It seems like from the very moment you become a parent the judgement begins. Suddenly everyone seems to have an opinion on every aspect of your life and they’re not afraid to let you know about it. It could be a marked comment from an old lady at a bus stop suggesting that your poor baby needs another blanket. Or a disparaging tut from a stranger in the supermarket because your toddler is screaming. Or a barbed online comment from other parents about the fact your three year old still has a dummy. It’s hard to escape judgement.
Feel judged? You’re not alone
A recent survey revealed just how widespread this issue is with 70% of parents saying they feel judged on the decisions they make for their child. Parents said that most often it is their child’s diet and their behaviour which they feel is under scrutiny as well as their general parenting style. And who’s doing the judging? Interestingly 20% said it came from other parents. So much for solidarity. Parents also said they felt judged by their mother-in-law as well as their own mother. So it’s not just strangers who feel they have the right to wade in and comment on how we parent but those close to us too.
Are we all guilty?
Is being judgemental part of human nature? Do we all see something we disapprove of from time to time and make a snap judgement? Whether it’s a photo in a magazine of Harper Beckham with a dummy at age 4 or a mum shouting loudly at her child in the supermarket. Even if you think to yourself quietly ‘I’d never do that’, that’s still a kind of judgement. Why do we sometimes have this instinctive reaction when we see other parenting styles?
Psychologist Lynne Jordan believes that we judge because there is so much pressure to be the perfect parent in today’s society, that criticising other parents makes us feel better about our own parenting choices. When we see others do something differently it can threaten our own convictions. Criticising their approach validates our own as being the better way. She says:
Judging others deflects how we feel about our own mothering. It makes us feel better to put someone else down because if we put them down, then we become bigger.
Either way it’s not a great feeling to judge other parents or to be judged by them.
When other parents gang up
A single comment from a friend or family member can be enough to make new mums feel insecure and doubt their parenting. Especially when they are feeling tired and vulnerable. When a whole crowd of people start to make judgements online then it can feel like a thousand tiny knives to your confidence. It doesn’t even have to be your post about parenting that they are commenting on. If there is an online debate about a controversial parenting topic and what everyone is criticising is something you do, then you can begin to doubt yourself.
The constant online parenting debates do nothing to stop the endless judgement. The same arguments seem to resurface again and again: breast vs bottle, early weaning vs waiting until 6 months, stay at home mums vs working mums, stay at home dads vs dads who work long hours. All pitch parents against each other as if we are on opposite teams and only one can be right. In online debates, though, no side ever wins.
Even if we’re right does that mean other parents are wrong?
When we take our babies home from hospital the midwives don’t hand us a parenting manual to follow. We all just figure out what’s best to do and what works for our baby and for our family. We may set out with some ideals and values that we feel very strongly about. However sometimes babies have different ideas and we have to ditch these ideals and find another way that works instead. Mums might be determined to breastfeed but find it just doesn’t work out and switch to bottles. We might swear to never ever let our babies have a dummy. Then after several days and nights of colic and endless crying, we shriek at our partners to hotfoot it to the late-night chemist to bring back as many dummies as they can find in case that will buy us all some relief.
When we judge other parents we are often making snap judgements, without knowing the story behind the parenting decision we have issues with.
Also just because we know what’s right and what’s best for us and our baby doesn’t mean it is for others.
We’re all just doing the same job in different ways
At the end of the day parents are all doing the same job just in different ways. The way we choose to do things doesn’t affect anyone else but our own family. As long as a child is loved, fed, clean, safe and well cared for, then that’s all that should matter.
If we all just backed off and allowed each other to parent the way we want to then there would be no issue. Without judgement there would be no bad feelings. Just acceptance and support. What a great world that would be to raise children in.
If you’re a mum and fed up of being judged, this video says it all! Disclaimer: it has a LOT of swears and strong language. If you’re uncomfortable with this or if you have minors in the room, don’t watch.