I don’t say it out loud but every once in a while, as I watch other families, I catch myself thinking, “Oh, I wouldn’t do it that way.”
I’ve also found myself on the other side, as the recipient of other people’s advice. “He’s too old to nurse,” my relatives often told me when my son was still breastfeeding at age 2. “Put him in his own bed and let him cry it out,” they would tell me when I described how difficult it was to get him to sleep through the night.
Since then, I’ve been very careful about doling out advice to my friends. After all, what works for one family doesn’t always work for another.
In this USA Today article, “Why do mothers judge one another and their parenting?” reporter Liz Szabo writes about a problem called “competitive parenting” and why moms (and dads) sometimes undermine each other’s confidence during discussions about giving birth and raising kids.
Other parents are often the best source for recommendations on baby products, practices and all kinds of advice, but once in a while, they inadvertently put down other parenting styles, which can lead to hurt feelings.
“Being a mom can be scary and isolating, and we’re all insecure about the job we’re doing,” Andrea Moleski, a mom and blogger, told USA Today. “It’s rare that someone tells you you’re a good mom. That’s why we get so defensive. It confirms our worst fears.”
The judgments and competition begin even before the child is born. Some moms end up feeling bad about getting an epidural during the birth of the child. Then there’s the guilt that comes with the inability to breastfeed. Or the fact that cloth diapers became too much of a hassle. Or having to go back to work full-time. Moms can easily compile a long list of things to feel bad about.
“Parents who have researched and agonized over their choices — such as whether to use a pacifier, co-sleeper or baby sling — may feel a need to defend them,” Szabo writes. “Parents may wonder: If I’ve made the wrong choice, does that mean I’m endangering our children?”
Probably not at all. But in our insecurity and state of sleep deprivation, some of us can’t help but get a little touchy once in a while.
What do you do to offer support and helpful advice to other parents?