When it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion. Even people without children have an opinion on everything, from when (and how) you should wean to the importance of establishing a routine early on, their sleeping position and the clothes they’re wearing. Nothing, it seems, is safe from criticism or someone’s prying mind.
I know because I was once one of those people: a backseat mother.
I was mildly irritated whenever there was a baby crying on public transport or in a restaurant, kind of grossed out by mothers breastfeeding toddlers and very judgemental about parents shouting at their kids in shops.
Now I’m a mum, I’m much more realistic and understanding. It’s my baby making that awful racket now (although to me, his screams sound like birdsong). It may one day be me, still nursing my one-year-old. It’s going to be me losing my rag in a supermarket at some point, I’m sure… so I’ve calmed down my finger-pointing and mum-shaming.
Even so, I still find myself silently judging other people’s parenting and, naturally, worrying about what they think of mine. My thoughts range from the unkind but harmless (“I definitely wouldn’t have chosen that outfit!”) to the keep-your-damn-nose-out (“Why are they feeding that baby BREAD?”) and the downright unfair (“That child is going to be clingy/unintelligent/a criminal when they grow up.” — as if anyone can even predict these things).
I’m probably being way too honest here, but in the interests of transparency, those are the kind of thoughts I have on a pretty much daily basis, whether out and about or on social media. It’s ugly and I’m not proud of it. In fact, as soon as a thought like that enters my mind, I decide it’s horrible and push it to one side and channel my energy into something more positive and productive.
For the record, for every one of these unpleasant thoughts, I have several nice ones to go with it. “The outfit might not be my taste, but the baby in it is adorable”, “(Insert parenting decision here) is such a good idea!” etc.
Having negative or judgemental thoughts is part of being human, which is why when I have them I don’t beat myself up too much. I recognise them for what they are, let them pass and try to shift my focus to the good instead.
When it comes to my own parenting, I’m realistic enough to know people are probably judging me left, right and centre; mums, dads and child-free people alike. At the same time, I’m also sure to remind myself that their opinions don’t actually matter.
By extension, that means my opinions about their child-rearing habits have no significance either. That’s why I don’t let them weigh me down. They’re simply they’re and then they’re gone, just as quickly as they arrived.
So while I’m probably guilty of judging people too much myself, it’s only natural; and I don’t mind if they judge me back.
Do you think it’s OK to pass (mental) judgement on other people’s parenting skills?