, unable to keep still. I had given up trying to subdue them as this generally only leads to grumpiness and crying. So,within reason, I tried to facilitate it. I carried one child for a bit or became a human play centre for the other one to tumble off. You leaned forward and said ” I really admire how you parent, you’re so relaxed”. I wanted to say ” Ha you should have seen me half an hour ago at security with one child wrapped around my leg screaming crying and the other one setting off the metal detector and getting in trouble with the security guard!” But I managed to stop myself and just say “Thank you”.
The Trouble with Parenting
You see it’s not often someone says something positive about another’s parenting, often parents feel judged or criticised by others whether real or imagined.
It was a bit of a shock when I had kids to realise that becoming a parent seemed to give other people a right to have an opinion on what I did with them. People I barely knew telling me what buggy I needed or that I shouldn’t give up so easily on breastfeeding( “easily” was three months with tubes sellotaped to my breasts with formula in them in an effort to convince my baby to breastfeed). I probably should have guessed how it would be given that during pregnancy I had strangers touching my belly or looking disapprovingly while I had my one glass of wine with a nice meal out.
None of this was helped by the barrage of articles,Facebook posts and ads telling me what I needed to do to be a good Mum.” You should co sleep so your baby feels secure” versus ” your baby needs to learn to fall asleep on its own” or trying to wrangle my baby into a sling even though he clearly hated it. There is a lot of pressure out there about how to parent and when you are new to it it’s hard to have the confidence to do it your way. You assume that others know better but trust me they don’t, they may know more about their own child but they don’t know about yours. Also remember they’re only seeing or hearing a snapshot of what life with your child is like.You’re the one with them most of the time.Take in what you think might work for you and ignore the rest. If something doesn’t work try something else. Babies are human beings and therefore no two babies (or days)are the same so anyone else’s opinion isn’t relevant.
And it doesn’t stop as your kids grow
In one way my son starting school was amazing, I at last found my village of Mum friends who understood and supported each other in this minefield of parenting. However it also meant a whole new group of people with well-meaning advice and stories! It meant going to people’s houses for play dates and wondering how the hell their house was so clean and there was no marker/ketchup/yogurt on the walls. It felt like there was a certain amount of competition about how many activities your child did, how they behaved or how they did in school. You end up comparing your kids progress to the mainly positive glimpses you get of other kids forgetting that most kids wait till they’re in the security of their own home with their own family to lose it.
What we can do
It’s taken me a while to realise that a lot of it is in my head, our children are our weak spots, so any criticism of them implied or otherwise makes us feel like failures. I know that chances are those people I think have it all worked out crack up the minute they close the front door.
So I try, not always successfully, to remember that I’m not a mind reader and that person who I think is judging me may well be jealous or even admiring. I have to work hard at seeing that unwanted advice as well-meaning. The criticism I feel has more to do with my own lack of confidence in my parenting than anything the other person is saying. And of course my favourite saying “What other people think of you is none of your business”. People will and absolutely do judge but they don’t know you or your relationship with your kids so their opinion doesn’t count.
Support other Parents
Tell a parent today that they are doing great and wait to be asked for advice before dispensing it. Sometimes we just want to have a moan.
For the most part the only person whose opinion matters is your kids although, let’s be honest, even that becomes biased as they get older and their opinion changes daily based on whether or not they can get that toy they wanted or you tried to make them eat parsnip!
To the lady in the queue thank you for supporting me.