I’m a better parent than you.

I used to write for a neat website called Modern Parent. I focused on topics related to frugality and natural living, and I figured it’d be nice to have everything in one space. I’ll be posting my articles here every now and again, since my column there is no more. This one was written just a couple of months ago…

We’ve all seen it. The boy getting dragged back under the dressing room door.The toddler, barely big enough to see over the table, playing a personal video game system while his parents enjoy their meal. The mom whipping her boob out to nurse in public. The mom whipping her bottle and powder out to formula-feed in public. The girl screaming in a check-out line while her parents throw toys in the cart.

We judge parents all the time for what we see in public, practices with which we might not agree… I would never do that. She must not be strict enough at home. He must not get enough time with his kids to know what to do. She must think she’s better than me by doing that. I’m so thankful I know better, BLESS HER HEART!

Let’s be honest – we’ve all done it. We pass judgment as routinely as brushing our teeth.

Yet we sit around on the Internet or in coffee shops or living rooms, talking about how we need to build each other up. We need to stop judging, stop being so catty! Let’s band together and embrace all parenting styles. All that matters in the end is that our kids are safe and happy, right?

Yes. And no.

Only recently have I embraced a different perspective. I believe that this sort of parental judgment is unavoidable. After all, each of us raises our children the way we do because we think it’s best. Hopefully, you think your way of doing things is right – which makes other ways wrong by default.

Right? Embrace that! You are the best parent in the world for your child! You do a much better job at it than I would. Conversely, I’m a better parent than you when it comes to my own brood.

I think judgment towards other parents is a reflex, one as natural as blinking. I’m not going to fight it. From now on, I’m making efforts to curb the way I judge. I know I cannot stop doing it completely, but I can take measures to keep myself from becoming ugly or pretentious about it.

For example: When I see another boy behave the way my son did before we changed his diet, I can’t help but think that maybe his parents just haven’t figured it out yet. If they knew what we knew, surely he wouldn’t be holding that soda. And that’s okay. I’m entitled to think that. But might I also stop to think that maybe they are already addressing it? Maybe the behavior I’m seeing is an improvement from the day before? Maybe he earned that soda?

When I see a woman feeding a tiny baby from a bottle, my first thought is one of pity. What if that mother and baby never know what it’s like to breastfeed? It just pops into my head. I can’t help feeling so passionately about something. But what if it’s expressed breast milk in that bottle and the mother nurses at home? What if she’s a breast cancer survivor? What if that baby’s adopted? What if they tried and tried, but were unable to establish a good latch or milk supply? Give it a rest already! I don’t know the whole story. Chances are, I never will.

So I will continue to think that my ways are best for me, but I must accept that your ways are best for you. I’ll be honest – certain parenting practices are different enough to put a strain on friendships between families. I can’t allow my son to spend unsupervised time at a friend’s house where (what we consider to be) inappropriate movies or video games are played.

That’s only fair, right?

But parenting practices cannot be different enough to make us forget our manners or our ability to process through situations as we come across them.

Judge on, fellow parents… but please do so with tact and class, bless your heart.

8 thoughts on “I’m a better parent than you.”

  1. I think this is the best approach for viewing the world of parenthood. I used to feel incredibly judged, every time I pulled out a bottle in public. Of course, nobody knew that my girls never latched. They didn’t know that I pumped and that the girls did get breast milk, but that due to prematurity and low birth weight, we had to supplement with formula anyway. I still felt like other moms were surely judging my way of parenting, especially when I was at church, where women who are nursing their 7th, 8th, or 9th child is common. It made me think twice about ever judging another mom.

    Then I had an epic fail with my daughters at the library, which involved a kicking and screaming tantrum as we left story time. That was the last straw for me. I’ve read all the books, I’m an educated gal, but there I was, unable to control my toddlers. From that moment onward, I gave up on thinking that other parents aren’t doing the best that they can at any given moment. I was doing my best, but it sure didn’t look like it!

