Welcome to parenthood! In addition to special privileges like “Parents with Prams” parking spots, stinky-ass nappy-changing stations and Babytime screaming sessions at the library, you can also add “relentless judgement” to the list of special treatment you will receive once you have kids. It’s ace.
If there is one thing I have learnt in almost 8 years of parenting, it’s this…
Stop giving a fuck what other people think.
From the media to your family and immediate circle of friends, EVERYONE has an opinion on how YOU should raise YOUR OWN baby. You will be judged for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding or mix feeding. You will be judged for being too permissive with your children and you will be judged for being too punitive. You will be judged for sending your kids to daycare. And for not sending your kids to daycare. You will be judged for your choice of lunchbox and what goes in it. Oh lord will you be judged for what goes in it….
The harsh reality is that judgement is never going to go away, so you need to start treating it like some annoying but ubiquitous aspect of your environment – kind of like the way you wearily tolerate the smell of your partner’s stale farts, billboard ads for erectile dysfunction, people who don’t use their indicators and Pauline Hanson speaking in the Senate. Ultimately, the trick with judgement is to stop giving a fuck what other people think. Like all skills, it takes practice, but it can be perfected over time.
I mean, think about it…. Who really cares what some random douchecanoe on Facebook thinks about your decision to formula feed? Who gives a shit what some cranky old stranger thinks when your toddler is cracking the sads at the supermarket? Who cares about the death stare some random dude gave you on the train because your double pram mildly inconvenienced him for approximately 3.5 seconds?
These people don’t know you. They aren’t experts in your life. They’ve taken one tiny snapshot of your day (usually a massively crap one) and extrapolated that to condemn your parenting skills, your overall ineptitude and your entire existence in general. They didn’t see you up all night with a sick baby. They didn’t see you crawling out of your room to clean up a toddler tornado the next day. They’ve seen none of this. And they wouldn’t care anyway, because it interferes with the self-serving narrative that you are a shitty human being who exists solely to make them feel better about their own miserable life.
Putting any stock in the judgement of strangers is as pointless and absurd as if I were to read one obscure paragraph about black holes in Stephen Hawkins’ “A Brief History of Time” and then suddenly proclaim myself an expert on the infinite expanse of the universe. “Hey guess what everyone, the universe is SHIT. Full of black holes, it is. Totally FUCKED. 2/10” See how ridiculous that is? Judgement from people who don’t know you has no relation whatsoever to reality, because it ignores the vast majority of awesome things you are also capable of in addition to losing your shit at the supermarket.
At the end of the day, the judgements which matter to me are from the people I am closest to – my partner and my children. My kids tell me every other day that I’m the best mum in the world, so how arrogant would I be to dimiss their experiences because some random twat made angry tutting noises at me in the line at ALDI? That person can piss off. They’re only looking at a tiny microcosm of my life through their own petty lens, and they know as much about my parenting skills as I know about quantum theory.
BONUS ADVICE: Treat mummy-shaming clickbait with the disdain it deserves.
Mummy-shaming clickbait is all around us and many websites like to gleefully report on the tiniest minutiae of parenting, making us terribly neurotic about things we never even knew we were meant to be neurotic about (bento bloody lunchboxes, anybody?) while throwing in a few sneaky uppercuts of judgement to keep us off balance. In isolation, these articles seem benign enough but a steady drip feeding of this nonsense will make you doubt just about everything you have ever done as a parent.
I mean bloody hell, did I even NAME this kid right? Says right here on Fretful Parenting website that my son’s name features in the list of the “Top 10 Names Most Likely to Produce a Serial Killer”. Jesus, that poor bastard was doomed after our first five minutes together. As you can see, parenting articles are like dihydrogen monoxide – safe in small doses, toxic in high ones. Piss them off out of your newsfeed and you will be immediately happier for it, I promise. If you need specific advice about something go ahead and google it, but don’t subject yourself to this covertly judgemental crap on a daily basis.
When it comes to judgement, the only judgement you should take seriously is your own. Admittedly, it can be hard to trust your instincts when every other headline you read is screaming “NEW STUDY CONFIRMS VAST MAJORITY OF MOTHERS FUCKING THEIR KIDS UP FOR LIFE” – which of course, has been written by a highly distinguished ex-blogger citing recent studies from the University of Utter Bollocks to back their ludicrous claims up.
To websites trawling for clickbait it doesn’t matter that those studies were done on a tiny sample of North American brown beavers who were raising orphaned baby sheep, with the results bearing absolutely no relation to human beings whatsoever. In the parenting media cycle, every other day brings new studies that contradict the old studies by saying the exact opposite thing, just to mess with us. The conclusions are always the same though – your kid is screwed no matter what you do and it’s all your fault. No wonder we are all crazy.
The thing with parenting is that there is no instruction manual and there is no one-size-fits all solution. It’s not like building a model car or styling a snood. What works for your family might not work for another, and that is perfectly OK. Thousands of books, websites and columns have conditioned us to be outright suspicious of our instincts, but I am here to tell you that your own judgement will usually be correct pretty much most of the time. Fact is, we tend to overthink this parenting gig a lot – and hey, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else (hello!? I have a mummy blog fer chrissake talk about self-indulgent navel-gazing).
Let me tell you something else I’ve learnt…
Parenting is three parts common sense, two parts blind faith in your own instincts, one part “Oh fuck I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’VE GOT THIS” and half an overripe banana smushed into the bottom of your handbag. Feed them, love them, clothe them, educate them. Take them to the relevant health professionals. Read them a book now and then. Try and get some vitamins into them before scurvy sets in. Don’t sweat the lunchboxes.
That’s all it takes.
The little buggers are way more resilient than we give them credit for.