We parents talk a lot about judgment, and for good reason. If you look at any news story about parents who lost a kid for a few seconds or read the comments on articles about any parenting topic, you’re going to see people judging moms and dads left and right. It happens. It’s not right, but it happens.
But there are also times when parents feel judged when they shouldn’t. I’ve seen people go on the defensive at the mere mention of someone making a different choice than they would make. A mom makes a comment about choosing not to feed her kids processed foods, and another mom sees it as shaming moms who do. Someone mentions that they love waking up with their toddler snuggled into them, and parents who don’t co-sleep start listing off other ways to bond with little ones. A mom points out that bottle feeding is nice because other people can feed the baby, and breastfeeders start defending exclusive nursing and spouting alternative dad bonding ideas.
I’ve run into this phenomenon personally in a few areas of parenting. When I tell people we home-school, some instantly start defending their public school or listing off all of the reasons they didn’t choose to home-school. I swear on all that is good and holy, our choice to educate our own kids has absolutely nothing to do you, and I certainly don’t judge you for sending your kid to public school. I fully recognize that everyone’s circumstances and preferences are different and that two very different choices can be equally valid.
I’ve also had had people get defensive when they find out I breastfed for longer than the average year with each of my kids. I promise, I’m not preachy about letting kids pace their own weaning, and I totally get why moms choose to wean whenever they’re ready. Just because I chose a slow, self-paced weaning process doesn’t mean I think moms who stop nursing much earlier — or don’t nurse at all — are making poor choices.
Literally nothing I choose for my own children is a statement about you and yours. No method, practice, or philosophy I employ means anything other than that’s what my husband and I decided would work best for our family. It is 100% possible for you to choose something diametrically opposed to what I choose and for me not to judge you for that choice. It is 100% possible for two vastly different parenting choices to both be good choices. As long as you aren’t directly harming your children, I don’t give a flying fig what you do as a parent. I trust that you are doing what works best for you.
Now, I will say that I’ve seen people share their parenting choices in a way that passive-aggressively judges others. It’s easy to come across as preachy, and “sharing” sometimes is simply veiled judgment, so there is a fine line to walk when it comes to telling people about how we do things. We have to be cognizant of how we express ourselves and our parenting philosophies, and obviously, make sure we truly aren’t judging others.
At the same time, let’s give one another the benefit of the doubt more often. Let’s not assume that someone else’s choices are statements about our own. Let’s acknowledge that there are hundreds of ways to raise good, healthy, contributing human beings and not worry quite so much about how everyone else is doing it. Let’s drop our defensive responses and celebrate all the various ways people are getting this parenting thing done. Let’s make a concerted effort to not judge, and an equal effort to not assume we’re being judged.
The truth is the vast majority of parents are doing the best we can with what we’ve got. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat, and hard feelings just make it harder to sail. I’ve got my oar and you’ve got yours — let’s just cheer one another on and keep on paddling, each in our own way.