Passing Judgment: Infant Seats, Formula Feeding and the F-Bomb
I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent bestseller Go the F**k to Sleep, a night-time story known for its gentle prose and liberal use of the F word. The book became a hit before it was even released and has caused heated debate among parents. Some people insist that the book is just a bit of harmless fun and may even be helpful in letting sleep-deprived parents know that they aren’t suffering alone. Others find the F word incredibly offensive and are horrified at the idea of saying it to children. And that’s fine – both opinions are valid.
This post isn’t really a reaction to that book or my opinion of it – its more of a reaction to all the reaction. Many people are not only sharing their opinions on the radio, blogs, and Facebook, but they’re going further and casting judgment on anyone who dares to disagree with them. And that’s what this piece is about – judging each other as parents.
Two Blogs, Two Different Approaches
Take, for example, two blog posts about the book by bloggers that I follow. One of the bloggers wrote that while she laughed a bit, deep down she didn’t feel comfortable with the book. She gently reminded her readers that while it is frustrating when a child asks for another bedtime story or another glass of water or another trip to the bathroom, they aren’t intentionally trying to mess up our evening. They aren’t aware that we are tired or busy or distracted, and they aren’t trying to manipulate us. I appreciated her perspective, and when my daughter gave me a rough time last night, I was glad I had read her post.
Contrast that to the second blogger, who condemned the book and anyone who would find it funny. She called the book sick and disgusting, and argued that the book was just another symptom of our society’s half-hearted approach to parenting – somehow, she even worked in child abuse. Her commentary offended me far more than the book did. In truth, I thought the book was funny. I saw the YouTube clip, narrated by Samuel L Jackson, just after I’d spent three and a half HOURS telling my own 3 year old to go back to bed. I was tired. I was frustrated. I needed that laugh. Does this make me a bad parent? More importantly, who gets to say?
Fear of Being Judged
Today it seems perfectly acceptable to cast judgment on each other without a thought. Our parenting decisions seem to be open for criticism from everyone – the kindly old lady down the street, the other moms in the play group, the random strangers we chat with online, and our single, childless friends who knows a “better” way for absolutely everything we do.
It’s constant. It’s everywhere. It’s to the point where I sometimes feel judged even when nobody is giving me a second glance, because I know that someone, somewhere would look down on my actions. Example? When I go into a grocery store to quickly grab a bag of milk, I often choose to leave my sleeping daughter strapped in her car seat. I figure that she’s already screamed herself to sleep on the way to the store – it would be cruel of me to wake her for a couple minutes so she can do it all over again on the way home. But as I walk down the aisle, I feel like parents are looking down on me for keeping my daughter in a container when car seats are really only meant to be used in cars. I feel like someone from the babywearing group might see me and wonder why I’m not wearing her. I’m scared a store customer might see me and think I’m full of it because I don’t use my own carriers. Does this sound crazy? I’ve read enough comments on forums and on Facebook and on Twitter to know that there are people who think that way, always judging. And its to the point where I half-wonder if they’re waiting for me, lurking in the dairy aisle.
How is this healthy?
Advocacy without Guilt
Recently another group has been complaining about constant judgment – mother’s who don’t breastfeed their babies. I’ve noticed a growing backlash lately against breastfeeding advocates for making women feel guilty about using formula. This topic has been coming up everywhere from the CBC to my local mom’s group.
As someone who is passionate about breastfeeding, I can tell you that it is never my intention to guilt mothers who choose formula. My goal is to make women feel comfortable while nurisng. So many women are insecure about breastfeeding, especially in public – I want them to be confident about nursing any time, anywhere, and I think many breastfeeding advocates feel the same way. I hate that so many nursing mothers feel they need to hide in their cars or the public bathrooms, or, worse, just stay home all the time. Society has spent decades looking down on breastfeeding, and we need to work hard to make sure that breastfeeding is properly valued again – but NOT at the expense of other mothers.
I LOVE these posts by Just West of Crunchy – they point out some things that breastfeeding advocates often say but are often insensitive, as well as alternatives that would be better:
Top 10 Things Breastfeeding Advocates Should Stop Saying
and the follow up…
Top 10 Things Breastfeeding Advocates SHOULD Say
It takes a village to raise a mother. We aren’t born knowing how to parent a child, it is a process of learning. Being a mom is tough – especially being a new mother who is suffering from sleep-deprivation and loneliness. Let’s not judge another mother’s parenting decisions or sense of humour, but challenge her to be the best she can be, doing so with kindness and respect. Let’s support her by giving her a community where she can grow into her new role.
How about you? How have others encouraged you as a parent?