That is a word isn’t really covered in the parenting books or classes. However, the moment you become a parent, judgement seems to become a part of your daily life almost as much as changing diapers and getting spit-up on.
You might have caught on during your pregnancy that people like to give you advice on everything related to your unborn child. The advice continues to flow after you give birth, but along with it comes judgement based on the decisions you make.
We experienced our fair share of judgmental looks and comments:
I only breastfed for 6 weeks (gasp!)
We don’t use cloth diapers (“Don’t you care about the environment?”)
We took our son on an airplane at 6 weeks (“Aren’t you worried about germs?”)
We skipped rice cereal (“How is he going to get the nutrition he needs?”)
We post about our son on Facebook…a lot (Ugh!)
We let him watch TV (“Research says…”)
And the BIG one…
We send our son to DAYCARE (“I would NEVER send my kid to daycare.”)
Over the past year I have read so many books, articles, blogs, and ramblings on Facebook about which way of parenting is right and which ways deserve that look of judgement. Everyone has their opinions, and many aren’t quiet about expressing them. I have stayed away from mommy forums because they have grown into a space where moms can’t ask questions or share an experience without an attack from other moms who don’t agree with their parenting choices.
Two years ago, doctors found a tumor in my husband’s brain. Through dealing with that experience, my husband and I learned a lot about advocating for what we wanted, and what we felt was right. We started with a hospital that has a reputation for being the best, not just in Cleveland, but around the country. We just weren’t happy with their treatment plan, or interactions we had with the doctors there. We made the choice to switch to University Hospital. There, we absolutely love all the staff and doctors, and they came up with an aggressive treatment plan, as well as including my husband in a study. We have never once regretted that decision. However if we had listened to the rankings, public opinion, or advice from others, we might have been influenced to decide otherwise. Having come out of that situation with the best case scenario (my husband is living with a brain tumor, but will be able to go on doing so for many, many years), we learned that we have to do what is right for us and our family, despite how others may look at us.
We made the decision to go on with our family planning, and just 5 months after the tumor was discovered, we found out I was pregnant. Some might have put off starting a family after learning such news, but not us. Going through what we did made our marriage stronger, and gave us a clear picture of how we wanted to live our life. We had a new outlook on life, and how quickly it could change. We didn’t want to take life for granted, or let this little bump in the road (no pun intended) change our plan to start our family.
So here I am, on my son’s 1st birthday, looking back at my first year of parenting. This brings me back to judgement. As I think about all of those who look at other parents with judging eyes, I feel bad for them. They see parenting as black and white; a clear right and wrong way. Parenting is much more organic than that, and what is right for one family, or even for one child within a family, is not necessarily right for another. Just as with the decisions we made with my husband’s medical treatment, the decisions we have made in our parenting of our son have been well educated. We have done our research. However in the end, your decisions should not be dictated by your research, but instead by what you feel is right. Parenting is a lot of trial and error, and almost entirely learn as you go. It helps to be open-minded and adaptable. I had planned to breastfeed my son for a year, but life took us in another direction.
Life is short, and can change in an instant. Live your life, and raise your family the way you feel is right. As long as their basic needs are being met (shelter, food, affection, etc), no one has any business telling you to do otherwise. As I was riding the train at the zoo with my son today, watching him gaze out into the world with so much wonder, I was overwhelmed with a sense of happiness. My son is a healthy, happy, intelligent, charismatic, curious and loving boy. I must have done something right over the past year.
So no matter what others say…
…I will continue to take a ridiculous amount of pictures
…I will continue to share on social media
…I will continue to expose my son to new experiences
…I will continue to send my son to daycare
…I will continue to throw over the top parties to celebrate milestones in our family’s life
…I will teach my son tolerance, and that no one characteristic about a person makes them better than another
…I will encourage my son to make his own choices
…I will live in a home where it looks like Pinterest threw up all over the place
…I will send my son to public schools
…I will have the number of children my husband and I think is best for our family
…I will continue to make decisions for my family based on what we think is best
…I will continue to ignore the judgement of others
…I will surround myself with open-minded individuals rather than seeking out like-mined individuals
I will be the parent my family needs me to be, not the parent society or others THINK I should be.