Are Annoying to Those of Us That Do.”
I belong to an online mom group of women who gave birth in November. It might seem weird that I have “internet mommy friends” all over the world, but we’ve been communicating since last February, and we’ve gotten close. I talk to them more than my IRL friends (that’s web speak for ‘in real life’) and they probably know more about me and my child than some of my family. These women are not only great resources, but the group is full of really, really awesome ladies who are all at the exact same point in life as I am. It’s great to have people that truly “get it.”
Recently in our group, a hot topic came up and I was surprised that I was the minority opinion of the group. Though, to be honest, I’m used to that role after having gone through college as a registered Republican. Ah, but I digress.
“Parenting a parent” was the topic at hand. To me, parenting a parent basically consists of criticizing or correcting a mother’s (or father’s) parental decision as you witness them. Some examples of parenting a parent would include:
- Seeing a picture on Facebook of a 1 year old forward-facing in their car seat, and commenting “Oh, did you know that the AAP not recommends that children rear face until 2 years old???”
- Seeing a parent reprimand or not reprimand a child in pubic, and telling them that they should not discipline in that manner.
- Seeing a 6 month old eat a cookie, and flaming the mother for poor nutritional habits and exposing their child to high levels of sugar.
There are some other really great examples here, in this article written by Kara Gebhart Uhl, Apologies To The Parents I Judged Four Years Ago. She talks about the judgement that we display when it comes to parenting – which I believe is inherent in human nature. But parenting a parent takes that judgement to a-whole-nother level.
We all judge internally. And even more-so now that I am a mother myself, if I see a mother doing something “wrong”, I cringe. If I ever witnessed something that was a direct threat to a child, you can bet that I would step in. (Abuse, child left in a car, someone getting hurt, etc. etc.) But, when it comes to the day-to-day parenting choices that I may witness online or in a grocery store, I’m firmly anti-parenting a parent. I think the lips should remain zipped, no matter how hard it is to control your inner Mama-Bear.
Let me tell you why.
First, I believe that it is the duty of a parent to be informed before making important parental decisions. I, for one, do lots of research about the do’s and don’ts of parenting, and I take in as much information as I can before drawing conclusions and acting. You know, things like vaccinations, feeding solid foods, car seat installation and use, baby proofing, discipline. You name it, I’ve googled it. So, when I see a parent that has made a choice I don’t agree with, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they have done the same. I choose to believe that other parents have made their decision wisely and for good reason. I choose to acknowledge that the parent has probably not made a dangerous decision on a whim. I choose to hope that their conclusion is in the best interest of their child, even if it doesn’t appear to ‘outsiders’ to be the case at the time. Even if I wholeheartedly disagree.
Second, if they have not done their research, it’s likely they are not going to be interested in your unsolicited
advice guidance recommendation judgement. Because it will probably not be interpreted as friendly advice, guidance or a recommendation. You are telling them that they are doing it wrong; that they are failing. And in the case that you do it on Facebook, you’re calling them out in front of all their friends. So, not only will you be more likely to receive a “Fuck Off” than a “Thank You”, your advice will probably go in one ear and right out the other and just anger everyone involved. This does not benefit the child in any way, and in some cases could make it worse.
The bottom line is – not everyone is going to agree with the choices we make for Charlie, just as I am not going to always agree with others. You can’t please everyone all the time. So, 9 times out of 10, I am going to keep my mouth shut when it comes to judging others’ parental choices. Even though I know the concern comes from a genuine place in many cases, I think that’s just the right thing to do.
But maybe I am still the minority. Tell me, WWMMD? (What would Maine Moms Do?)