Parental Judgment: Take it With a Grain of Salt

From the minute you announce your pregnancy, or your belly announces itself to the world, it seems like everyone and her uncle has an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Even perfect strangers suddenly feel free to comment on how you’re carrying, if you’re having twins, or even guessing the gender (when you already know they’re wrong). Here are some tips for dealing with the inevitable: parental judgement.

“She hasn’t done a SINGLE prenatal yoga class!”

“She’s having a HYPNO-birth in a bathtub!”

“She’s going to eat her placenta?”

Part of this parental judgement is just human nature. People, in general, like babies – therefore they like the fact that you’re busy growing one inside of you. The nosy lady on the street you can just brush off for the most part. What really seems to get under the skin of pregnant women is the mother lode of unsolicited advice that bombards you from the following sources: friends, friends who haven’t had kids (the most annoying kind), co-workers, and family members.

All of the characters above simply want to make your life easier. They want to save you the trouble of finding out “the hard way” like they did, or they want to be sure you do things just like they did, because of course – that’s the right way. If you listen closely you’ll notice that most of the advice is colored with a bit of parental judgment – or pre-judgment – lest you go against their expertise. This is especially difficult for pregnant women to cope with since you are already often in a sensitive emotional state and are generally just not in the mood to be judged. Pregnancy and new parenthood is already an unpaved road that comes with uncertainty. You certainly don’t need everyone throwing detours in your path.

What’s really behind parental judgement?

Yet, this doesn’t stop most folks from burdening you with the things you “MUST” or “MUST NOT” do.  When you listen to the subtext of this type of advice you will realize that the main objective is not so much to enlighten you, but to validate the choices that the “advisor” is making. In other words, the mom who sleeps with her baby down the hall in a crib is going to make a pretty strong case for why she feels this is better for everyone (parents, baby, siblings, future SAT scores, etc.) If you are inclined to use a co-sleeper and keep your baby close, her adamant insistence probably will rub you the wrong way.  Although we believe our way is the correct way, let’s face it – alternatives sometimes raise doubts or cause us to want to validate our own decisions.

Remember a simple phrase: “Thanks so much for your advice, but this is working really well for us.” Despite your desire to state, “Mind your own business!”

Sometimes we can more easily turn down the static noise from friends or acquaintances (like the ones we meet at the park) with an internal, “Whatever. I’m not doing that but I’ll just listen to her rant.” It’s often our own family members who hit closer to home with words and advice that may shake your resolve. When your own sister or mom cannot understand your determination to breastfeed at all costs – or to have an un-medicated birth – it can be a true challenge to keep the peace and smile politely. In fact, with our closer relatives we are more likely to feel judged and uncertain of our decisions. Relatives whom you love and trust certainly have your best interest in mind – yet there is often a lack of sensitivity to the fact that as a new parent you need to find your own way.

And that is the cornerstone of new parenthood – finding your own way, in a sea of information: YouTube videos, nosy new friends, trusted old friends, co-workers, “Mommy Groups”….you name it. You may be bombarded with advice and at times will welcome learning new ways of managing the rigors of parenthood. But at the end of the day we all need to find our own confidence and style for becoming a mom or dad. It takes time and practice to become confident in our roles as parents. There is an extremely sharp learning curve here – and it’s one job for which you generally don’t get a lot of preparation. So, let your mom know you love her and you’re very happy with the way you managed to make it to adulthood unscathed by baby powder. But also let her (and anyone else who is pushing you with parental judgment and advice) know that you appreciate it… but you’re determined to find your own approach.

Share this article:
back to blog