I’d say that 95% of my readers are parents. If so, I’m sure you can relate to how many times your parenting skills and philosophies are put under the microscope by friends, family, and strangers.
I’ll never forget this moment that occurred when Little DDW was about six months old. I took her on a walk to the local Starbucks to grab an iced drink on a hot summer day. As I approached the door, an older gentleman was sitting outside enjoying his beverage and we had the following conversation:
Man: “Hey! Good job doing the Daddy thing!”
Me: “Isn’t this what I should be doing?”
Man: “Well, I’m sure you’d rather be playing basketball or something instead of taking your baby on a walk, right?”
To this day I don’t know for sure if the guy was being racist or not. If I had to pick a side, I’d probably say that he wasn’t. However, what’s not debatable is the fact he judged me based on my appearance. I’m a 6’2 205lbs athletic-looking black guy, so obviously I’d rather be playing ball than spending time with my daughter. Let me be clear – I love basketball, but I love my daughter a hell of a lot more. Being with her in that moment trumped any other desire (other than sleeping, but that’s another story). Would he have said that to me if I looked like I stepped out of an episode of The Big Bang Theory? Probably not.
What about you? Have you been judged as a parent?
Of course you have. It’s the one thing every parent has in common.
There is not one Daddy or Mommy reading this who hasn’t been judged in regards to his or her parenting skills and/or philosophies. Because of that, one personal rule I set for myself when I started this blog is to never judge people on how they raise their kids. Why? Because every family is different and they have the right to do whatever they feel is best for their children. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll cringe like a motherfucker when I see parents doing shit that I think is crazy, but as long as the child’s welfare is not being compromised, I’ll keep my mouth shut.
So without further ado, let’s review some (but not all) of the ways parents can be judged.
#1 Judged due to appearance: I already illustrated this point with my Starbucks story, but it goes much deeper than race. Let’s say you’re overweight and you order dessert for your children at a restaurant. Your well-meaning family member will roll her eyes and blurt out, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” She’s judging your ability to make good food choices for your children due to your weight. What about the child who wears old clothes to social events and people laugh at the parents for being “poor and lazy”? There are too many examples to list here. I live in a city where in many cases perception is reality, and folks will judge your ability to be a good parent based on if you “look” the part. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but in many cases that’s how it is.
#2 – Judged due to gender: A few weeks ago I took Little DDW to the mall to go shopping and I received a lot of snickers from teenagers and other people. I’m not quite sure what they were saying, but as I was holding my toddler’s hand while she was decked out in a head-to-toe pink outfit, I’m sure they probably thought I was a soft, wussy-ass punk. In my mind, any Dad who can spend 30 minutes in a Sanrio store with his daughter without wanting to kill himself is probably the manliest dude on the planet.
To my Daddies Doin’ Work out there, do you get judged by others (friends or strangers) as a wuss when you take your kids shopping without your wives? When you have gatherings with family or friends, will someone laugh at you for changing diapers because “that’s what your wife should do”?
This isn’t just a Daddy thing, either. For my Mommies Doin’ Work, do you get judged by people when you work long hours at the office because they think it takes away from your abilities to be a good mom? Do you practice sports with your kids and get judged because there’s no way a woman can do as good of a job teaching her kids about athletics as a man can?
Yes, it’s practically 2013 and people still think this way.
#3 – Judged due to lack of experience: All of us were first-time parents at some point, and I’m currently in that role now. I’ve documented all of the crappy unsolicited advice I received so far on this gig, but it’s more than that. More experienced parents will judge you in a “You have no idea what you’re doing” type of way. For example, if you rock your baby to sleep before her nap, some parents will laugh and say, “HA! I have three kids, and that doesn’t work. Just put her in the crib and walk away.” Or they’ll say, “Wow, do you really think you’ve done a good job childproofing your house? I counted at least ten deadly hazards in this room alone!” Or my personal favorite – the condescending, “Ah, I remember those days…I was clueless too. This is how you should (insert parenting task here).”