  2. hmmmm.

    you win me and loose me all at the same time in this post.

    firstly, I love hearing a mom provide so many options for us to view a scenario (maybe thats breastmilk in that bottle, etc), but what you also said is if it IS formula, than it’s OKAY for you to pass judgment because you “can’t help it” and you’re passionate about the issue.

    You can make any and every choice about how you want to raise your children, but it’s not justifiable to judge other moms who are just trying to make it work. And your exceptions were limited to your world view. Unless the child is in danger, I think us moms need to accept that we aren’t their parents, their parents are! And it’s their job to make choices for their kids, not ours. And judging them isn’t ok.

  3. Sandra – thanks for your examples! The tantrum thing recently happened to me, and I couldn’t help but laugh (after the embarrassed-can-I-make-it-stop feeling).

    Emily – I totally agree! I’ve used several of your phrases myself! And I have a whole series dedicated to “mamas makin’ it work.”

    I think my point is to accept the fact that opinions are in our nature, no matter how hard we try to control them. I feel like learning how to change our responses to those emotions is the best way to deal with world views of all walks of life… for me at least. Does that make sense?

  4. I totally agree. As parents, we’re going to judge. Afterall, raising our children is the hardest, most amazing, most time consuming job we will ever have. There are a million opinions on everything. To say, “Judging isn’t okay!” is a bit high and mighty, to me. I don’t believe there is a single person in this entire world who can say they have never raised an eyebrow on someone else’s parenting practices. And let’s be real, it’s how we learn. You see someone doing something that isn’t working with the toddler in public, you store that little bit away for your own future reference.

    Personally, I’m having to pump 24/7 right now due to a little boy who refuses to nurse. It’s hard on me. Do I care if another mama thinks it’s formula? Hell no. I’ve got enough to worry about. I’m pumping at least 8 times a day to keep my piggy fat and happy. Who gives a rat’s ass if someone else thinks it isn’t as good as milk straight from the tap?

    Cheers, love. I’m with ya!

  5. I love this article! I’m not a parent, but I see some of the ladies at my church and even my friends judge one another and it makes me insane. Like you said, “Give it a rest already!”

  6. I am not a parent, but I work a job where I take care of thousands of children a year. It can be a stressful job and, thus, our work environment can be strained at times. Gossip and judgements pop up on an hourly basis! I used to think this was a BAD thing, but I have come to the hard-earned conclusion that, when it comes to the safety and proper treatment of children, the natural judgements that pop up are a good thing. It is a way of keeping checks and balances in childcare. I SO appreciated your realism in this article! I have learned a LOT about what works and what doesn’t from watching my co-workers and “judging (for lack of a better word)” them, and I think that moms can use each other as a resource in this way without, as you so eloquently put it, forgetting our “manners and our ability to process through situations as we come across them.” You rock!

  7. aaah, thanks for this! i of course don’t think we should all go around judging each other, but i do think that all the “let’s be totally accepting of other parents, you can’t tell them what’s best for their child” stuff has reached pretty epic proportions in the blog community lately.

    do i think parents, on the whole, know what is best for their children? yes, of course. but am I going to watch a mother feed her child mcdonalds three days a week and not think it’s hurting that child? no, i’m not. we have our opinions because we believe they are right,like you said. there is nothing wrong with believing something enough that you wish other people believed it too. as long as it is all done with a merciful heart and a spirit of humility.

  8. I was never able to breast feed. Lainey latched perfectly but my supply didn’t come in and after a week of trying, we had to supplement formula while I still continued to pump, in hopes that it would eventually come in. Never did. I still feel that I have to defend and justify myself to every woman who sees me bottle feeding or has the audacity to comment on our choice to formula-feed. I get tired of ppl telling me I should’ve tried harder or longer or I shouldn’t have listened to the doctors when they said to supplement formula. I personally feel God gives doctors wisdom and if their knowledge and experience advises us to take a certain course of action, then I trust that. We did what was best for Lainey. I still think there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula-feeding. I feel an unequivocal bond with my daughter without having breast fed.

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