We all know the type — the people who disapprove of you for the way you’re raising your children. The ones who scold you for holding that baby too much, tell horror stories of children who slept with their parents and never wanted to leave, look down on you for allowing your children to have food coloring (or for not allowing them to) and think you’re ruining your children by breastfeeding, homeschooling, Attachment Parenting or whatever else you’re doing that is not precisely what they would do.
They can be plentiful. They can be loud. They can also come in disguises — as old friends we once adored, as mothers whose judgment we trust, as parenting “experts” and as well-meaning people who are just trying to help.
These people, no matter how well intentioned, can drain you as a parent quicker than a room full of toddlers. They can make you feel alone and misunderstood. They can make you feel defensive, annoyed and just generally depressed.
It can be hard to go against the tide, especially with something as personal and political as parenting.
Even those parents who do everything “by the book” will run into others who will tell them they’re all wrong too. It’s the nature of parenting, it brings on unwanted advice from judgmental know-it-alls from all sides.
Recently, a dear friend of mine ran into an old friend she hadn’t seen in years. In the space of a few minutes he managed to pass judgment on her about everything from her children’s diets to their education to their lack of “obedience.” He also talked about his two-year-old daughter’s admission into a $27,000 a year preschool. The conversation left her with a stomach ache, and also feeling depressed and unsure of herself.
I told her this:
Do me a favor and memorize these lines:
My children are free and loved and happy. I am doing everything in my power to give them a fantastic, passion-driven childhood. We are not drones and that’s okay. I rock and my kids are fabulous.
Repeat as needed.
I also had a few things to say about this friend of hers, but the important part is above!
Listen, it’s hard when people assail you with unwanted parenting advice and judgment. It is. There are no magic shields to keep it from getting under your skin sometimes. But what can help is keeping in mind why you do the things you do.
You are parenting the way you are because it matches your beliefs and your heart.
You will never please everybody all of the time. Would you even want the approval of someone whose values are so completely different from yours in these areas? Parent to please yourself, and to raise the sort of children who will lift people up instead of bringing them down.
And when you have another encounter with one of those know-it-alls? Reach out to friends who share your values, either online, on the phone or in person. Seek out people who support your choices and help you be the kind of parent you want to be.
Someday, your kids will look back on their childhoods and they’ll thank you for being the kind of parent you are. And no one else’s approval will mean more than that.