There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about stay at home moms, work outside of the home moms, wealthy moms, poor moms, moms who chew their child’s food before feeding them, and moms who eat their baby’s placenta (that’s a true story but not as gross as it sounds). Anyway, it is rather entertaining to read these mom stories and then to read the comments after the article. People are vicious in their criticism of mothers and their choices. Google any parenting article and you will find parents screaming bloody murder either in support of or against the parenting issue at hand.
Why are parents so defensive of their own parenting choices and so critical of others who make a different choice? I have a theory that it is a reaction born out of fear. What if my parenting decision is right and yours is wrong and you end up with a school shooter, or a drug addict, or a child who suffers from an eating disorder, or worst of all with a 35-year-old unemployed, adult child still living at home? Maybe if we hold firmly to our own parenting ideals and criticize those of others, maybe just maybe we can ward off any bad things from ever happening to our child and guarantee that they will turn out to be . . . PERFECT!
Here’s the funny part of this idea, there is no such thing as the perfect child despite what I hear many parents alluding to day in and day out and there is almost no concrete evidence that one form of parenting is dramatically better than an other. There is no doubt that we shouldn’t emotionally, sexually, or physically abuse our children nor should we abandon them in any way but other than that the final result of most forms of parenting leads to . . . wait for it . . . functionally dysfunctional and relatively normal adults.
I’m pretty sure that I severely over watered my first child, fretting over every move he made and obsessively worrying about his future. I also spent the first 18 months of his life plotting ways to give him away because he spent about 20 hours a day pig squealing. Despite me he appears to be a well-adjusted 19-year-old who has thus far avoided jail, obvious drug abuse, and severe cruelty to his younger siblings.
When my daughter becomes the first Jewish female president and I’m asked how I raised such an amazing child. I could say, “Why of course it’s because of my severe no spanking, no crying it out policy.” but I could just as easily say, “Why it’s because I accidentally dropped her down the stairs when she was six-weeks-old . . . on her head.” And the third child; he will either be the evil genius that is often portrayed in super hero moves or he will have devised a cure for cancer both of which will have been plotted out during the first 8 years of his life which were spent strapped into a car seat schlepping his siblings around.
My point is that we are all both good and bad parents and that despite our very best intentions our children may turn out both good and bad. So why do we feel the need to be so judgmental of other parents? How are we so sure that we are right and they are wrong? Really why does it matter, they aren’t our kids? Can’t we just hope for the best for all of our children? Can’t we offer help when other parents are struggling instead of bashing them for their failings? Can’t we just trust that parents are doing their best and could use our empathy rather than our criticism?
When I was pregnant with my first child (the overwatered one), I was at the mall actively judging a mother and her toddler girl. The girl was a bit of a mess with crazy hair, a dirty face and in the throws of one crazy temper tantrum. I, and other adults glared at the mother with me thinking to myself, “My children will never look or behave like that.” Seriously, I thought that. Then an older woman walked over to the mother and kindly said, “Let me help you.” She picked up the woman’s bags, her tray of food and led her and her screaming toddler to a table. A few months later, after the pig squealer was born, I thought about that mom and how one small act of kindness helped make her world just a little bit better. Every mom deserves that because she is parenting in the one and only way that she knows how.