On Living in a Fish Bowl

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  July 10, 2014 — 6 Comments


fish bowl (570x530)

image from here

Parenting is one of those things that almost everybody over a certain age has some experience with. If they haven’t been parents themselves, they’ve at least observed enough to form a few opinions. And boy, do they make their opinions known. When Jack was younger, people would say things like, “Oh, look at the cute baby! Where’s his hat?” Or they would ask whether he was sleeping through the night and tell me what I needed to do to make him. Or ask conspiratorially if I was one of those moms who breastfeeds in public. One lady even told me I was holding him wrong! As he gets older, the comments have changed. Now it’s all about how I respond when he acts out and whether I’m keeping a close enough eye on him. People act like he has no sense of self-preservation and I should be on constant suicide watch.

No matter how active Nick is in parenting our child, others will always view me as the primary caretaker and address their comments as such. I’ve struggled with accepting criticism for as long as I can remember. I developed a much tougher skin after my first few years as a social worker but parenting brings it to a whole new level. Add to that the fact that I bristle at unsolicited advice or being told what to do unless it comes from someone who’s paying me and you have a recipe for frustration. I can seethe for days over one comment.

In my line of work I have seen some people really do their kids a disservice. You’d think that this experience would be reassuring, but really it just makes it easy to see all the ways that I’m falling short. It’s like a friend of mine who’s a social worker on a neuro unit and thinks every headache is a stroke. I know too much.

But at the same time, I know that there are only a few ways to really mess up your kids and a million ways to do a perfectly fine job. I feel like my mantra these days is, “he’s fine.” And you know what? He IS fine! Just because somebody says something doesn’t make it true, and even if their way of parenting is actually right that doesn’t mean that my way isn’t also right. But more importantly, I need to stop taking these comments so personally. What kind of example am I setting for Jack to get so worked up about what other people think?

Parenting is a lot like living in a fish bowl. Everything you do is under scrutiny by the general public. I can’t do anything to change that, but I think I can work on letting those comments roll off my back. Any tips?

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


6 responses to On Living in a Fish Bowl

  1. I am totally guilty of having an opinion on something I know nothing about :)

  2. I see myself in this post. Hahaha. You’re an excellent mother no matter what. And I can’t judge, I can’t even raise the dog right.

  3. Here is my unsolicited advice. Pay no attention to what they say. It can drive you crazy. When my firstborn was only a few months old, a friend of mine saw her at my Grandmother’s house. It was my usual time to pick her up and she was all ready to go and sitting in what they then called an infant seat. A few days later, I overheard this friend telling another friend that I let my Grandmother keep my poor baby strapped in that infant seat all day and that probably my child would be mentally challenged because she had no stimulation all day. My daughter is now almost 35, a very intelligent person and a fine mother herself, but my friend’s comment still annoys me. I think it ruined my friendship with her. I know overhearing is not the same as someone giving advice, but she hinted around about these dire predictions for weeks.

    If you admire someone like your own mother or grandmother, seek their advice and then judge yourself whether or not to follow it. Otherwise, don’t let the nosy busybodies get to you. How is that for unsolicited advice?

  4. Ughhh wait until Jack starts school. My son started kindergarten this past year. I was shocked at how freaked-out the teachers get about every little thing. My son’s teacher was childless and it was only her 2nd year of teaching. So she still had this idealistic idea that kindergartners should behave perfectly all the time. Almost immediately I got a phone call from her that my son made “weird noises.” She made it sound like he had autism or something.

    My son said “fart” on the bus and the bus driver told his after-school care provider, who tried to lecture my son, who acted like he didn’t care, and then I got a 30-minute phone call from the after school provider about my son’s chilling lack of remorse. For reals? He was probably trying to keep from crying because he hates getting yelled at! My son has a vivid imagination and often hums while he works, so he had to sit at his own table away from the other kids.

    My son LOVES to draw and will get lost in drawing for an hour. Great, right? But his teacher wrote on his report card that it was a concern that he “only draws video game characters.” (Really? If a girl only liked to draw princesses would that be called out as a concern?)

    My point is, it’s good for you to build up that thick skin now, because the world is only going to try to make you feel worse. I feel like society is especially hard on boys. I picked up my son from his summer program yesterday and the teacher (who is maybe out of high school, but around that age) said that they were having problems with all the boys in the class, my son included. They were (gasp) competing and trash-talking each other. I became “that parent” who just shrugged and said, “They’re boys.” The teacher asked me for “strategies for how to get my son to behave.” I almost laughed, then just told her I’d talk to him. There is no “strategy” for a 6-year-old boy. Yes, he knows he needs to be respectful and not hit and stuff like that. But he’s a boy! Stop picking on the boys.

    (And I have to say, seriously, my son is not the bully rambunctious type. He cries when his hands get dirty and is very snuggly and sweet. He just gets clownish sometimes. He does not have serious problems, which is why it bothers me so much that everyone is trying to strip him of his personality. Surely there are boys out there who are truly violent and disruptive, not just trying to make people laugh?)

    This is suuuuuuper long but I wanted to share my perspective. At the beginning of the school year I was convinced my son had ADD with the way I was getting phone calls. I cried my way through September and October convinced that he was going to go to jail and be a delinquent. Now I realize that “the system” is often hard on boys, and we need to be an advocate for our sons so they don’t feel beaten down and unworthy, when they are really wonderful kids who just don’t fit the school mold perfectly all the time.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 20, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      OMG I am so not looking forward to school. If I was more of a kid person I’d consider homeschooling. I cannot handle all the micromanaging. Boys definitely have it harder in school, probably because they get a lot of mixed messages about how to behave. And seriously, is fart a bad word?

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