If I had a dollar for every time you told me I was doing it wrong, I’d be rich.
I’ve been doing this parenting gig now for a bit over seven years. And I’ve been on the receiving end of quite literally volumes of unsolicited advice, which, incidentally, started about nine months prior to that.
So it was no surprise to me when, within a week of announcing her first pregnancy, model Chrissy Teigen was hit with an avalanche of judgement about everything from how big she looked to what she was eating. Nor should it be a surprise that I applauded loudly from the bleachers when outspoken Chrissy shut down the trolls by demanding they get out of her uterus.
But it’s not only celebrities who get trolled about how they gestate and parent their offspring. From my first round of IVF, throughout my pregnancy, right through to my abilities as a parent to my now 7 and 4 year-old children, I’ve been repeatedly told what I’m doing wrong, along with why and how.
It started subtly with the eleventy billion conflicting pregnancy and parenting books written by self-appointed experts that I was told to read. Each of which seemed to promote a conflicting parenting philosophy paired with a tendency to deem differing ideologies as tantamount to child abuse. Then came the innumerable eye-rolls, withering sneers and whispered digs from huddled groups of sanctimommies as I waddled by in all my pregnant glory, rocking what was more of a slummy than yummy mommy vibe.
When I delivered my first child by C-section, the hills were alive with the sound of judgment. But top marks go to all those wonderful folk, who, as I cradled a tiny new person who depended completely on me, told me to my face that I was doing it wrong.
Unlike confident Chrissy, I didn’t retaliate with a well-worded zinger. And it did get get to me. For about a minute – the approximate length of time it took for me to realize much of this unsolicited advice was coming from people who I had zero regard for as parents. And whose kids were, if you’ll excuse my lack of niceties, ill-mannered shits.
Did you see what I did there? Yep, I just got judgmental on other parents. It’s hypocritical, mean-spirited and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we all do it. We’ve all been on the receiving end of it too …
“She’s a helicopter parent”, “She’s not attentive enough”, “She doesn’t have a clue how to discipline her child”, “Why doesn’t she pick her up?”, “She’s spoiling that kid.” And those were just from my mother!
Jokes aside, it’s so much easier to jump to negative, and generally baseless, conclusions about other people’s parenting skills than to take a moment to put ourself in their shoes. We see a mother losing it at her tearaway toddler in the supermarket and assume she can’t control her children. We see Dad filling his kids up with junk food and look down our noses as we piously slip junior an organic kale and quinoa smoothie. We see parents paying more attention to their phones than their kids at the park and assume that they’re disinterested.
And all the while we feel smugly better about our own parenting efforts because more often than not, our judgements stem from a need to assuage our own insecurities and self doubt. But after a ten second glimpse into another parent’s life, where do we get off assuming this one single moment defines it?
A friend was busy on her phone in a playground when a complete stranger marched up and shamed her for ignoring her daughter while “she let someone else look after her”. But what her shamer didn’t realise was that my friend’s mother had just passed away and she was on the phone letting her family know, and making funeral arrangements while I helped keep her child pre-occupied and out of earshot.
Simply put, we have no idea how other people parent on a day-to-day basis. And quite frankly, unless we see that a child is in danger, it’s not our business.
Having parented only two of the world’s many, many children, I’m very aware I’m not an expert, but given I haven’t yet broken either of them and they are turning out to be fairly phenomenal humans, I’m extremely confident in my parenting choices. Which is ironic when you consider that I’m riddled with self-doubt when it comes to just about anything else.
And while I’m not what you’d call the most conservative of mothers, there hasn’t been a single moment that I’ve felt like I’m doing anything other than what I believe is best for my kids. And, quite frankly, I couldn’t give a damn what other people think about it. I’ve totally got this. And do you know what? So have you.
Aleney is a travel, food and parenting writer. When she’s not treading on Lego or being forced to watch Frozen on loop, the mother of two can be found hauling her ravenous offspring around the globe. Follow Aleney on Twitter and Facebook.