#4 – Judged due to age: Keep in mind, this is different than experience. What I’m referring to here are young parents and older parents. For example, the 17-year old mom is judged by many to be a “slut” and the 42-year old first-time mom is judged to be selfish because “she’ll be dead before the kid graduates High School.” Both of these accounts are pretty ridiculous. Some of the best parents I’ve ever seen started off as teenagers. On the flipside, age is just a number. Who says that a first-time mother at 42-years old won’t outlive a first-time mother at 22? If you’re healthy, eat right, and stay physically fit – anything is possible.
#5 – Judged due to differing beliefs: Stay-at-Home Moms (SAHM) vs. Working Moms - need I say more? For some reason lost on me, this battle for who has it worse is never-ending. Some (not all) SAHM judge Working Moms for ignoring their families by not being home doing “mom stuff.” Some (not all) Working Moms judge SAHM for being lazy whiners because they do everything SAHM do and have full-time jobs. Don’t get caught up in that shit. It’s hard for EVERY parent. If you check out the links above, you’ll see that I wrote about how hard it is for both parties; however, there are plenty of other parenting topics people pass judgment on as well:
Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding
Breastfeeding in public vs. breastfeeding at home
Daycare vs. Nanny
“Cry It Out” sleep techniques vs. having the baby sleep in your bed
Spanking vs. coaching
Cursing in front of your kids vs. never cursing in front of your kids
Adoption vs. In Vitro Fertilization
The list is literally endless. In some cases, the people on one side of the fence will judge the hell out of parents on the other side of the fence, and it can become quite ugly.
#6 – Judged due to tragedy: Speaking of ugly, imagine you’re a mother who had her 15-month old child die tragically due to something that could’ve been easily prevented by the justice system. Horrific, right? Now imagine that some people are judging you and saying that it’s your fault for your child dying because you’re a stupid slut who should’ve known better.
There’s NO way that could ever happen, right? It happened.
#7 – Judged due to a child’s performance/behavior: Is your son struggling with math? You could have someone judge you by saying, “Maybe the problem is you let him watch too much TV.” Did your daughter come home crying from school because a bully gave her a black eye? You could have someone judge you by asking, “How could you not teach your kid how to defend herself? That’s really irresponsible of you.” Is your son really rambunctious? You could have someone judge you by saying, “You really need to learn how to control him. I would never have my child behave that way.” I’m sure a lot of you are nodding your heads in agreement, because this shit is quite common.
#8 – Judged due to your past: Let’s say you’re a recovering drug addict or alcoholic. You’ll have a decent amount of people judge you by thinking that you’re not fit to raise a baby. Maybe your spouse spent some time in jail/prison and is now rehabilitated. When you announce that you’re pregnant, folks will judge you as being stupid for bringing a child into this world with someone who was incarcerated. Or let’s say you battled with depression (like I used to). I’ve had people tell me, “Maybe you shouldn’t have children. Parenthood is really stressful and I’m not sure if you’ll have the ability to handle it.” They’re right, parenting is really stressful – but I’m handling it pretty well so far.
#9 – Judged due your financial situation: Are you a single parent with three kids who works your ass off to provide for your family? People will judge you as being irresponsible for bringing children into the world without having the “necessary finances” to take care of them adequately (as if they know). Money is nice to have, but it certainly is not a prerequisite to becoming a good, responsible parent.
#10 – Judged due to crazy shit: I wish I could’ve come up with a more elegant way to define this category, but it is what it is. Back when Little DDW was about three months old, I took her to a certain large national retailer of electronics. No, I absolutely will not share the name of this large national retailer of electronics, but I will say it believes it’s the BEST place to BUY electronics in America. Anyway, I went there to buy the new iPad 2 (it was the cool new gadget of early 2011) and after we waited for close to an hour, I finally had an employee approach me. This is how the conversation went down.
Me: “Hi there, I’m looking to buy the iPad 2. Do you have them here?”
Employee: “Sure, I can check. But why are you buying one?”
Me: “Mostly for entertainment purposes. Why?”
Employee: “I can see that you’re a father. Is she your first child?”
Me: “Yes, but I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”
Employee: “Off the record, I just don’t know if it’s a good idea to buy one with the economy as it is. Don’t you think that money would be more useful for clothes and daycare expenses? It’s not just about you anymore.”
