We’ve all done it, whether you will admit it or not. Sometimes it it is obvious when others are doing it to you, although they may not say anything: you are in Target and have just a few more items on your list to get when your kid decides to throw a huge fit in the middle of the vitamin aisle because she can see the toy section but you don’t want to guide the cart that way. Other shoppers give you the side eye as your kid has a meltdown. Other times you may be thinking, “Really, lady, you’re getting your kids the apple sauce that has high fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient instead of the all natural one? Geez, that’s a great choice.”
Yesterday I found myself unjustly judging my friend when she was discussing how although her daughter was displaying signs of being ready to potty train, she didn’t want to work with her two and a half year old on potty training yet because she “wanted her to stay a baby for longer.” I felt like it was unfair to her daughter to keep up this dependence on diapers and someone to change them around the clock, plus not being potty trained excludes her from opportunities for socialization like programs at the local rec center or preschool. She also said a couple other things that I didn’t agree with, but I won’t go into details.
Later as I was thinking about what she had said I realized that- you know what? It is totally none of my business. WTF, Sarah, I thought. I wouldn’t appreciate her judgement of me if the tables were turned. What qualifies me to make a judgement about what she said, how she feels about her child? Nothing. I am no expert; I am not a doctor, not a psychologist, not a teacher. I am a first time parent. I am literally learning as I go, each day. All night long I felt guilty.
Why does our society seem to feel like it is OK to judge other people’s parenting choices?
Everywhere you turn moms are judging other moms for feeding their babies with formula instead of breastfeeding, or judging moms for breastfeeding instead of using formula. Judging because one mom loves her son’s soft baby curls so much she can’t bear to give him a “normal” haircut until he’s two. Judging because this mom gives her kids juice (so much sugar!) Judging because that mom decides to breastfeed her hungry baby, gasp! in public. Judging because they don’t take their children to Sunday school. Judging because little Susie is overweight. Judging because little Joe wants to play with a doll and a kitchen set instead of a dump truck. I could go on and on.
We all need to take a collective step back. It’s easy to judge. It’s easy to assert our (often unrequested) opinion about other people’s lives and parenting choices and abilities. But just because it is easy does not make it right. You never know where the other person is coming from, what is going on in their life, what battles they may be fighting behind the scenes. Each family, each child, each situation is different. Judging others says more about you than it does about them. Be respectful of others and their right to parent as they do. As long as a kid is fed, healthy, safe, and happy, no opinion, no helpful advice, no judgement is needed. I know it won’t be easy, but I am going to try to not judge another parent ever again.