Every mom I know, including myself, has felt judged in her choices at one point or another.
I’m not sure why something as personal as the parenting choices you make are open for community debate, but it is a well-known fact that anyone is welcome to chime in on how you parent at any time. If it isn’t your parents or in-laws telling you the right way to hold your baby, it is the stranger at the bookstore or other moms at the playground passing you judgmental looks.
Are You Judging Me or Trying To Help Me?
Maybe the urge people have to give unsolicited parenting advice is a relic from the days when whole communities were actually involved in the raising of children. These days, though, parents too often get opinions and judgement from their “village” but are offered little in the way of tangible physical help when it comes to child-rearing.
Just in deciding whether to use formula or whether to breastfeed, you’re bound to hear at least one of the following:
- “Breast is best” so if you feed formula you must not truly care about your child’s health.
- Moms who feed their baby formula are just looking for the easy way out.
- You should breastfeed, but never in public; it’s gross to put your body on display like that.
- You should breastfeed, but it’s unnatural to breastfeed a baby with teeth/who can talk/who can ask for it. Isn’t it time to stop?
- You should breastfeed, and be thankful that we’re being supportive of your choice even if the only space we have for you to pump/feed is in a bathroom stall.
- Breastfeeding is so hard, why don’t you just give your baby formula already?
You need thick skin to be a parent. Clearly there is no winning, no matter what you choose. This goes for every choice you make as a parent, too, not just your feeding choice. People will weigh in on how your baby sleeps; how you get them to sleep; how you give birth; the food you eat; how you interact with your children, etc., etc., ET CETERA!
It’s worse for moms, too. I’m not sure if it is our biology, or the way we’re socialized, but it’s usually harder for moms than dads to not care when others imply that we’re parenting wrong.
The best way I’ve found to deal with the never-ending opinions is a simple two-step process:
- Decide what works best for you, your child, and your family as a whole.
- Project confidence about that decision.
I said project confidence, not be confident.
The catch-22 of parenthood is that you are never really confident that you’re making the right decision. Each decision affects your child in a million different nuanced ways; you will never be able to fully evaluate the effectiveness of all of your decisions until your child is an adult. You can’t be completely sure that you’re not causing irreparable damage with any tiny choice.
For me, projecting confidence in my parenting choices was a “fake it ’til you make it” kind of thing. It helped me to do my homework about the decisions I made. If I could verbalize to myself why I was doing something in a particular way, it was much easier for me to explain it to others, or at least pretend to be confident about it.
If people ask me about the parenting choices Mountain Papa and I make, and most people we chat with do, I happily tell them matter-of-factly what we do as a family. I’m not rude about it but I do it in a way that suggests that our parenting style isn’t up for debate.
I’m lucky that I’ve received a ton of support from friends, family, and even strangers I’ve encountered about my parenting decisions. I’ve received my share of judgement and hurtful remarks, too. The key to keeping your sanity is to take the supportive comments and friendly faces with you and leave the negativity behind.
Only Take Advice From Those Qualified To Give It
When I think about it, these negative comments come from two types of people:
- People who have never been a parent or have no real understanding of what it is like to be a new mother (think: unmarried younger siblings or grandfathers who think breastfeeding is unnatural).
- People who have been in your shoes and see that you might be struggling and really want to share what worked for them in case it might help you (think: every mom, ever).
So, basically you’re getting advice from people who have NO IDEA what they’re talking about, or from people who have really good intentions.
As a general rule, I discount all negative remarks from people who haven’t experienced parenthood. With fellow moms, I listen to what they have to say and politely tell them, “Thank you, I’ll look into that.” And sometimes, I do.
Luckily, I’m Frugalazy
The decisions I make as a parent are mainly motivated by my frugalaziness: I’m always looking for the cheapest and simplest solution to all of life’s problems. I also spend a lot (A LOT) of time reading about parenting and researching my choices. In most parenting situations, the cheap and simple way also tends to be well-supported by research.
I’m No Different From Every Mom, Ever.
I’ve struggled with all sorts of things in my short tenure as a mother. And I’ve tried tons of things. Some things worked for Baby Bear and me and some things didn’t.
I know how painful it is to hear your baby is cry all the time. I know how exasperating it is to unsuccessfully try for hours to help your baby fall asleep.
I’ve been there.
As a mother who has been there, I’m eager to share with other mothers what worked for me. I will be that stranger at the library giving you unsolicited parenting advice (sorry in advance!). Not because I’m judging you or think I’m better than you in any way. But because I was there and I remember how hard it was. If what worked for me has a chance of helping you and your child, I’m going to share it with you.
If you’re in the thick of adjusting to motherhood right now – you’re not sleeping, you’re trying to figure out why your baby has a rash or is crying so much – remember that someday soon you will be on the other side of it. And when you see new moms struggling, you’ll want to help however you can.
So if you’re the unlucky new mom who runs into me at the grocery store with bags under your eyes, or if you’ve stumbled across this website, remember I’m only sharing decisions I made that worked out really well for me and my family. My hope is that someone will be helped by me sharing my experiences. Others might want to pull on your thick skin, listen and say, “Thank you. I’ll look into that.”
Just do whatever helps you keep your sanity.