Yes, this happened. A stranger whose JOB is to sell me shit tried to talk me out of a purchase because he judged me as an irresponsible, selfish deadbeat dad who would rather play Angry Birds than put clothes on my kid’s back. You just can’t make this stuff up.
DEALING WITH THE NOISE
I’ve mentioned this before, but here’s how you handle people who judge you. Simply analyze two things: the source and the accuracy.
Let me provide a few examples.
Let’s pretend you’re walking down the street by yourself and a stranger approaches you and says, “Hey! I just wanted to tell you that you’re the SHITTIEST parent on the planet! Your kids are stupid, your spouse is an idiot for marrying you, and your family will never amount to anything! YOU SUCK!!!”
How would you react?
Would you be angry? Would you be hurt? Would you be defensive?
If so, then the problem lies with nobody else but you. Like I said, analyze the source and the accuracy. If strangers offer judgments that are totally false, brush that shit off and move on. This should never ever bother you. Seriously.
This is also the case on the Internet. You know what’s interesting? Let’s take a look at the scenario I just described. Why is that most people would shrug off a stranger who talked inaccurate smack about them in person, but if it happened in the form of an email, tweet, or Facebook comment, people would get upset? What’s the difference? Did the source and accuracy of the message magically change due to the medium it was delivered upon?
The headline here is to ignore any judgments made against you when the source and accuracy aren’t on-point. Don’t even give it a minute of your attention.
Now let’s pretend a stranger approaches you and offers a judgment. When you analyze it, you realize that they could be right. It’s rare, but it does happen. Like I said, it’s important to analyze the source and the accuracy. If the accuracy is on-point, you have to decide whether to take action or not. If it’s important enough for you to make a change, do it. If it’s not, don’t. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it’s true. Since I became a dad, I’ve had a few occasions when strangers offered judgments about me that really made me reevaluate how I go about things. I don’t ignore them just because they’re strangers. If their judgments/advice could enhance my life, I thank them and make the change. If not, I’ll just move on.
Now let’s say a person you love and/or respect offers a judgment that you feel is way off-base (like many of the ten judgments I outlined above). It could be your best-friend, your spouse, your mom, a colleague, etc. If there’s zero accuracy to the statement, you need to call them on their shit immediately and tell them that you don’t appreciate their words. So many of us suffer in silence because we’re afraid of confrontation or conflict with people we love and respect. Don’t let that happen to you. Unlike silly haters who don’t know you personally – the people you love and respect aren’t going anywhere. Set your boundaries and make sure they understand that you don’t appreciate false judgments. It usually takes one stern conversation and the other party will know not to mess with you again.
The final example is a person you love and/or respect who offers a judgment that’s completely accurate. When that happens, take action immediately and change. Don’t let your ego get in the way. 99% of the time they’re offering their judgment because they love you and it’s for your own good. Sure, it may not come out eloquently, but their hearts are always in the right place.
Finally, we all have to do a better job when it comes to judging others. I judge people. You judge people. Everyone judges people and you’re lying to yourself if you say otherwise. I hate that I do, but it’s a major flaw of mine. For example, if someone uses the wrong version of your/you’re, I’m going to think he or she isn’t very bright. Is that fair? No. People make typos and mistakes all of the time. We all need to be better when it comes to judging people for any reason (myself included).
I’ve been a parent for 22 months and there’s one thing I know for sure about this gig:
None of us knows what we’re doing.
Seriously, we don’t.
Parenting is the only job on the planet where the majority of people claim to be experts on something that they know very little about. You might do an excellent job raising your children, but you’d probably do a shitty job raising mine – and vice versa.
Other than maintaining a sense of humor while being loving, patient, and supportive – there’s no magic formula to being a good parent.
Come to think of it, I think that is the magic formula.
As long as the well-being of our children isn’t compromised, let’s not judge each other on how we do the job. Sure we’re all different, but when you realize that the end goal is to raise happy, healthy, and productive human beings – you’ll also realize that we’re more similar than we are different.
Am I right? I’ll let you be the judge.