Almost everyone goes into parenthood with high hopes about how they will do things and the wonderful people they will raise.
The problem is that before most people ever become parents, they’ve already judged all sorts of other parents for their ‘shortcomings’ (as they, or ‘In Touch’, ‘People’, assorted Twitterers or the rest of the internet perceive them) and in doing so, have set themselves up.
Perhaps you had all sorts of opinions about drug-free labour, even thinking less of someone who had an epidural (though it was never any of your business). In agony, at the hospital on Delivery-Day, you suddenly have to either live up to those expectations or take relief with a side order of guilt.
Or maybe before having a child you knew that you would never give a binky, or a pacie, or sucky – or allow such babyish words to be used in your perfect baby’s presence. Except you never know. You might need to change your mind.
In both of these scenarios, it would be easier if you weren’t up to your neck in potential failure to meet your own standards (as inflicted on others) when you decide.
The judgement epidemic is not isolated to so called ‘bad’ things. We also tend to get awfully tough on people who appear to be super-parents like the Gwyneths (seriously, why do we care that her children speak multiple languages and eat like jet-setting vegans? And how is it bad?) and Pinteresters of the world.
Either way, judging others is self defeating. It makes us less kind and more sensitive to the opinions of others which makes us even harsher judges of ourselves which makes us less confident and happy parents which makes us compare ourselves to others and do more judging. A vicious cycle!
There is a solution and it is simple if not easy: We need to stop judging each other’s parenting!
Here is my idea: Slip a rubber band onto your wrist and give yourself a gentle snap each time you catch yourself thinking uncharitable or judge-y thoughts about someone’s parenting (or your own).
You’re in line at the grocery store, eyeballing the latest gossip rags, wanting to flip through and find out why everyone is so worked up about some Jolie-Pitt kid’s hair. Or did Suri really lose it in a park? Are the royals going to abandon their tiny prince for a holiday? Give yourself a snap! It is none of your business.
Instead of an inward (or worse, a snarky outward): ‘At least I am raising my own kids’ comment about the mom with the nanny, or the family with kids in extended daycare, ask yourself: do you really care or are you just being mean? If this doesn’t work, give yourself a snap and try again.
Snap as required before you judge the parents of the kid who:
Has a bad haircut;
Needs a haircut;
Is taking a long time toilet training;
Sleeps in the parents’ bed;
Cries it out;
Eats sugary cereal;
Wears weird clothes;
Eats only ‘organic’;
Picks their nose;
Watches lots of television;
Goes to bed at 6PM;
Or goes to bed at 10:30PM.
SNAP as needed then ask yourself: Who cares?
Decide that you do not care and, if my theory is correct (and I think it is based on my completely unscientific experiment on myself) your life will be instantly improved because when you cut everyone else some slack, you can give some to yourself as well.
Does it matter how long someone else breastfeeds or doesn’t? If you said yes, take a snap!
Feeling the urge to side-eye a pregnant woman enjoying a coffee as she struts by in high heels? Snap!
There is advice everywhere but what matters is this: if you love your kids and meet their basic needs for affection, safety, shelter, food, healthcare and human interaction, that is good enough.
Obviously, we all have a responsibility to speak up if we see or suspect neglect or abuse, but there is a BIG range of normal and healthy and we need to embrace it.
As a parent who loves and cares for your kids, you don’t need to impress anyone except yourself. It is in your best interest to do what you can to make yourself easy to impress.
Going easier on other parents, will make it easier to give ourselves a break. And if we give ourselves a break, we can actually enjoy some of this parenting stuff.